Northern Ireland schoolgirl Kerrie Canning laid to rest - plea for young not to suffer in silence
A priest at the funeral of a schoolgirl who died suddenly has pleaded for young people to talk about their problems instead of bottling them up.
Kerrie Canning (18), a keen GAA player who was about to sit her A-levels, passed away last Friday.
Requiem Mass took place at St Patrick's Church in her home village of Claudy, Co Londonderry, where hundreds of mourners joined her parents Willie and Martine and sister Nikki for the service.
Fr Brian O'Kane described Kerrie as "beautiful, pleasant, caring, quiet and happy".
The teenager had been a former pupil of St Patrick's and St Brigid's school in Claudy before she transferred to St Mary's College in Derry, where she was studying her A-levels.
Many of Kerrie's friends from both schools, local GAA club and wider circle sat amongst the congregation.
Addressing her friends, Fr O'Kane appealed for them to seek help if they were struggling with life.
He said: "There is a real sadness for our young people in the village today. They have lost one of their own.
"There is real sadness among parents in Claudy. They feel they too have lost a child.
"But most of all there is real sadness for the Canning family and family circle today. They have lost a daughter, a sister, a niece, a grandchild and a cousin.
"Kerrie's death has left you speechless, numb, struggling for meaning and trying to understand.
"We may never know just how deep and dark life was inside for Kerrie.
"On the outside she appeared like any happy-go-lucky teenager, but appearances, as we know, can be deceptive.
"There was obviously an inner turmoil which was hidden and unspoken. So I say to the young people in this church - if you wish to cherish Kerrie's memory make a decision to talk out your problems. Do not store them up inside."
Fr O'Kane reminded the congregation how loved Kerrie was by her family, friends and everyone who knew her.
He said: "Kerrie's form teacher at St Patrick's and St Brigid's sent me these words about Kerrie when she heard of her death - 'The most beautiful, pleasant, caring, quiet and happy wee girl in the school'.
"That's what everyone says about Kerrie - from her family, to her school friends, to teachers to team-mates, to workmates, to all who had any contact with Kerrie in her short life."
Following Requiem Mass Kerrie was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.
If you or anyone close to you is affected by the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.