Ponies and badminton rackets at heartbreaking funeral for 13-year-old
The two ponies that she loved so much in life led the funeral procession of Hannah Wiley, the 13-year-old girl who lost her life in an equestrian accident last Friday.
Hannah was taking part in a showjumping event on her pony, Jobber, when she died at the competition near Eglinton.
Yesterday, Jobber along with Hannah's other pony, Blue, led the way for her parents Edmund and Ethna and brother Aaron as they brought her to her final resting place at Leckpatrick Presbyterian Church in Co Tyrone.
Every aspect of her young life was recognised, from her friends in the pony club, who, wearing the rosettes Hannah won helped carry her coffin, to the Guard of Honour formed by her pals at her badminton club who raised rackets as the tears streamed down their young faces.
The small country church could not contain the hundreds of mourners and many stood outside listening to the service which was led by Rev Mark Russell.
Tributes to Hannah were heard from Gail McBeth from the Donegal Juvenile Badminton Club. She described Hannah as a “popular and much loved little girl”.
She told the congregation of Hannah's aspirations to play badminton in the Olympic Games in eight years’ time, and of how, if she had lived, she would have achieved her dream.
David Hampton, her principal at Strabane Academy, told how gifted Hannah was at school — both academically and on the sports field.
He spoke of how Hannah achieved 100% in French and was the only student to get this mark from her teacher in her 30 years of teaching, and also of how Hannah had never missed a single day of attendance since her time in primary school.
A very touching and poignant tribute to Hannah was paid by her uncle, Rev Arthur Burns, a Church of Ireland minister in Glendermott.
Asking the congregation to forgive his tears, he said: “This is one of the hardest things I have had to do, but I am honoured and privileged to pay tribute to my darling niece Hannah.
“She was a bundle of joy to both her mum and dad and the whole family,” he added.
“A child is a gift from God and she was that, and I remember when she was a baby she found comfort on my rotund tummy when she was bothered with wind.
“Hannah loved sport and when she got her first pony, Fuzzy Boy, Hannah never had to be told to do the chores of looking after him, but Fuzzy Boy was not good at jumping so he was sold and then she got Blue and later Jobber and she was riding Jobber on Friday when tragedy struck.
“We will never understand why she was taken from us so young and so suddenly.
“As a family, we always referred to her as ‘Our Hannah', but these last days when there was such an outpouring of grief and so many stories, it has become clear she was everyone's Hannah.”
Before leading the final prayers and hymn, Rev Russell also offered comfort to the mourners saying: “No bereavement is easy whenever it may come — but somehow when it involves a young person and when it involves such a tragic accident it seems to be even sadder.
“And over these last few days many of the comments I have heard expressed revolved round this one word: Why? Why did God allow it?
“Why do bad things seem to happen to good people?
“Now I can give you many theological arguments, but at the end, at this moment in time, those answers may not provide the solution to what you are looking for.
“We see from her life that shines as an example to us of how we are to live as part of God’s kingdom, his family,” he added.
“I see her commitment and perseverance when overcoming chronic travel sickness to play badminton; I see her love and loyalty to her family in the things she did about the house to help out and make things easier for her parents.
“I see her obedience and willingness to learn as she listened to the advice of her coaches so that she could improve and grow in her abilities; I see her enthusiasm and joy for life in the many facets of her sporting and academic talents — and yet I see a humility that in some ways all her gifts were God-given and she was just exercising those to the best of her ability,” Rev Russell said.
“These are all characteristics of how we can live as part of God’s kingdom to trust our lives to God no matter how hard it may get because we know he loves us.”