Tragic Derek Patterson's daughter tells mourners ‘our hearts are completely shattered’
Moving words of top chef’s daughter at his funeral
The minister at the funeral of popular Northern Ireland publican Derek Patterson told mourners that they may never know what darkness engulfed him prior to his sudden death.
Rev Dr Allen Sleith offered words of comfort to the prominent businessman's family and acknowledged how difficult his untimely passing has been for everyone close to him.
Mr Patterson - described as a "role model" and "hero" to his four children - was the co-owner of the Hillsborough-based Plough Group of restaurants as well as a renowned, well-travelled chef.
Several hundred people packed into Hillsborough Presbyterian Church and its adjoining halls yesterday morning for a moving Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Mr Patterson, who was due to celebrate his 54th birthday a week today.
During the 40-minute ceremony in his native village, Rev Sleith said family and friends will never forget the talented restaurateur, whose body was found near his St John's Road home last Tuesday.
"Now we find ourselves here and we don't know why," he told the congregation.
"And we can't and likely won't fully fathom what darkness crept over Derek last week and thus we meet here today.
"And we find ourselves sort of walking, plodding, heavy in the valley of the shadow of death - or we find ourselves in a deep, dark pit. This is, it seems, the pits. It is a hard place to be."
The minister also sought to offer some advice to those struggling to cope with the enormity of their profound sorrow.
"What might help us if we're trying to clamber out and get on with our lives - not to get over grief because that's crass," he said.
"You don't get over grief or loss but you can and must get on and continue as best you can."
He added: "The love of friends, the love of God, the rich memories, the people around you... use those footholds and handholds to clamber out and to get on."
In an emotional reflection, Mr Patterson's eldest daughter Natasha stood at the front of the church and told mourners that their hearts "are completely shattered" and she said her dad "will always be my best friend".
"I'll make every decision with you still in my heart; I hope I make you proud and I promise to do my best," she said.
"I'm going to miss my little shooting star: bright, amazing but didn't last long. We don't all die young to save our spark from the ravages of time, but the first and last to leave their mark some day become the travelling kind."
Messages from his other three children - Max, Toby and Amelia - were also read aloud by friends during the service.
Max said that his father's "optimistic humour" will linger with him "my entire life".
He added: "Your infectious smile and ability to light up the room anywhere with your fascinating and amazing personality which will be sincerely missed by anyone who has ever had the joy of spending five minutes with you."
Mr Patterson's other son Toby told mourners that his dad was his "role model" and "hero" who always taught him "to see the brighter side of life" and "no matter what happens it will always get better".
"You have supported me throughout these 17 years of my life and I will never forget what you've done for this family," he said.
"You're the one that has taught me work hard, play hard. I have so many good memories with you, for example racing bikes, field cars, fishing but most important my most recent memories in Mallorca just last week.
"You were always so passionate about everything, a true character. Without you I will struggle but I now know it's my time to shine and I will do my best to make you proud every day."
Daughter Amelia, who was recently accepted to Victoria College, said she didn't realise how much her dad meant to her.
"I know I'll never get him back but I want to do everything and anything to mend broken hearts before it is too late," she said.
"I feel angry, upset, but warm as I can feel he's there. I will keep his promise to get frogspawn and be careful of what promises do.
"I will always love, miss, adore, laugh at and never forget him.
"Dad, you made an empty room full with just being in it. I love you."
Mr Patterson helped establish the Hillsborough Oyster Festival in 1992 and he had worked in restaurants around the world, including Bermuda and Switzerland, before returning to Northern Ireland and the family business in the 1990s.
Among those in attendance yesterday were fellow chefs Michael Deane and Danny Millar and DUP MLA Edwin Poots.
There was a private committal for family yesterday afternoon.
He is survived by his wife Pamela, children Max, Natasha, Toby and Amelia, parents Desmond and Muriel and brothers William and Richard.