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Speaking notes of Fr John Walsh CC Buncrana at Funeral Mass of Nathan Dixon Gill
Aged 17 (18 in July) in St Mary's Church, Cockhill, Buncrana on Wednesday 3rd May 2017
As all of us so well and so tragically know, Nathan and four companions were involved in a cruel traffic accident early on Saturday morning near Quigley's Point. Three of the young fellows survived and we are grateful. Two did not – the two Nathans – and we are in shock and two families are shattered.
We are here, in overflowing numbers to try to comfort Nathan Dixon Gill's family and to try to comfort ourselves. If numbers alone could heal, then the massive outpouring of love and solidarity and support for Nathan's family during the past few days, and again today, would have expelled their sorrows and dried their tears.
What can I say to Sinead and Leonard and Liam and Seamus and the other Grandparents and to Erin, Padraigh and Cahir and to the members of the extended family, to Nathan's closest friends and to so many young, shocked and grieving friends? What can I say to you but tell you to lean on the massive love and support and solidarity of our community which is there for you these sad days and may you, in the future times, remember it as our testimonial to Nathan and as the sign of our great love and concern for you.
Dear young people and friends of Nathan: May Nathan allow me to say something to you? May he allow me to say that you are not indestructible at the age of 17 or 18 or 19, or 15 and 16 for that matter. You are very fragile. All of us are. Life itself is fragile. We have to be careful and even wise if we are to survive into adulthood and middle age and old age. There is no other easy prescription for holding onto life, no magic bullet, no cutting of corners, nothing is guaranteed in this world; but care and caution are a mighty help.
Now I'm not here to lecture you because when I was your age I, too, felt indestructible, and even eternal. But none of us is. That's a plain fact of life. So please, please live life on its terms, within its rules, with its cautions; otherwise life will be pitiless towards you and the family and the friends who will have to come to this or another Church to bear you to the grave.
Allow me to bring you back momentarily to the last week of January 1973 – 44 years ago, five months before I was ordained at the age of 25. This is not the rambling of an old man. I trust it shows that I speak from experience and with authority.
On the morning of 25th January 1973 Brendan Dolan, the famous Tyrone footballer and a friend of mine, was killed in a car crash going to his work. The next night four of us going back to Maynooth from his wake collided with an express bus when our combined speed was about 120 mph. The driver of our car, Colum P Mullan, the Gaelic All-Star, spent the rest of his life – 31 years - lying paralysed from the top of his chest down. And we were totally without fault in that accident. Dear young people, I know what I am talking about. Life is fragile. Treat it with care and use every minute God gives you to love, honour and serve Him.
What did we lose in Nathan? Let it be said simply; we lost a superior young man. A bubbly individual – full of fun and life. A young man who loved his music. A brother who was admired by his siblings... a friend loved by his peers...his equals. His Formal was 16 months ago... he left school last June. He was due to take up a job in Scotland two days ago. We lost a future that should have been, a dream that could have been, and the promise that might have been realised to the benefit of many.
What can I say to Sinead and the other adults in Nathan's life. Your loss is beyond my power of description and the hole in your hearts will not be filled by any words that I speak. I turn to the word of God to find comfort for you and promise for Nathan, I turn in particular to today's Gospel - the Gospel for the Wednesday of the third week of Easter... John 6:35-40...
The days ahead will be difficult for you, dearly beloved, the adults in Nathan's life. They will not lose your sorrow for you nor fully fill the hole in your hearts. But you will live with the grace and the guarantee of God supporting you. You will live in the sure hope of the resurrection and with the promise that you and your dearest Nathan will surely meet again.
Fr John R Walsh, CC Buncrana