Aoife Beary, one of the survivors of the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse, did not let that tragedy “define” her life, her funeral heard.
Friends and family gathered in the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock in south Dublin on Friday morning for the funeral of the 27-year-old, described as “a vibrant and brave girl”.
Ms Beary, from Blackrock in south Dublin, survived the 2015 tragedy in the US.
She died last Saturday in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Ashley Donohoe died when a balcony collapsed in California in the early hours of June 16 2015.
It happened during a celebration for Ms Beary’s 21st birthday.
She was among those left with life-changing injuries following the tragedy in the US.
The funeral on Friday, which was attended by a representative of the Irish President Michael D Higgins as well as the chaplain of University College Dublin heard how Ms Beary overcame the “obstacles” life put in her way.
Fr Kieran Dunne, the parish priest, told the congregation that Ms Beary was “a person of remarkable gifts and talent”.
In 2017 after the balcony collapse, Ms Beary had started studying occupational therapy in Oxford Brookes University in England.
Fr Dunne described her as “a woman who faced the very depth of loss of many friends and personal injury to herself and others”.
“A person who embraced life and its possibilities again, finding especially new growth and life in her friendships and in her study in Oxford Brookes.
“We recall a person rooted in her family, parish and community.
“A loving, loyal, faithful young woman who had the capacity to nurture true friendship.”
Fr Dunne said the “ripples” from the death of Ms Beary had been felt across the country and beyond.
“Communities of friendship all touched and moved by the life and death of this beautiful young woman. Not to mention the wider Christian community here in Foxrock and our city and national community as well,” he said.
At the funeral, friends prayed and thanked the doctors and nurses who had cared for Aoife over the years.
Before the service began, children from local schools lined the route to the church on Friday to pay their respects to Ms Beary.
Inside the church, a map of the world, on which Ms Beary had scratched out all the countries she had visited, was placed on the altar.
The congregation heard that it had always been her aim to visit 25 countries before she reached the age of 25.
The map was joined by an old school jumper and a the degree scroll from University College Dublin, as well as an occupational therapist uniform and a coffee cup.
“Aoife’s day always had to begin with her vanilla latte. It was an important part of her daily routine. No study or chat could begin without a cup of coffee in hand. It was like punctuation to her day,” her friend Aisling Kennon told the church.
Clodagh Cogley, another survivor of the balcony collapse, placed a Spanish textbook belonging to Ms Beary on the altar.
“Aoife’s lockdown challenge was not baking banana bread, but to become fluent in Spanish,” Ms Kennon told mourners.
James O’Doherty, Ms Beary’s godfather, spoke on behalf of the family as the funeral mass drew to a close.
Minutes earlier ‘Begin’ by Irish poet Brendan Kennelly, which says that “something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin”, had been read to the congregation.
“You fought such a good fight and the burden of your injuries and the burden of dealing with them didn’t leave a lot of space for the joy of living,” Mr O’Doherty said of his goddaughter.
“But you insisted on living life well. You insisted on a life full of meaning and purpose. It was grounded in your ability to connect with people. The strong friendships you’ve built from a very early age.”
In a moving tribute to Ms Beary, he praised her love of living, her ability to make friends and her passion for travel.
Mr O’Doherty spoke of the day she testified in front of the state legislature in California, following the balcony collapse.
“You didn’t forget your friends when you sat in front of the lawmakers in California,” he said.
“And you said those words that I think everybody here remembers – that your birthday will always be their anniversary.”
He quoted a tribute from Dean of Science at University College Dublin Tara McMorrow, who said that her “legacy is one of hope and determination”.
The song Somewhere Over the Rainbow was sung as Ms Beary’s coffin was carried from the church, before being taken to Newlands Cross Crematorium.
The Mass booklet for the funeral was decorated with photos from the life of Ms Beary, showing her smiling with friends and documenting her travels.
A quote from it read: “Never ever doubt that we will meet again. Until that happy day I will grow with God and wait for you.”