A sad farewell was paid to brave Michael McGrath in Letterkenny on Monday morning

'Michael's heart never really left Pettigo' - Fr. Brian Quinn

Brave Michael McGrath passes away after cancer battle

Michael McGrath with his wife Susan and son Senán.

There was a huge outpouring of grief and sadness among the hundreds of mourners that attended the funeral Mass of 40-year-old Michael McGrath in the Church of the Irish Martyrs in Letterkenny on Monday morning.

Michael had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer late last year. Michael traveled to Vienna in early December for pioneering treatment. He returned home to spend Christmas with his family. He later returned to spend the remainder of his days with his family.

Brave Michael McGrath sadly passed away on February 1st.

'Michael had enriched the life of so many'

A much-loved teacher and sportsman, former students, from as far afield as Dublin, stood as guard of honour alongside members of the St. Eunan's GAA Club as his coffin was being led into chapel.

Members of the Letterkenny Golf Club and Relay for Life were also represented.

Fr. Brian Quinn told those gathered that for Michael, his suffering has ended and he has made his journey home to God.

"You will hear it said so often, at the time of the death of a young person, at a time of tragedy that it brings us to a place that we would prefer not to be on a February morning," Fr. Quinn said.

He said that Michael had enriched the life of so many during his lifetime.

Faith and strength

Fr. Quinn said that people are more accustomed to gathering together for happier occasions.

Michael is survived by his wife Susan, his baby son, Senan, his parents, Pat and Mary, his siblings, Bernadette, Mary and Anthony, extended family and large circle of friends.

He told those gathered that the McGrath family need a great deal of strength and faith to put any kind of sense and meaning into this moment.

"The souls of the virtuous and faithful are in the hands of God," Fr. Quinn said.

Michael and Susan's son, Senan, had been baptised in the The Church of the Irish Martyrs on July 2nd, 2017.

Fr. Quinn told Michael's family that they are now united in a new way.

"You are in a new way united to a place called home because death brings earth and heaven together. And, Michael's death is a bit like the quenching of the lamp because dawn is coming," Fr. Quinn said.

'Memories evoked for all of us'

The priest told the large congregation that Michael's pain and suffering is now at an end.

Fr. Quinn said that the death of someone so young would evoke memories for many: "And all who knew Michael will have their own particular memories of him."

The congregation heard that Michael was a native of Pettigo - 'a GAA stronghold.'

"His heart never really left Pettigo," Fr. Quinn said.

The Letterkenny-based priest said that it may have been the Holy waters of Pettigo that inspired his deep love of hurling.

Michael was described as 'a fine competitor, coach, golfer' who was a great 'team player.'

Fr. Quinn said that his love of sport enabled Michael, as a young man, like many young sporting people, to create a lot of friends in Ireland and throughout the world.  

Michael met his wife, Susan in Croke Park:  "There's something about Donegal and Dublin when it comes to relationships and marriage."

Michael loved his family

"Dear brothers and sisters, we all know too well that terminal illness is part of the fabric of most of our families. It's cruel and we have no control over it. We have to live with it and we have got to live with the heartbreak," Fr. Quinn said.

He said that all we can do on days like this is to thank God for all the kind and wonderful people who support us on the journey.

"It is very important that we all believe that death is not a door into the dark but a dark door into the light and those we have loved and indeed all the faithfully departed have passed through that door," he said.

Fr. Quinn recalled that Michael was called to return God on February 1st, 2018, the feast of St. Brigid: "And, indeed two of his grandmothers were also called Brigid."

Fr. Quinn urged mourners to recall the words of St. Alphonus who said that in heaven there is no more toil, but rest; no fear, but security; no sadness or weariness, but gladness and joy eternal.

Symbols representing Michael's life

Before Mass came to an end, symbols which represented Michael's life were brought to the altar: A hurl and golf club represented his great love of sport, a scroll of memories where students recalled their memories of Michael was also carried to the altar by Casey.

The match ball from the Donegal/Galway game, a Donegal jersey and book was also brought to the altar.  

Susan carried their wedding album - which represented their life.

And Michael's parents, Mary and Pat brought bread and wine.

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