A MINUTE'S SILENCE The staff of The Mayo News stood in silence outside the office on the Fairgreen as the funeral cortege of Mayo News Director Natalie Berry passed on Monday afternoon. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
People asked to look out for and support each other after tragic death of Natalie Berry
Natalie Berry’s unconditional love for her two daughters, Kate and Hayley, and her love of her family, were singled out among her defining characteristics at her Funeral Mass in Westport yesterday (Monday).
In a moving homily, Fr Charlie McDonnell also appealed to the people of Westport to look out for each other and to support each other.
The Director of The Mayo News, Ms Berry (nee Harkins), aged 51, died on Thursday last.
“The one thing that has been spoken about so many times in the last few days about Natalie (pictured) is her very, very strong sense of being a mother, of motherhood, of looking out for, of caring for her children,” said Fr McDonnell.
“It was the one topic of conversation her colleagues in The Mayo News told me came up time and time again. She might have kept her own counsel on a lot of things but she was always, always forthcoming about the girls. I know for her two beloved, and I am not saying this in a patronising way, her two princesses, you know that. You cherish that. And you see that. That bond that you have will never be broken,” he said.
Fr McDonnell went on to say that for Natalie’s husband Dermot, owner of The Mayo News, for the Harkins and Berry families there was so much to cherish.
“We remember her by her living, not by her dying. That is so, so important. The way she took the helm at The Mayo News and grew into that role. The way she did so many other things just as well.
“But she is gone and we pray today that she is at peace. But we are not at peace. We are far from being at peace ourselves,” said Fr McDonnell.
Three symbols were brought up at the start of the Mass. A family photo, an iPod and a scallop shell to represent Natalie’s love of nature. There was a symbolism in the scallop shell, Fr McDonnell told the large congregation.
“A scallop shell that at one time held a scallop, itself soft and vulnerable on the inside protected by its hard shell. And so often many of us have those hard shells, those things of utter beauty and strength and life and goodness that we project to the world – and within ourselves is this vulnerability that, for whatever reason, we’re not always capable of sharing with others."
Fr McDonnell continued: “I speak today with the permission and the wish of the family. I speak today first of all to acknowledge Natalie, her life, her love, who she was, is and always will be – deeply loved and cherished and appreciated. We also come here today to acknowledge where we are, right now, at this moment, as a community. And the support that we need and the way in which we need to look after each other and ourselves.
“In the winter time the flu is going around and everyone is afraid of catching it, it is in the air. We do everything we can to stop picking up the flu. We wash our hands, we stop shaking hands and we’ll be careful where we’re coughing. But right now we need to be careful as well. Careful, first of all, in ourselves. Be honest with ourselves. To really reinforce ourselves as compassionate. As best you can, show compassion. As best you can, look out for each other that bit more.”
Speaking about the despair that people can feel, Fr McDonnell said that there are plenty of supports out there, it’s reaching out and asking for help that is hard.
“People come up to me and ask where do we go and what do we do? There’s loads of places to go. The hardest thing is to put our thumb on the doorbell….
“We need to continue to care for each other, to look after each other. We do so in memory of Natalie, her goodness, her kindness. [In memory] of her life, not her death. She cared so deeply herself. She gave so much of herself to others. We pray in her memory that we may look after each other.”
Fr McDonnell went on to say that Fiona Thomas, the co-ordinator of the Mayo Suicide Bereavement Liaison Service, will host a session in Westport next week (date and venue to be confirmed).
“We want to have a place for people who feel they need somewhere to go, something to do,” he said. Anyone interested should leave their names into the Presbytery, the Family Resource Centre on the Fairgreen or Westport Town Hall Theatre.
Fr McDonnell ended the Mass by repeating the need for Natalie’s family, and the wider Westport community, to be supportive of each other.
“We continue in the hope that you as a family will continue to support each other. We as a community may strive as best we can to do the same. The numbers are there. If you want us, ring us, if you don’t want us, run us! We might not be able to answer all your questions, but we will be able to refer you on. Please feel supported.”
Speaking afterwards, Fr McDonnell said that all people are vulnerable.
“If we all make a simple change, like the small thing of saying ‘hello’ to people on the street, starting to talk to each other. That quick chat with someone might be the only interaction that person has all day,” he said.
Following Requiem Mass, the funeral cortege left for Aughavale Cemetery, stopping for a minute’s silence outside the offices of The Mayo News, where Ms Berry had served as Director since early 2018.
Editor of The Mayo News, Michael Duffy, said it had been a very tough few days for all the staff at the newspaper.
“Natalie has been a mainstay in The Mayo News for many, many years, becoming a familiar face to all in Westport while working at reception in our office on The Fairgreen. After the sudden death of our Managing Editor, Neill O’Neill, in 2017, Natalie then took over the day-to-day running of the business, and the staff were in constant contact with her in her role as Director of the newspaper.
“We are all heartbroken, and our thoughts and prayers are with Dermot, Kate and Hayley, and the extended Berry and Harkins families at this hugely difficult time. May she rest in peace,” said Mr Duffy.
A native of Athlone, Natalie will be sadly missed by her husband Dermot; daughters, Kate and Hayley; brothers, Alan and Derek; mother-in-law, Teresa; sisters-in-law; nephews, Patrick, Derek and Humphrey; nieces, Lyndsey and Keria; and relatives and friends.
MORE Anyone looking for support can contact the Family Resource Centre in Castlebar, the Family Resource Centre in Westport, The Samaritans, Aware or Pieta House.