FOND MEMORY The late John John Heneghan and Caitlin Holtzman are pictured on their wedding day in Ballintubber Abbey in 2015.
Mourners at a moving memorial service for a Mayo man and his American wife heard how the couple will be ‘together forever’.
Just over a month after they were killed by a suspected drunk driver in a road traffic collision in New York, Tourmakeady’s John John Heneghan (33) and his American wife, Caitlin Holtzman (32), were laid to rest in Tourmakeady yesterday (Monday).
Their ashes were interred during a private service attended by both families. It came a day after hundreds of people flocked to St Mary’s Church in the tranquil village for the couple’s memorial Mass.
John John’s sister Máire Ivanna O’Reilly delivered a heartfelt eulogy to the couple at the end of the service.
“They were beautiful people in their own right. But together, they were a really beautiful couple. Their sparkling eyes. Their bright smiles. Their warmth. Their love. Their charisma. The energy they possessed and exuded seemed inextinguishable. How can it be, that these two people – so full to the very brim with life, can now be gone from us? It seems unbelievable,” said Máire Ivanna.
“While it breaks our hearts to lose John John so unexpectedly, that he was living his dream; that he was happy; that he was in love and was loved so deeply in return; that they are now together – forever – that is a heartbreakingly beautiful end to their love story,” she added.
John John’s late mother Mona was a huge part of the love story, even though she died before Caitlin met John John, as Máire Ivanna explained.
Many years ago Mona had given John John a copy of the book The Alchemist, a short story about a shepherd who had a vivid dream about travelling to foreign lands to find treasure.
“Upon reading it the first time, John wasn’t convinced that the universe sends us signs and conspires to help us fulfil our destiny. Mom became ill and passed away.
“When you lose the person whose body was your first home, whose heartbeat your first music, whose voice was your first song – the world, the universe, seems a cold and dark place.
“And you do look for signs – something, anything to help you make sense of your monumental loss,” said Máire Ivanna.
John re-read the book and knew he needed a change, his sister told the congregation, and so he left Gorteenmore for the US eight years ago. He met Caitlin one St Patrick’s Day in an Irish bar in New York.
“And boom! He realised the universe was sending serious signals and John began to transform right before our very eyes. Caitlin was John John’s treasure. Of that I am sure,” she said.
The couple were married in Ballintubber Abbey in 2015 and lived in Manhattan. John worked in construction, as a project superintendent, while Caitlin owned her own media company.
Máire Ivanna O’Reilly thanked all those in Tourmakeady who supported the family since the couple were killed near Albany, New York, on May 25 last and said the family had been ‘overwhelmed’ by the number of people who travelled from the US for the funeral – Caitlin’s family and friends, and work colleagues of the couple.
Tragically, John John and Caitlin were killed en route to a friend’s wedding. Three other people travelling with them survived the collision.
Mourners on Sunday were led by John John’s father Tom, Caitlin’s parents Donald and Claudia Holtzman, John John’s siblings Orla, Olga, Máire Ivanna and Michael, as well as extended members of both families.
Three memorial services also took place in the US in recent weeks – in Ms Holtzman’s native Pennsylvania as well as in Chicago and New York.
The Tourmakeady service was celebrated by local Parish Priest, Fr John Kenny. Corey Salko, a friend of the couple, also read a eulogy that had the congregation laughing and crying.
Caitlin was an only child and Máire Ivanna described her as ‘a gem’. She thanked her parents for allowing their daughter’s remains to be with her husband.
“We promise, we will look after her now, as well as you looked after John John.
“Thank you Caitlin and John John: for the laughter. The craic. The company. The loyalty. The generosity. The friendship. And most of all, thank you for letting us be part of your story.”