Courageous Erica was a bright light to everybody in this world

By Maurice Garvey

A COMMUNITY was in mourning this week with the sad passing of a young princess who gave “inspiration and strength” to all whose lives she touched.

On Tuesday the Church of Immaculate Conception in Clondalkin, was heaving to the seams with emotion to pay tribute to Erica Ní Draighneain (5).

Erica Ni Dreighneain funeral collage

Erica, from Clondalkin, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014 and relapsed in January 2016.

She had a bone marrow transplant on June 10, and was staying in St John’s Ward in Crumlin Hospital for the last seven months, but the transplant tragically failed on July 15, and nothing more could be done for Erica.

Throughout her ordeal, Erica never complained, and along with the loving support of her parents Natasha and Ciaran, the family were backed up by the wider community, both in Clondalkin and in Natasha’s native Cavan.

Pupils and staff from Erica’s school Gaelscoil Na Camóige formed a guard of honour outside the church prior to the service.
Fr Padraig spoke of an “enormously popular girl”, and “what stood out was her courage.”

“Love radiated out of her short life,” said Fr Padraig.

“Erica was a bright light in this world. Her light burns brightly as a little angel.”

Erica Ni Dreighneain 3

Many gifts were brought up to the altar by Erica’s family and legions of friends, including her favourite teddy bear, a split Dublin/Cavan GAA jersey, dresses, dolls, lockets of her hair, and beads of courage.

A eulogy read on behalf of the family described a “dream baby” who loved the high life, dancing, ceol, and who never complained.

Erica loved to bake after school with grandma Norma, used her charm on grandad Brian, and visit her other grandparents, Kathleen and Seamus Fitzpatrick, in Cavan – which she called her “favourite place in the world.”

She always picked out a toy for her younger sister Layla when the family went to Smyths toy store.

The family’s world came crashing down on July 15, when they were told there was no further treatment available.
Gaelcoil Na Camóige wrote a notice to parents with a “heavy heart” to report the tragic news.

It said: “We are all deeply, deeply saddened by this and our thoughts and prayers are with the Ó Draighneain family. Erica had a lot of friends in her class and throughout the school. She was so strong and made people smile and laugh with her beautiful smile and joyful personality. We will miss her deeply.”

The school have put in place a number of support structures to help children cope with the loss, and are liaising with National Educational Psychological Service.

The family thanked everyone in Clondalkin, in Cootehill, Cavan and wider communites for their help, along with Aoibheann’s Pink Tie and staff at St John’s Ward.

Erica achieved much in her short life, leading out the Irish team in the Aviva Stadium, starring in YouTube videos, visiting Disneyland twice, becoming an honorary Rose.

The Cavan GAA team wore wristbands to support her during their summer and signed a jersey, she had trips in a limousine, judged a Strictly Come Dancing event, but the highlight of her life was “being big sister to Layla”.

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