A young Antrim mother who died suddenly earlier this week was buried in her wedding dress on Friday after dozens of health service colleagues formed a guard of honour at her funeral service.
Laura Burns (32) had been in bed with her one-year-old son Lorcan in the early hours of Sunday when she developed a severe migraine.
Sadly, the former Ballymena Academy pupil lost consciousness and her heart stopped beating.
Despite the efforts of staff at Antrim Area Hospital, where Laura was a nursing sister and ward manager, her condition deteriorated and her life support was turned off on Monday.
Hundreds of people packed St Comgall’s Church in Antrim yesterday, including large numbers of her colleagues.
Laura’s red nurse’s uniform and name badge were placed at the church entrance, alongside pictures of her with Lorcan and her husband of four years, Keelan (29).
Little Lorcan, who has cerebral palsy, was carried into the church behind his mother’s coffin, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
Father Sean Emerson, who led the funeral service and had married Laura and Keelan in 2014, said the couple had “a good number of years together – but not as many as they would wish”.
“Our hearts break for them, we ask God to be with them, to help support her family and friends,” he said.
“The closer you were to Laura, the more you loved her, the more intense is your loss.
“Even if you did not know Laura, there is shock and disbelief that a 32-year-old woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and nurse died so unexpectedly, so suddenly.”
Remembering Lorcan’s baptism, Fr Emerson said the child was “so special and important” to Laura and Keelan.
“Many of you who have rich memories of Laura will wonder why this happened, but will not be able to find an explanation,” he continued. “There is no satisfactory explanation. Why did it happen? Why so young?
“I have every confidence that Keelan will be with Laura in Heaven, that all of us will be united with those who have died and united in love again in the light of Christ.”
During the service a picture of Laura with Lorcan as a baby and her NHS uniform were carried to the front of the church and placed on the offertory table below the altar.
Fr Emerson added that Laura’s death was a “great blow” for her NHS colleagues.
Offering sympathy to the health service staff, he said: “They’re so used to dealing with healing it’s very difficult to find that in some situations it’s not possible to be healed.”
During the service the Northern Health and Social Care Trust choir sang Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace, and a recording of the song If I Die Young by The Band Perry was played.
Laura’s father John Brooker began his eulogy with a poem, which included the words: “She touched the hearts of everyone she knew. Letting her go was so, so hard to do.”
Mr Brooker thanked ambulance staff, A&E staff and staff in Antrim Area Hospital’s intensive care unit for their care of Laura and the family.
He said nursing was his daughter’s “passion” and he had been told by several people that the direct assessment unit, of which Laura was in charge, “would not be where it is today without the passionate input of my Laura”.
He said: “I’ve been made even more proud than before, if that’s possible, by hearing that.”
Mr Brooker, whose life Laura had saved after he suffered a stroke shortly before her 2014 wedding, said his only daughter’s nuptials were “one of the proudest days of my life”.
“It was made particularly so by her life-saving actions on me four-and-a-half months earlier, which allowed me to be there to walk her down the aisle,” he continued.
“Those that have seen her over the past couple of days would have seen that the dress still fits – she would have been so, so chuffed.
“She was the proudest mum on the planet when Lorcan was born on December 19, 2016.
“The challenge that was presented when Lorcan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy was significant, and showed Laura as being the most loving, supportive, proactive, understanding, and also demanding when necessary, mum I’ve known.
“Her undying love and commitment to Lorcan’s development has been commented on by so, so many people.”
Mr Brooker said that “sometimes in life things happen that are just not right, with absolutely no room for debate, and saying goodbye to your daughter is certainly one of them”.
“My darling Laura, mum and I are missing you so, so much already, which I know will last forever,” he added.
“I would swap places with you in a heartbeat, but sadly I cannot.”
Mr Brooker was given a round of applause after he finished his tribute with another moving poem.
Laura’s health service colleagues then filed outside, where they lined the route as Keelan, Mr Brooker and Laura’s loved ones carried her coffin.
A fundraising page set up in Laura’s memory to benefit Antrim Area Hospital intensive care unit and children’s charity The Buddy Bear Trust, which supports Lorcan and other children with cerebral palsy and motor disorders, has already raised more than £8,500.
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/laura-burns