A light mist tumbled off the side of Cnoc Fola towards St. Colmcille's chapel where one of the largest congregations in living memory attended the funeral Mass of Noel McDermott this morning.
A grim, grey and cold morning, the weather reflected the mood of the hundreds of mourners who had gathered to bid their final farewell to a much-loved father who loved his family and was a pivotal member of the community in Cnoc Fola as well as in his native Letterkenny.
Noel McDermott, 43, was fatally injured when he was involved in a road traffic collision with a car while cycling on Friday night.
The Parish Priest of Annagry and a brother-in-law of the deceased, Father Nigel Gallagher told those gathered that Noel was a proud and loving father who was passionate about all he did.
Passionate about sport
One of his greatest passions was sport and both St. Eunan's GAA Club and the Errigal Cycling Club from Letterkenny stood testament to this as they carried out a guard of honour at the hillside chapel this morning.
Also present were students and colleagues of Noel's wife Afric from Pobailsoil Chloich Cheann Fhaola.
Symbols representing Noel's life were brought to the altar, an ornament of a shepherd in his field, a St. Eunan's top, a family photo and a cycling shirt representing his beloved cycling club.
"He died doing what he loved," Fr. Nigel told those gathered.
'We are here to celebrate his life'
"Daddy wants you to be strong..daddy wants all of you to be strong," he said to Noel's three children.
Fr. Gallagher said that their world had been plunged into darkness as a result of the tragedy and they were desperately seeking a glimmer of light.
"The darkest hour is always before the sunrise. Sometimes we need to sit in the dark to give time for our eyes to see...even in the darkness we begin to see," he said.
He said that God is all around us in times of sadness and that God is in the people that carry and comfort us. He said that God was in the hands that grasped Noel at the side of the road, in the voice of the priest who responded to the accident, in the hands of those who responded at the scene.
"Today we are not here to mourn but to celebrate his life, a man who was full of knowledge and rationale, a problem fixer, a man of his word," Fr. Nigel said.
A family man and farmer
Those gathered were told that the last thing that Noel would do before he went to bed was to reach for his grandmother's rosary beads and say the prayers that she had taught him.
Noel was at his happiest with his family, with Afric, Hannah, Aoibhinn and Neil.
He recalled a recent event when Noel took his 'little farmer,' his son Neil to St. Colmcille's Mass to ensure that Hannah played the accordion properly and 'to keep an eye on Aoibhinn' who was also helping with Mass.
"He was as proud as punch of his children," Fr. Nigel said.
Noel was very close to his mother Mary and all his siblings.
Fr. Nigel joked that he and his brother Brian were so close that Noel's children would ask Afric why Brian was in their wedding photos.
Noel loved to farm and his children have all inherited a love of animals from him. Noel was a sheep farmer and the children have given names to their sheep.
'I am a sailor, you're my first mate'
One of Noel's greatest loves was sport and he used his love of cycling to raise money for charities.
"You must not judge a life by the way it ends. In death, life has changed,not ended. We are here to celebrate him and the memories of his life," he said.
He thanked all those who had helped on Friday night as the tragedy unfolded, he thanked all those who attended and helped at the removal and wake and all those who had helped in any manner.
Nearing the end of the funeral Mass, Fr. Nigel recalled the words of a song that was played during the wedding of Afric and Noel:
I am a sailor, you're my first mate
We signed on together, we coupled our fate
Hauled up our anchor, determined not to fail
For the hearts treasure, together we set sail
With no maps to guide us we steered our own course
Rode out the storms when the winds were gale force
Sat out the doldrums in patience and hope
Working together we learned how to cope
Life is an ocean and love is a boat
In troubled water that keeps us afloat
When we started the voyage, there was just me and you
Now gathered round us, we have our own crew
Together we're in this relationship
We built it with care to last the whole trip
Our true destination's not marked on any charts
We're navigating to the shores of the heart.
And, as the congregation made their way to the adjoining graveyard where Noel was laid to rest the soft mist had lifted.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhíl