THE ten year-old son of the late Jason Corbett walked with a framed photo of his father behind his funeral cortege this Wednesday lunchtime in the city.
Hundreds of mourners attended Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Janesboro to pay their final respects to the 39 year-old father of two who was killed in the US during a ‘domestic disturbance’ 24 days ago.
While a hush fell over the church at the beginning of the service, it ended in a round of applause for his family, who have not only faced the death of their son, brother and father, but also an intense custody battle to bring his children home to Limerick.
The Very Reverend Patrick O’Sullivan presided over the funeral mass, and was joined by Fr John Donworth, Pallaskenry, from the parish of Jason’s beloved first wife, Margaret Fitzpatrick, and mother of their two children, who passed away nine years ago due to an asthma attack.
He said the Corbett family had been “a tower of strength” since Jason passed away in his home in North Carolina on Sunday, August 2. But he said that particular concern and focus was on his two children.
“Jack and Sarah you’re very important to all of us - you’re the most important people here today,” said Fr O’Sullivan.
Jack, 10, and Sarah, eight, were comforted in the first row pew by Tracey and David Lynch, their aunt and uncle, and now their new guardians, following the tragic deaths of both biological parents.
There were poignant scenes as Jack brought a Liverpool jersey to the altar, followed by his sister who brought up an Irish jersey. A Munster rugby jersey and a golf ball and tee were also brought up by young family members.
“What really matters today is that Jason is Jack and Sarah’s father. You know he loved you very much, he worked hard and you had much fun together,” said Fr O’Sullivan.
To John and Rita, Jason’s parents, he said: “Give thanks for the man you gave life to.”
“It’s a time for fond memories. He loved you deeply and always called home. Wherever he went he never lost touch with home. It was always hard to say goodbye to Jason [when he came home], and it’s not easy to say goodbye to him today.”
Fr O’Sullivan said the candlelit gathering held in the city over a week ago, during the campaign to bring his children home from north Carolina, “brought so much hope and peace to the family in a dark time.”
Today, he said, all eyes were focused on a different candle - the pastoral candle - by Jason’s coffin, which was adorned with a huge floral display of white flowers, his photograph, and another floral tribute in the words ‘Daddy’.
Prayers of the faithful were heard to reunite Jason and Mags in heaven, just as they were on earth, and for them to watch over and guide their two children in the years ahead.
David Lynch, who read out a message on Tracey’s behalf at the end of the service, said “we have lost such a great person” and that Jason was his wife’s “hero”.
“He always had my back, and I his,” he read out. “I could talk to him about anything. We shared friendships, good times, not such good times, and achievements.”
“Jason was proud of his heritage and Limerick was never far from his thoughts.”
The congregation heard that one of Jason’s great qualities was being able to put people at ease, and would make nay party better just by being there.
“He was a child in a young man’s body. He always tried to see the lighter side of life. He loved his food. He once called Domino’s Pizza, and called back in a panic as he forgot to give his name. They said ‘Don’t worry Jason, we knew it was you’.”
In their last meeting together, Jason and Tracey had spoken, somewhat jokingly, about death and their final wishes.
Jason, “who never liked to see anyone crying, especially his family”, revealed his wish for a carnival at his funeral to lighten the mood.
There was no carnival today, and a lot of tears. He was happiest when met, wed and had two beautiful children with his beloved Mags.
“For a time he was as happy as any man could be.”
But he was a “lost soul” after she passed away.
“The light and spark could never be replaced. He spent every single day at her grave up until he left for America. A friend told us recently that he would even brought his lunch there during work and would read the newspapers to her.”
Their lives are enriched for knowing him, David said, and he has given them a box full of memories that no one can take away.
He ended with the words of Gilda Radner, which Jason had identified with in his lifetime.
“I wanted a perfect ending, but I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is not knowing, having to change, and making the best of it without knowing what is going to happen next.
“I’ve learnt that happiness is the consequence of personal effort - you have to fight for it, strive for it and insist upon it always. It does not come easy. How lucky am I to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Until we meet again, J.”
He was buried this afternoon in Castlemungret cemetery, alongside his beloved Margaret.