Hundreds of people gathered at St Mary’s Church in Creggan this morning to pay their final respects to brave Derry girl Rhiannon Bates.
The special teenager passed away peacefully last Wednesday after a long fight against Batten’s Disease.
Many of those who attended the funeral Mass wore a pink item of clothing, symbolising Rhiannon’s favourite colour and members of her family wore pink butterfly clips in their hair.
There were moving scenes as Rhiannon’s father Alan tenderly carried her pink coffin into the church, followed by Mum Shauna who, flanked by family and friends, clutched Rhiannon’s pink blanket and teddy bear.
The funeral flowers simply spelt out ‘Queen Bee,’ the name Rhiannon was affectionately known by.
Father Dermot Harkin described Rhiannon as a “lovely wee girl who born to love.”
“Every day of her life, she taught us how to love,” he said, “She was surrounded by love, I love you all the way up to the sky and back down, were her watchwords.
“Rhiannon touched more hearts and enriched more lives that many who have lived to a much older age.
“Our Queen Bee has buzzed her way into heaven.”
The Derry priest said Rhiannon was one of God’s Royal family - on loan to us to show us the real meaning of love.
“When I went to Shauna and Alan’s home the other day and saw Rhiannon laid on her bed in peaceful repose I was lost for words,” he said.
“It was a scene beyond words, Rhiannon’s face spoke of joy, serenity and freedom.”
Reading from a piece prepared Shauna and Alan Bates, Father Harkin told the congregation how on one of Rhiannon’s six trips to Lourdes she once pointed to the rock in the shrine and said ‘Look Mammy, angels.’
“That was how close she was to God,” he said. “Her drive for life truly humbled us all. She led an amazing life and she is still reaching out. Rhiannon changed the lives of so many people.
“It is sad but it is also a time for celebrating Rhiannon’s life.”
Yesterday’s Mass was followed by cremation in Roselawn, Belfast.