Caroline was relentless in her pursuit of justice for missing sister Fiona
Those who knew Caroline Sinnott, the sister of missing Bridgetown woman Fiona Sinnott have been left wondering if she died from a virus called grief, the priest who celebrated her funeral Mass in Kilmore Church told the congregation.
Caroline died at the age of 47 following a brief illness, in Swansea, where she had lived for the past four years. She never gave up looking for her younger sister who disappeared after leaving Butler's pub in Broadway on February 9, 1998 when she was 19 years old.
Fr Jim Cogley, parish priest of Our Lady's Island, told mourners that he believes there is every chance Caroline would still be alive today if Fiona was still around.
No trace has ever been found of Fiona whose case was escalated to a full murder investigation in 2005. Three years ago, in desperation, the family organised their own private excavations in an attempt to locate her remains.
Fiona's father Pat passed away in 2004 at the age of 59 and according to his family he died of 'a broken heart' never knowning what had happened to his youngest daughter. The Sinnotts have no contact with Fiona's daughter Emma who was 11 months old at the time of her disappearance and was reared by her father's family.
Caroline was a young mother in her late 20s when her baby sister went missing and for many years she was the family representative who found herself in the media spotlight making appeals for information and dealing with enquiries in an attempt to ensure that Fiona's case was not forgotten.
'At the back of all our minds today surely must be Fiona who was always to the fore of Caroline's mind since her disappearance. In that respect, she was the spokesperson for the family and relentless in her pursuit of truth and justice,' said Fr. Cogley.
'We are all probably asking ourselves the same question. If Fiona was still alive would Caroline still be alive. Personally, I believe there is every chance that she would. The Russians have a saying that the mind can carry on a conversation with the body that can end in death and who knows what conversation went on in Caroline's head.
'In her body, she had several complaints but what took her was a virus and we wonder if the true name of that virus was grief. All we know is that whatever unanswered questions she had have now been answered when the two of them met on that other shore,' he said.
As the years wore on and the mystery deepened, Caroline often said it became harder not easier to live with but she vowed never to give up searching for Fiona.
Her sudden death at such a young age is an unimaginably cruel blow to the Sinnott family. Fr Jim Cogley said people learned of her unexpected passing with 'great shock and horror'.
'Just thinking of what the family have already been through in recent times when I heard it I almost felt sick and I'm quite sure that all our hearts are overflowing with compassion for them at such an untimely death.'
Fr. Cogley said for her mother Mary to see another daughter go before her is particularly difficult.
He said the last time Caroline was back in Wexford was February when she was in great form and full of fun but then she always came across as being in good form even if there was a lot going on for her on the inside.
'From my time in Kilmore Quay, I have lots of memories of her growing up. Always lighthearted, a very bright child in school, helpful and kind, probably more sensitive than she ever let on. Later, she was well known to be one of the best workers in the fish factory where scallop shelling was her forte.'
Fr. Cogley said he suspected that some of her happiest years were spent in Neamstown when she looked after her uncle Willie Doyle and later lived in his house. Her boys were young then and she was most free to be herself, somewhat wild and carefree, enjoying long walks on the beach with the dog, seeing art in drift wood and dreaming her dreams.
He said that was when she taught her children Fionn and Gearóid their most important lessons - to love life and be true to themselves, never to be judgemental and to respect everyone. They learned by her example.
He said Caroline was a unique character who was outgoing and adventurous, prepared to stand up for what she believed in. Her many interests including North American culture and music especially the reggae of Bob Marley. When the Grafetti Club was at its height in Hotel Saltees, Caroline was to the fore.
Fr. Cogley advised her family to 'grieve for her, cry after her' but don't hold onto her for too long.
'Living life with open hands and travelling as light as possible surely has to be the best possible preparation for the next life. It's all too easy to hold onto things that could weigh us down like old hurts that we don't forgive or even someone who has died that we don't let go of.'
'Caroline's truest nature was to be as free as a bird. So I would say to you, her family, grieve after her, cry your tears for her but don't hold on to her any longer than you need to. Two birds can only fly together if they are free of each other but tie them together and although they have four wings they still can't fly. To hold on to anyone either in life or death is a form of control whereas love will always strive to set the other person free'.
'Give Caroline the freedom she deserves and if any of you are still holding onto Fiona by virtue of so many unanswered questions let her go as well. Doing so might be your greatest gift to Caroline also', he said.
He prayed that Caroline's sudden death would be matched by sudden mercy, that she would be surrounded by love and compassion and that she would be met by family and loved ones, especially Fiona.
A large gathering of family, friends and neighbours attended the funeral Mass. Her coffin was carried into the church on the shoulders of her sons and brothers. Among the gifts brought to the altar were a dream catcher and a reggae flag.
The prayers of the faithful were read by Caroline's cousins, her nephews, a daughter-in-law, a goddaughter and her best friend who paid a short emotional tribute in which she said the Bridgetown woman taught her to how live and to laugh.
Among the chief mourners were her sons Fionn and Gearóid; her mother Mary; her brothers Seamus and Norman; her sister Diane; her granddaughter Layla Rose ; her uncles and aunts and her nephews and nieces.
Caroline was buried in the New Cemetery, Kilmore alonside her father Pat where she had yearned in vain for such a long time to see her beloved sister Fiona finally laid to rest.