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‘Anger, emptiness and loss’: Funeral of J1 student hears of family's devastation

Philip Leahy got into difficulty while swimming at a beach in Ocean City.

Philip Leahy died in Maryland on August 6.
Philip Leahy died in Maryland on August 6.
Image: Go Fund Me

THE FUNERAL OF a Co Cork student who died while on a J1 visa in Ocean City, Maryland, has heard of his family’s ordeal in his final days.

Philip Leahy got into difficulty and suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming at a beach in Ocean City on 2 August. He passed away in hospital four days later.

Speaking at his funeral mass in Ballyhooly, Co Cork, Father Patrick Scanlan spoke of Philip’s family’s frantic scramble to get to America to be with Philip in his final days following the tragic accident.

“In the course of the next few agonising days by his bedside in the Atlantic General Hospital, your lives were turned upside down,” he said.

“We can only imagine what that experience was like for you Ann, William, and Patrick and his aunt Mary.

And so you have experienced a plethora of feelings, some of which you may have never felt before, or never felt so intensely: profound shock, numbness, utter disbelief,  anger, emptiness and loss.

In the aftermath of Philip’s hospitalisation a campaign was set up to raise funds for his medical treatment. The Go Fund Me page described the Leahy family as the cornerstone of the Ballyhooly community. The campaign raised over €93,000 before being closed.

Speaking at the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in Ballyhooly Fr Scanlan spoke of the outpouring of grief following Philip’s death.

“The extended family, relatives and friends here at home, and our local community, shared your pain, and the utter helplessness of wanting to support you, and yet separated by the Atlantic ocean.

We felt numb and at a loss as to why this should happen to Philip and to such a good family.

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The Cork Institute of Technology student was recalled as a “young man full of enthusiasm, who loved life and loved people, was outgoing, friendly and witty.”

“You recall and cherish so many memories of Philip, since he was a baby, to the day close to a year ago when he captained the Ballyhooly Junior Football team to its first ever county final victory. And of course you have so many other beautiful personal memories.

“And you, his family – you grieve not only for what you have lost, but also for all that could have been – the hopes and the dreams, for his future in sport, in the career he might have chosen, the husband and father he might have become.”

READ: ‘We’ve all been devastated’: Tributes paid to J1 student after death in Maryland>

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Ceimin Burke

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