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Natalie McKeown: Heartbreaking tribute to sister who ‘touched so many lives across the world’

The sister of a young Newry woman, whose sudden death while living abroad left a community “literally stunned”,  paid a heartbreaking and moving tribute to “my best friend and pretty much the other half of my soul”.

Natalie McKeown was just 29 when she passed away suddenly in Qatar, on Thursday, February 24.

She was the devoted daughter of Dereck and Paula, treasured sister of Ciara and Leanne and loving granddaughter of Brea and Patrick (Aggie) (Kennedy) and the late Eleanor and Patrick (McKeown) R.I.P.

Presiding over her Requiem Mass at the Church of the Assumption in Drumalane on Saturday afternoon, Fr Liam McKinney, told mourners, that “over the course of the past week, this has been a community in shock”.

“Nothing could ever have prepared us for the news that began to filter through on Thursday week,” he said.

“A life cut short, so suddenly and so early; a light that shone so brightly, suddenly gone. There’s an air of unreality about it and a sting of painful reality. Like a bad dream you hope to wake from but know that you won’t.

“The suddenness of Natalie’s leaving us has left us literally stunned. No matter how deep the shock and sadness of this community, Natalie’s death naturally has its deepest impact on you, her family; her sisters, grandparents, boyfriend, all deprived of an inspiration, a friend, confidant, light and joy.

“For parents, having to bury a daughter is something which goes beyond the natural course of life. Something that should never have to happen; none of us here today can ever appreciate, or fully understand, what you, Dereck and Paula, are going through today, what you have gone through this past week.”

Natalie’s sister Leanne spoke with such warmth and affection for her sister, and how she and her family, “will truly cherish all of our wonderful, happy memories with Natalie forever”.

“Natalie was an amazing person in so, so many ways. I know when somebody passes, people always say these things, but when it comes to Natalie; if somebody had asked me a month ago to describe her I’d have described her in the exact same way.

“Not only the youngest in our house, our child as mum and that would say, and by God did she relish in that title. She was just adored by our parents, and our grandparents. She did everything in her power to help people when they needed it.

“She moved back home and give up her job, her life, to care for mum, when she was at her her most ill, when she was sick. She cared for our nanny Brea and Aggie during that time as well. She made sure that everybody got what they needed and provided so much care and compassion throughout those difficult times.

“But that was just Natalie and that’s what she did for everybody. Not until she knew that they would be okay, only at that stage, she said she was ready to go, she went to Qatar.

“We will always be so grateful for that time we got to spend with Natalie, when she was home over the past year. And I do truly believe that these things happen for a reason, and that God gifted us with that time with Natalie.

“Natalie was a beautiful daughter, grandchild, sister. She was an auntie, cousin, niece, partner, and the most loving and loyal friend.

“Natalie really, really adored her friends and I feel like I personally know all of you so well, because she told me all of your individual stories whether she should have or not, she did. So maybe I know a bit too much about you all.”

Leanne spoke of how Natalie was so excited for the future and “for all the wonderful things to come”.

“She just recently said to me, when we were away together, that she couldn’t wait to come home this summer, that she had so many good things happening.”

Natalie was preparing to attend the weddings of two close friends, but “she will be there in spirit, I know she will”, said Leanne. As well as the weddings, there were the arrivals of babies across the family – she lived for children.

Said Leanne: “Every memory I have of life involves Natalie in some way. Even if she wasn’t there personally, it was either over FaceTime, or talking – we spoke everyday in life. We were two peas in a pod pretty much, or twinnies as Natalie would tell everybody who would hear. She was really the other half of my soul and I’ll be forever grateful that God chose me and the rest of our family to share our lives with Natalie, not only as my sister but as my best friend and sidekick.”

Leanne spoke of Natalies deep love for their oldest sister Ciara.

“She touched so many lives of people all over the world. She travelled so far and wide. She did what she loved. She travelled to over 45 countries and made so many friends and had such an impact across the world.

“She worked so hard all of her life. And that’s testament to mum and dad who spent their lives ensuring that we had all of those opportunities that they didn’t necessarily get to have..Natalie made the most of all of those opportunities and truly loved life and living to the fullest.

“She was an amazing teacher and she impacted the lives of all of her students, who I know will miss her dearly also. As a family we are so, so proud of Natalie, and the beautiful, funny, intelligent, hard working ambitious loving person. She is and will forever be. She’s our child, our angel watching over us, giving us strength to continue with our lives.

“We love you so much Natalie, beautiful sister her best friend.”

Natalie, whose cortège left the church to a rendition of The Parting Glass, was laid to rest in Monkshill cemetery.

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