BEFORE his little white coffin was taken from the family home on Sunday, Thomas Magee’s mother Jacqueline read her four year old boy one final story from his favourite book, On The Farm.
The blonde haired boy from Maguiresbridge was besotted with anything to do with farming and repeatedly begged his mother to read him another story before bed almost every night before falling asleep in her arms.
This time the usually busy home fell silent as Jacqueline read to Thomas who just a few short hours later would reach his final resting place at Maguiresbridge Methodist Cemetery, with his toy Massey Ferguson tractor and cows placed in the coffin beside him.
As his coffin was carried onto the yard he used to run up and down in his wellies, with red flashing lights twinkling along the bottom, his father David took him on a final trip of his beloved farm.
It was here where Thomas died last Thursday night following a tragic accident, witnessed by David who watched in agony as his only son lost his life. Now, he was carrying his boy one last time.
A number of farm helpers who were well used to seeing those piercing blue eyes and that smile wept as the coffin was carried carefully across the yard on Greenhill Road.
The dairy cows standing in the milking parlour stood quietly apart from one who bellowed once as Thomas was carried past, and twice on the way back. It was as if even the farm animals he doted over wanted to say goodbye to the boy who made a lasting impression on all those he met. His friends at Maguiresbridge Primary School performed a guard of honour.
His parents spent over three and a half hours greeting mourners following his funeral, carried out by S.R. Elliott and Sons, at Maguiresbridge Methodist Church, as grown men and women sobbed.
Now the family home is a fraction of what it was as David and Jacqueline rally around their other two children; eight year old Emily and two year old Lucianna who have lost a brother.
“My heart is broken in a million pieces, nothing will ever be the same without him. He was the most amazing wee boy,” an emotional Jacqueline told The Impartial Reporter.
“I feel so empty inside, I am heartbroken. How am I going to keep going without my wee boy? He lit up our lives,” she said, as tears streamed down her face.
Photographs of Thomas adorn the walls, the mantelpiece, the shelves, everywhere you turn, including a school photograph which arrived the day before he died. It shows a smiley P1 pupil, out of the overalls and twinkly wellies, and wearing a Maguiresbridge Primary School uniform.
“I don’t know how I am to live without him,” said David, his voice quivering.
“It’s like a knife going through my heart. This morning I cried for about an hour. I was there when the accident happened, I seen it all from start to finish. It plays over and over in my mind. The memory of that night is going to be with me until the day I die.”
“He was always by my side,” said David. “If I came in to the house he was there. If I went outside, he was there. Even if I was standing chatting someone he would be there jumping up and down. He was always asking me for something to do. I’d give him a wee scoop of meal to feed the calves. He was always there doing those wee jobs.
“He had a wee tractor and a wee digger. He liked to go out in the middle of the lawn and try and dig a hole. Anything I did on the farm he had to do the same,” he said.
When two of his father’s cows had tuberculosis his toy cows had to as well.
“David’s cows had to go into isolation. Thomas came to me one day with cellotape and asked me to open it and then he was back for more,” said Jacqueline. “He had taped two toy cows into the corner and they were in isolation because they had TB too,” she laughed.
His frequent visits to the home of his grandparents Brian and Joyce Magee just down the road gave him even more opportunities to play with his toys and anything he found, occasionally placing his grandmother’s ornamental duck into quarantine. Jack and Evelyn McCourt, his other grandparents, also loved watching him playing on his toy tractor. Almost every Saturday he’d take his jumper off, leaving just his t-shirt or vest on, and go about his business like a proper grown up farmer.
“He was always happy,” said David. “When I brought him to school he would be in the back and I’d turn around and stare at him, these blue eyes dancing out of his head.
“I would always buy him a wee packet of buttons and no matter how small they were he would always say; ‘Thank you, Daddy’.” And with a mischievous grin Thomas would wipe the chocolate from his face before going inside for his dinner.
On the night he died he was supposed to be at a movie screening but was adamant that he would help his father on the farm instead. He told his mother that it was ‘too good an evening to be going to watch TV.’ He was “bouncing” that night, as he often was, full of boundless energy.
“He would run about with his wee light up wellies, you’d see him on a dark evening going flash, flash, flash,” said Jacqueline.
He was always thinking about all aspects of farming, she smiled, recalling a conversation she had with Thomas about his Uncle Robert’s farm.
“We walked down the road and Thomas said; ‘You may tell Uncle Robbo to put up a fence because the sheep are poo’ing on the lane,’” she laughed.
That was him, playful. Another time his father was cleaning a shed when Thomas turned to him and said; ‘I’ll watch you cleaning and if you miss any I’ll tell you’.
David and Jacqueline would give anything to hear that voice again, to see that chocolate covered face again, to read to him before bed again.
“We used to read to him until he fell asleep on the couch, then I carried him up to bed,” said David.
“I had to read to him before he left here on Sunday, I just wish now I could read to him again,” said Jacqueline.
“He used to say; I love you berry, berry much. Not very, but berry.
“We love you berry, berry much, Thomas,” said his heartbroken mother, fighting back tears.