THE COMMMUNITY in Derrylin and far beyond has been left devastated by the death of popular young mother Lorraine Cox-Connolly.
The 43-year-old, who passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on Friday, leaves a lasting legacy to others facing a terminal illness, after her pioneering campaign during her own five-year battle with motor neurone disease resulted in a change in the law.
Earlier this year, Stormont passed the Social Security (Terminal Illness) Bill to improve the support for those who are terminally ill, by extending the level of benefit support to 12 months.
The bill had been brought forward by the Law Centre NI on behalf of Ms Cox, who had been campaigning for change after discovering she could not get fast-track support from the social security system because her neurologist was unable to say that her death was expected within six months.
Instead, she was still required to look for work months after she medically retired because of her condition. Maurice Connolly, who lovingly cared for Ms Cox throughout her illness, said her determination to make a difference was testament to her character, and how she approached life and her illness.
“She faced it head on, and never complained,” he said. “In the middle of her motor neurone she took breast cancer, and went through chemo and all that too. It was a double whammy for her.”
Originally from Moyne in Co. Longford, Ms Cox’s parents moved to Teemore many years ago and she visited Fermanagh regularly while working at MBNA in Carrick-on-Shannon, before finally making the county her home. Mr Connolly said Ms Cox was a loving mother to their three children, Ethan (16), Socha (14) and Lewis (9). She also loved swimming, music and socialising, with a wide circle of friends.
“It was plain to be seen from the amount of people who were at the funeral, and the graveside afterwards,” he said. “She was a very popular girl.”
Sadly, it was through Ms Cox’s love of music that the first signs of her illness appeared.
“She was very good at the guitar,” said Mr Connolly. “That would have been the first tell-tale sign of the motor neurone, her left hand would have been the first to give trouble. She just wasn’t fit to get the chords.”
Tributes have since been pouring in from across Fermanagh and Longford for Ms Cox, who has been described by friends as kind, caring and “up for the craic”, a talented woman who was “a beauty, inside and out,” and who had “a dauntless spirit.”
The ‘Leg it For Lorraine’ fundraising campaign announced news of her death with sadness on Friday.
“We are heartbroken that this day has come. Lorraine fought so bravely over the last five years but she is now at peace,” they said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and especially her beautiful children and her wide circle of friends. Thank you Lorraine for being you and for the joy you brought to us all. You will be missed beyond words.”
Dromard GAA in Longford expressed sympathy with Ms Cox family, including her father Joe Cox, sister Fionnuala and brother Brendan.
“Lorraine fought a fierce fight against MND and cancer with unbelievable grit and great dignity,” said a spokesman for the club.
The Fermanagh School of Music and Performing Arts also paid tribute to the pioneering woman, and sent condolences to her family.
“We are very saddened to hear of the loss of one our former students,” they said. “Lorraine was a beautiful singer and guitarist with a beautiful heart and mind. Not only that, she was a friend.”
Ms Cox’s funeral took place at St Ninnidh’s Church in Derrylin on Sunday, followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.
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