‘Only God knows’ why young cancer sufferer Cariss lost her life

Cariss Dempster, left, with her big sister Korin
Cariss Dempster, left, with her big sister Korin

A seven-year-old girl whose life was claimed by cancer “radiated a contagious joy”, mourners were told.

The minister taking Cariss Dempster’s funeral on Thursday said that many way well be questioning why such a young child’s life was taken, but only God – who he said has now led her through heaven’s gates – truly knows the answer.

Meanwhile, her Girl Guide captain said she had been an inspiration to her and to others, and described the Hillsborough youngster as “ball of light” (see below).

A tiara was placed on Cariss’ coffin, reflecting the fact that her family saw her as a “little princess”.

Two songs were played during the service: ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’, and ‘Jesus Loves Me, This I Know’.

In his address to the several hundred mourners at Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church, Dromore, Rev Gary Trueman remarked on how “fitting” the first song was.

“Cariss was a ray of sunshine who made us all feel happy. When she entered a room she radiated a contagious joy.

“Even in the midst of treatment (whether that was chemotherapy or radiotherapy ) or, in the immediate aftermath of surgery, Cariss’ life shone with a brilliance for all to see.

“And when Jesus took her by the hand and led her through the gates of Heaven on Tuesday afternoon I can just imagine that energy and love for fun that she had, expressing itself in her singing and dancing through the streets of glory.”

The Dromore Central Primary School pupil, who was also a member of First Dromore Girls’ Brigade, had suffered from neuroblastoma – a rare form of cancer which develops from nerve cells and mainly affects young children.

Rev Trueman added: “This afternoon as we meet to worship God and honour and celebrate Cariss’ life (a life with so much potential), I know many of us are asking the question in our minds, ‘How could this happen to such a young and happy person?’...

“Folks, there are no easy answers – God alone knows, and He cares about each one of us, and His heart is tender towards us.

“I wish from the bottom of my heart that I had a wonderful remedy that would take away all your pain. But I don’t.

“All I know is that Jesus loves you and you can depend on Him even when you’re asking ‘why?’ and your doubt level is high.”

The service ended with the playing of a track called ‘In The Arms of an Angel’, which contains the lyrics: “Shine, little star, go on shine / Show us that you’re doing fine / And even in darkness, your light makes us see / In the arms of an angel you’re free.”


Joanne Coen, 45, was her Girl’s Brigade captain.

The Dromore woman described her variously as “a wee ray of sunshine” and a “little ball of light that danced into the room”.

Touched by her illness, fellow members fund-raised for the Cancer Fund for Children, and she herself had run the Dublin marathon in September.

“She was an inspiration, because I am not a runner!” said Mrs Coen.

She said that, over the course of a year through various events, the guides raised roughly £3,400.

She added: “She’s really brought us together. We really were united in grief – Dromore as a community has really united in grief.”

Her burial took place afterwards in Annahilt Presbyterian churchyard. Cariss is mourned by her parents Noel and Elaine, her sister Korin, 10, and wider family circle.