There has been shock and deep sadness throughout the region following the news of two-and-a-half year old Liam Keogh's tragic death at the Glenatore housing estate in Coosan, Athlone, on Thursday last.
At his funeral on Monday, little Liam was described as "a larger than life personality" who "held huge promise".
Fr Declan Shannon, the celebrant of the funeral Mass, said the tragedy was "every parent's worst nightmare," and he stated that people were, naturally, questioning how God could allow such a terrible thing to occur.
"I stand before you this morning grappling for words, but with no answers to those questions. What can I say that can possibly make sense of such awful and unreal loss?" he said.
Gardai had been called to the unfinished Glenatore estate at approximately 1pm last Thursday.
Liam, who lived at the nearby Hazelwood estate, had fallen into a small pool of water, possibly after following the family dog. Despite the efforts of the emergency services he was pronounced dead.
Inspector John Lawless said Gardai were satisfied that this was an accidental drowning. "We are investigating the circumstances behind it," he said.
At the funeral in Athlone's St Mary's Church on Monday, Fr Shannon said Liam's parents, Yolanda and Wesley, had been burdened with "the greatest cross in life that any parent could possibly have to carry".
The priest stated that, while he didn't know Liam personally, the stories he had heard illustrated "how much life Liam seemed to pack" into two and a half short years.
"The picture that Yolanda and Wesley painted of Liam is of a very active boy, with endless energy, who couldn't sit still," he said.
The child loved listening to music, playing football, and travelling on the bike with his father, the congregation was told.
"His dog Hugo was a huge part of Liam's life, and how the two of them seemed to love each other," added Fr Shannon.
"Like a young flower or budding sapling in the springtime of life, Liam Keogh held huge promise."
A "dark cloud of grief and shock" descended over the local community following news of his death last Thursday.
Fr Shannon said: "In the awfulness of this loss and in the heartfelt pain and grief, God is standing loyally by us. God knows your questions today. God knows the anger in your heart, and so it is to that same God we turn."
He referred to the Gospel reading in which Jesus said: 'Let the little children come to me, do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.' "No parent is ever ready or willing to let go of their own child, but if ever there was a place to let your child go, let it be to Heaven, where Liam will be held gently in the loving grace of God, remaining forever young," he said. The congregation was asked to pray to Liam, that he would give his parents, his family and his extended family "the strength, the courage, the hope and the peace that they need" at this hugely difficult time.
It was stated that Liam loved a bedtime story. "Liam, may God tell you your bedtime story tonight," said Fr Shannon.