Tuesday 16 July 2019

'He faced his prognosis with grace and dignity and bravery' - Brendan Grace's daughter Melanie Gillespie pays emotional tribute

Brendan Grace
Brendan Grace
Brendan Grace
Brendan Grace
Brendan Grace Photo:Brian McEvoy
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Melanie Gillespie has revealed that her father Brendan Grace faced his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer with "grace, dignity and bravery".

The legendary Irish comedian and entertainer passed away peacefully on Thursday morning at the age of 68 after a short battle with a rare form of lung cancer.

Melanie paid tribute to her father in an interview with Katie Hannon (sitting in for Joe Duffy) on RTE Radio 1's Liveline on Thursday afternoon.

She became emotional when speaking about hearing the shocking news of her father's lung cancer diagnosis and terminal prognosis.

‘Treasure’: Brendan Grace and wife Eileen. Photo: Brian McEvoy
‘Treasure’: Brendan Grace and wife Eileen. Photo: Brian McEvoy

"It's been several tough blows in a very short period of time, to be told that your dad has pneumonia and then to be told he has terminal cancer," she said.

"It's very difficult but we dealt with it so well and we came together as a united family with a strength that I don't think any of us realised we had. 

"And it was only then we realised it was him who was feeding us the strength. I've never seen somebody to face such a horrible prognosis with his own name that he was born with; he faced it with grace and dignity and bravery."

Melanie revealed that she had spent the last ten days by her father's bedside and her mother Eileen and sister Amanda had been present with him in hospital for five weeks.

"If my mother stepped out of the room for a second, he'd say, 'Where's my beautiful Eileen?' or if he was feeling a bit funny he'd say, 'Where's me mot?' and we'd have to go and get his mot for him," revealed Melanie.

"And when he laid his eyes on her his whole body would sink into a beautiful, deep calm and he kept kissing her and thanking her for being his rock.  It was the most beautiful thing."

Speaking about their final days together, she added, "He set all of us aside and told us he had lived a beautiful life and that he was looking forward to seeing his loved ones who had passed and he said to me at one point, 'if you think I was good in this life wait till you see what I have in store when I get to the other side'."

Melanie revealed that the family left "no stone unturned" regarding possible treatments for what was, unfortunately, "a very rare type of cancer".

"My father's underlying health was a big issue also with his diabetes and he was suffering with pneumonia as well which was diguising this rare form of cancer which is why it wasn't detected until the very late stages," she explained.

She thanked the staff of the Galway Clinic who had cared for her father in his final weeks.

Melanie also reflected fondly on her childhood growing up as the daughter of Brendan Grace and revealed that he shed his stage persona when at home with his family.

"I love that we got that person.  Everybody else got Brendan Grace, the entertainer.  We got a more vulnerable version of that," she said.

However, she also revealed that Brendan never turned his back on a fan and appreciated that "his fans were what brought him to where he was" and he loved when they would approach him when he was out and about.

"He had the kindest, kindest heart. He had heart enough both for his family and a nation and we're just so proud of that," she said.

"We were happy to share him."

Read more: Eddie Rowley: 'As a nation, we all feel today that we have lost a family member in Brendan Grace'

The life and times of Brendan Grace: an enduring friendship with Frank Sinatra, a career of wit and his forever love for his family  

'One of the great entertainers of this era' - tributes paid to beloved comedian and actor Brendan Grace

Brendan Grace: Five of the Dublin comedian's best career moments  

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