Thursday 19 September 2019

'We know they're together now'- Son's tribute to parents married for 32 years who died from cancer just minutes apart

One of the final photographs taken of Mary and Tom, just months before their death
One of the final photographs taken of Mary and Tom, just months before their death

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

The son of a Cork couple, married for 32 years, who both died just minutes apart has paid tribute to his "affectionate" parents.

Mary and Tom Forbes were both battling cancer and died at Bantry General Hospital on Saturday, less than 45 minutes apart.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, Mary Forbes (59) was given the all-clear in late 2017. Her husband, Tom had a "mini-stroke" in December 2018 and after going to hospital, was subsequently diagnosed as having cancer himself.

In March of this year, Mary went to see the doctor with a pain in her head and following tests, they revealed that her cancer had returned. Having been told that he cancer was manageable, she began to feel poorly again at the end of August. Within days, her family were informed that she had slipped into a coma.

Mary and Tom Forbes with the youngest of their two granddaughters
Mary and Tom Forbes with the youngest of their two granddaughters

Mary remained in this state in Cork University Hospital for a number of months. In the meantime, Tom's condition had deteriorated and he was also receiving treatment.

Their son Paul said that before their untimely deaths, however, Mary regained consciousness for long enough to be moved to Bantry, where her husband Tom could say his final goodbye.

"Look, we've not been too bad," he told the Independent.ie.

"My mum went up to Cork University Hospital at the start of the bank holiday in August. She said she wasn't feeling well and she had a pain in her head for a couple of days and she wasn't really eating a lot. Then on the Sunday we got a phone call that she was after going into a coma.

"She kind of came out of it a bit for a couple of days and they were trying to get her to Marymount Hospital, because they thought it would be easier for us, but our father was in Bantry so we asked if she could go there. Then last Thursday they brought her down and from the Thursday then until Saturday they were together.

"They got to say their goodbyes, well she woke up but she never really knew who we were and she was a bit away with the fairies, so she went back into a coma then again. He got to say goodbye though. He went into her every day until about three days before he died, when he took another turn and started to get worse and then the last two days he went into a coma himself."

"We honestly thought a week before she died, that she only had about 24 hours but she just never really changed," he continued.

"She just had the same heartbeat and everything until Saturday night when my brother Niall was staying over, because one of us stayed there every night in Bantry for the three weeks. We were over there the night before and we thought he would go first because he had gone bad and she just had the same heartbeat so we didn't know how much longer she would last.

"She was in a coma but they weren't giving her any food or anything like that, just pain killers. We thought he'd go and then next thing, she was first and he went after, 44 minutes I think, after.

"She was waiting for him."

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One of the final photographs taken of Mary and Tom, just months before their death

Mary's and Tom's deaths have been widely mourned and they have been described as active and extremely popular members of the West Cork community. Their son Paul said that they were loving parents, and enjoyed being part of their community right up to when they died.

He said that, while the family are devastated and shocked about the loss of two parents, they take comfort in the fact that they never had to be apart, and they were together when they died.

"My mother was 59. She was born on November 1 1959. She would have been 60 this year. My father was 75. He was born on April 17 1944.

"They were mad for trotting races, harness racing, horses, loved darts and rings. They had two granddaughters as well so they loved them. They were affectionate. They loved us. They loved everything.

"They were hardworking people, my father always worked. They were mad for work alright. My father worked from when he finished school, when he was 15, until he got stuck, more or less.

"We take solace because we know they're together. It was a shock in March when my mother was re-diagnosed because my father had the mini-stroke and we were a bit shocked at that. When we found out he had cancer we were shocked at that and then mum was re-diagnosed, we were told it was manageable so we didn't think this... well, you never think both of your parents are going to die at the same time anyway."

Mayor of County Cork Christopher O'Sullivan said that he knew the pair from trotting and harness racing in the county and reinstated their extreme popularity both in that community and the wider community in West Cork.

"It's remarkable that these two life partners went within such a short period of each other. It must be some sort of consolation for the family but at the same time I want to pay my respects to the family and my heart goes out to them.

"They were lovely. They were the heart and soul, they were very popular."

The loving couple were laid to rest in a joint funeral service in Drimoleague, Co Cork on Monday.

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