Remember Donal when you think you can't go on, says mum
SEVENTEEN candles and a basket containing just some of the hundreds of cards and letters of condolence were reminders of of the legacy of teenager Donal Walsh at his month's mind Mass.
On what would have been his 17th birthday, Donal's parents, Fionnbar and Elma, and his sister Jema, were joined by family and friends in St John's Church in Tralee, Co Kerry.
In a poignant reflection, his mother said Donal had left a reason to live and, with wisdom beyond his mere 16 years, had become the source of inspiration to young and old.
"Too soon his dreams were shattered by an illness that refused to yield so, like the true Kerryman he was, Donal took to a new playing field," she said.
Mrs Walsh said he reached out through the media to let us know we all had a choice.
"'Don't throw away your chances,' he told us. 'You know nothing of the depths of despair and, no matter how bad it gets, sometimes there's a long way to go before most of us get there'.
"He has left us with a legacy, to be all that we can be, so any time you feel you can't go on, just think of the boy from Blennerville, Tralee."
Since his death from lung cancer on May 12, Donal's family has been inundated with letters from people all over the country, writing to let them know the impact their son and brother had had on their lives.
In the months before his death, Donal spoke and wrote movingly on his own battle with cancer and urged young people to choose life and to seek help if they were feeling suicidal.
On his birthday, his family honoured his memory and took to social media, tweeting his message of hope to "live life".
This message was repeated at Slane at the weekend, when singer Bressie wished Donal a happy birthday and asked the audience to do the same on Twitter.
At Saturday's Mass, chief celebrant Fr Francis Nolan said he had a sense of the "beautiful gift of resignation" from Donal's family, and two words in particular came to mind: hope and thanksgiving.
He said: "God only allows something bad to happen so that he can bring about a greater good, and that's the only thing that can help us at times like this, and that out of the darkness can come the light and we can learn from the most painful experiences."
He said Donal's illness and death had, in some way, enabled his wisdom and philosophy to go further afield and his story had touched the nation.