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Sunday 18 February 2018

True bravery of Donal revealed in his diaries

In his last hours, teenager turned to his family and joked it was like a scene from 'Sopranos'

Donal Walsh
Donal Walsh
Donal Walsh's note book
Messages of strength and love adorn the walls of Donal Walsh’s den at his home in Blennerville, Co Kerry.
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

THE parents of crusading teenager Donal Walsh have opened their hearts about their son's final hours and given access to the notes he made in the weeks before his death.

His bereaved family have told the Irish Independent that even as their 16-year-old son was just a couple of hours from death, he woke up and saw his family around him and joked: "'Ah lads, this is like a scene out of 'The Sopranos'."

Donal's life and his selfless appeal to vulnerable young people to say no to suicide struck a cord with the entire nation.

Now his father Fionnbar has allowed the Irish Independent access to his son's private den, where he wrote and was surrounded by friends as he battled terminal cancer before his death at his home in Blennerville, Co Kerry, on Sunday.

The wooden den is covered in uplifting slogans and heartfelt messages from his friends and loved ones.

It was here – in the place where he was most comfortable – that he wrote the inspiring lines: "I've climbed God's mountains… And as much as I'd love to go around to every fool on this planet and open their eyes to the mountains that surround them in life, I can't. But maybe if I shout from mine they'll pay attention." His notes include lines from songs he liked and some of his own thoughts, with the theme of a message of hope from the dying boy.

They contain the line from the band Nickleback: "Everyone has things that they hide, Everyone keeps most things inside, Everyone needs to feel loved." The walls have been stencilled with positive statements by Donal.

"Leave no stone unturned. Leave your fears behind.

"We stand together in line. No regrets in mind." His writings show a boy who loved life and who encouraged others to live life to the full.

Fionnbar told the Irish Independent of Donal's final moments, when his mother Elma noticed a slight change in his breathing.

She called his father and sister Elma to Donal's side. His Uncle Brian just made it up the stairs in time. They were all there when Donal drew his last breath.

Fionnbar spoke movingly of his son's final conversation with parish priest Fr Padraig Walsh.

"What's on the other side, Father?" he asked.

"I don't know Donal, but it'll be a far better place with you in it.' "Are you afraid?" asked Fr Padraig.

"I'm not Father, but I'm nervous," he replied.


Donal's parents also revealed the private battles he faced as he campaigned to bring his message of hope to the public.

He had to be brought by wheelchair to the RTE studios to take part in 'The Saturday Night Show' with Brendan O'Connor and it took an extraordinary physical effort to make the 400-mile round trip to Dublin from his home in Blennerville, near Tralee in Co Kerry.

The television appearance moved a nation to tears of sadness, hope and admiration. An ambulance was on standby in case Donal took a turn.

A proposed visit to the President, Michael D Higgins, had to be cancelled on medical advice, amid fears a trip to Dublin could mean his last wish of dying at home in Blennerville would not have come true.

Mrs Walsh also revealed how they told him of the seriousness of his illness.

"He was too intelligent to hide the truth from," said his mother Elma.

"He clammed up on us once when we held back. It was then we decided to tell him he had very little time.

"Donal forecast his death almost to the day."

Irish Independent

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