Brendan's final voyage - a tribute to a friend

The late Brendan Heffernan

WHEN Brendan Heffernan was diagnosed with Terminal Cancer almost two years ago, He could have easily despaired, instead he dedicated his life to fundraising for the Mercy Hospital Oncology Unit, Cork, where he received his treatment.

He inspired us all. We were continually in awe of his strength and courage. He taught us what love of family, friendship and real fun was about in the midst of his own adversity.

It was so poignant the night after Brendan's Funeral Mass, He received the "Hero of The Year Award" from The Mercy Hospital at the Annual Awards Ceremony in Cork. The award was presented posthumously by Norah Casey to Brendan's Sister Siobhan Donaldson. The Heffernan Family together with his best friends Timmy Moynihan and Anne Moynihan, Workmen's Rowing Club, received a standing ovation by the two hundred people attending the awards. Brendan's favorite song 'I am Sailing' was played which had also been sung by his trusted Friend Batty O'Sullivan at Aghadoe Graveyard.

Very often in life, people often speak about what should have been said to close friends and family members before they pass away. We were in a privileged position at the Workmen's Rowing Club, to have been able to tell Brendan, his family and friends at the blessing and naming of our new boat last October. The Boat named 'Brendan' was blessed by Fr Kevin McNamara, Mary Moynihan President of Workmen's RC was able recount the following : "Brendan's dedication to the Club is exceptional and always beyond the call of duty, he always organised the Annual Flag Days, Church gate collections. As a Rowing man, Brendan excelled on the Ergo Machine, winning titles all over the Country, Representing his Club on every level of competition, winning the All Ireland Coastal Senior Championship Senior Race in Antrim. Brendan's Favourite race has to be The Great River Race in London, 2002, which the Workmen's Won, Brendan had the task of organising the crew! We are never told about the fantastic time in London, but it took them nearly a week to come home"

Brendan has overseen and driven many fundraising initiatives for the Club, with Lottery funding he assigned funding for boats and equipment, renovate the Boathouse and club facilities. Not alone that, Brendan is on hand to cox boats, sweep the boathouse, pick up rubbish, transporting boats and crews to Regattas, and still enjoy the craic and fun as the perfect quincentennial Club Man"

The funeral mass for Brendan, at St Mary's Cathedral, Killarney, was a solemn and dignified ceremony, celebrated by Fr Niall Howard. The Heffernan Family gave the members Workmen's Rowing Club the privilege and honour of being part of the final journey with Brendan. It was a fitting gesture that the crew who raced in the Great River Race on the Thames in London, carry his coffin, wearing the Workmen's ties of White and Red. The crew included, Kieran Counihan, Timmy Moynihan, Denis McCarthy, Alan Dower, Gerard Blackwell, along with Mikey Joe Burns Trainer.

Fr Niall Howard quoted the following lines from William Butler Yeat's powerful poem, The Stare's Nest by my Window: "The bees build in the crevices Of loosening masonry, and there The mother birds bring grubs and flies. My wall is loosening; honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the stare", so appropriate and fitting for Brendan. Anne Moynihan read the beautiful reflection Remember Me.

The words from Brendan's sister Catriona Fleming, resonated and touched the hearts of everybody last Thursday. With her kind permission we include the following:

'You are probably familiar with the words of Saint Paul to Timothy: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Brendan could not have put up such a strong fight, finished the race with such dignity or kept his faith so strongly without the help and support of a lot of people.

We would like to thank Fr Niall Howard for celebrating Brendan's requiem mass today. He has been a tremendous support these past weeks, not only to Brendan, but to all our family and we are forever grateful for his reassuring presence and guidance.

Thank you to all the clergy who concelebrated mass today. Your presence here and your prayers for Brendan are a great comfort to us. Thank you to our servers, dear friends of Brendan's, Joe and Kate. Thank you to the readers, gift bearers, organist, choir, soloist and O'Shea's Funeral Directors who have added greatly to the solemnity of the mass.

In the medical field we wish to thank: Dr Donal Coffey and all the team at Ross Medical Practice, The pharmacists and staff in Park Road Pharmacy, Consultants and nurses at the Mercy Hospital Cork and CUH, The Palliative Day Care Unit at Tralee General Hospital.

Brendan would want me to make special mention of the nurses in St Theresa's Oncology Ward at the Mercy. Their ability to care for him in such a dignified way, with a smile on their face and a friendly chat meant a great deal to Brendan and helped make his rounds of chemotherapy and occasional hospital stays more bearable.

We are also indebted to the Kerry Public Health and Palliative Care nursing teams and the Irish Cancer Society's night nurses.

We will never forget their compassion and care.

Brendan has also had tremendous support from his friends. We are deeply grateful to Anne, Timmy, Kieran and Batty for being by Brendan's side throughout the past 21 months. Friends for over 30 years, Timmy had the amazing knack of turning up exactly when a strong pair of hands was needed. Breakfasts with Batty were legendary and his daily visits lifted spirits with his humour. Anne has been a rock and constant reassuring companion by his side.

We are indebted to so many for their prayers, masses, kind messages, offers of help; the extended Moynihan family, Valerie for capturing the many good times so beautifully in photos, neighbours, work colleagues and friends.

Workmen's Rowing Club have provided tremendous support to Brendan over the years and we are forever grateful. We also very much appreciate the presence yesterday and today of members of the other Killarney rowing clubs and clubs who travelled from South Kerry and West Cork.

We are fortunate to have a large and supportive family who have helped sustain us with prayers, home cooking and practical help. We thank you for being there for us.

I would like to share a short prayer in the form of a poem which I thought was appropriate to Brendan and his life here in Killarney. It's called Sad Endings.

Day is done

Gone is the sun

From the sky

From the mountains

From the lakes

Rest easy now

All is well

God is nearby"...

Our Thoughts and prayers are with the Heffernan Family at this time, Brendan's Parents, Donie and Kathleen Heffernan, his beloved Son, Robert, Sisters, Catriona, Siobhan and Mairead, Brother Gerard, Sister in Law, Clodagh, Brother in Law, Gavin Donaldson and Dale Smith, nieces, Sarah Fleming and Grace Smith, nephews, Milo, Zac Donaldson and Dale Smith.