'I couldn’t face the church, couldn’t face going to Mass' - Mother of Donal Walsh speaks of her grief

04/07/2019 - 04:23

By Jim Gallagher

Donal Walsh

The mother of inspirational cancer victim Donal Walsh has told of the devastation she felt after his death.

Elma Walsh said her faith took a battering after the 16-year-old died in 2013 but she eventually found solace thanks to her late son.

“I did fight with God and I did argue with him and I couldn’t face the church, couldn’t face going to Mass, couldn’t face anything like that,” she said.

“I still wasn’t happy. I was here at home and I said, ‘What would Donal say?’

I said, ‘I know exactly what he would say so I went back to Mass, back to praying. I cried my way through the first six months.

“Thankfully we are in a better place now because of it.”

Donal shot to prominence campaigning against teenage suicide while battling terminal cancer. He went on RTÉ’s The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor to tell young people help was out there although he knew nothing could help him.

Elma, from Blennerville, near Tralee, Co Kerry, said Donal’s faith made him strong.

“He had great faith. He had no fear of dying at all. He just wanted to live, he was fighting to live,” Elma tells the new RTÉ One series Life & Soul which investigates how faith impacts life.

Six years ago there were a lot of suicides, a lot of teenage suicides, and he thought, ‘Here I am fighting for my life and maybe if they got a little help maybe they might be here today.’

Donal was first diagnosed with cancer at age 12 in 2008. After surgery and chemotherapy, he was given the all-clear. But two years later it returned and after more treatment he was again told he was in remission. But just months later the cancer was back for a third and final time.

“In our hearts and soul we knew there was no chemo after this,” said Elma.

Donal’s dad Fionnbar said: “He asked straight out what’s the prognosis? The oncologist told him, ‘If I were you Donal I would have an early Christmas'.” Elma said: “He was very upset to start with. He was devastated. He was very cross and upset for a few days but I noticed then after about a week he started being normal about everything.

“I said, ‘Donal, do you realise what is happening?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I do, but mum why not me? I’m not the only kid from Crumlin [Hospital] who died from cancer. Why not me? I’m not going to let cancer dictate the rest of my life. I’m going to go out there and live it'.”

Fionnbar said: “I think Donal got peace from being able to live knowing part of life was death. I think he was mature beyond his years in that way.” Elma said: “He was just a normal kid, the same as anyone else, a high blackguard, but he just had great faith and no fear of God.

“He went out very peacefully in the end – he went in his own bed in his own way.”

- Life & Soul is on RTÉ One on Sunday morning at 11am