Below is a transcript from a lovely piece in the Sligo Champion about the Mulvihill family. They held a Charity Dance in Glenfarne’s Ballroom Of Romance late last month raising a magnificent €4,615 in aid of the Bone Marrow Leukaemia Trust. Each year the family honour the memory of their son Seamus with a magnificent fundraiser. Well done to all the family over the decades of fundraising, and to all those organisers and supporters who helped the Mulvihills along the way.
The loving mother and brother of a young man who sadly passed away after a battle with leukemia have been speaking of his great courage and compassion when he was told that his life was coming to an end.
Seamus Mulvihill was only 23 when he passed away on September the 14th 1999 after a brave 18 month battle with leukemia.
He spent the last six months of his life in the loving care of his family at Home in Glenfarne.
On April 23rd in The Ballroom of Romance, the Mulvihill family organised a dance in his memory with proceeds going to the Bone Marrow Leukemia Trust fund.
This is something the family have been doing since 2000 and they will have raised in total more than €150,000 over the years.
What started out initially as a cake sale developed into abundant fundraisers.
The fundraising efforts included Christmas card sales including postman Raymond Evans selling Christmas cards for the charity, car washes, sponsored walks, Christmas Day swims, head shaving, leg waxing, Church gate collections, tractor runs along with many other events.
It was the late Seamus himself who started the fundraising, as shortly before he died he gave €1,000 to the hospital that cared for him in Dublin.
Seamus’s 73-year-old mother Breege Mulvihill said the way her son prepared himself and his family for his untimely passing was both inspirational and heart breaking at the thought of losing him forever.
“His leukemia was first diagnosed on July the 12th 1997. He had just come back from Greece with his friends but he was in shocking pain. Before he went on holiday he said
“Mammy I took a palpitation going into the chapel but when I come back from Greece I will be all right with the good food at home.”
“I told him he should go to the doctor and he said he couldn’t go to the doctor after just coming from his holidays”.
“When we got him to go to Dr. Des McManus he was fairly quickly diagnosed and it was just devastating” said the former nurse.
“He went off that same week to Saint James’s hospital in Dublin and we thought we would have him home in six weeks.
He received chemotherapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, it was very serious.
Seamus was in remission for six months after he got a bone marrow transplant from his younger brother Aiden. When we saw Aidan’s bone marrow going into Seamus we thought it was pure magic and we got word on January 6th 1999 that Seamus was clear of cancer”.
However six months later on July 20th Breege and the family got the devastating news that Seamus was going to die.
“Just before this shocking news my husband Michael and I had climbed Croagh Patrick in thanksgiving for him being clear of the disease.
We had climbed Croagh Patrick on the Sunday and we were going out to mass on the Tuesday morning when we got a call from the consultant in St. James’s saying we need to come back to the hospital.
Seamus was in a bed when we got there and he told us that the game was up,
“Mammy and Daddy, this is the end of me”.
He was so incredibly brave and inspirational the way he took it and had to deal with but he suffered something shocking. We were told on July the 20th that he would have six weeks to live and he died on September the 14th.
“When he came down to the road and home to die he had bought me flowers and had his friends over.
When he came home from the hospital we said a decade of the Rosary on the kitchen floor and thank God for Seamus, and we asked God for help to cope with what we had to deal with.
Seamus told us we would all be all right and he hugged us all. He was very friendly with the priest in Rossnowlagh called father Desmond O’Malley who prepared him for his death.
Seamus told us he would love to stay but he couldn’t and he told us what to do when he died” he said,
“Mammy don’t make a shrine of my room”.
“Seamus told me to put a nice picture on the memorial card and not to be going around with doom and gloom, but we were broken hearted listening to him”.
Breege said he was a mad in to cars and bikes and during his last six weeks at home he went down to Carlow to do a course in fast cars that was one of the things he wanted to do before he died.
His one request coming down the road from Saint James’s had been to die at home.
Seamus also brought down his grandparents the late Martin and Mary Mulvihill from Roscommon to see him on the weekend before he died.
He had said he wanted to talk to them about his death in case they might get an awful shock if someone knocked on their door and told them that he had died.
Seamus brought them down from Roscommon in his own car and he was in great form that weekend. However on the Sunday night he got pain in the side of his knee and had to get pain relief.
Breege and her husband Michael and their children John, Aidan and Michelle take comfort in the memories Seamus made in his short life.
“Seamus was all go and from when he was very young he was stone mad into cars. He was a great mechanic and Aidan followed in his footsteps as a mechanic before he then went to join the Gardai.
We struggled on, we are so proud of the way he coped with dying, it was the way he sat and talked to us and told us that he could not stay and that there was a place in heaven for him and that we will all meet again.
John and Aiden were teenagers and Seamus would say to John to be sure to be with Aiden when he took his first drink saying “I can’t be with him as I can’t stay.”
“It was that kind of thing the whole time, and people used to ask me when we were outside as to how we were coping, knowing his end was so near. I said we keep talking and talking and it helped us and Seamus helps us.”
They also found the strength to make a permanent memorial to him by organising a fundraiser that has run for over 20 years with the exception of the Covid years.
“Seamus and I went to different places before he died, and he said he would like to bring a donation to Saint James’s hospital where he was treated.
He went into the bank and took out €1,000 to donate to help others who might suffer like he had in the ward.
Seamus had the cheque and he had the door of the car open and it flew into the ditch!! but we rescued it and it was donated.
That was the spur for us, to keep doing the fundraisers”.
The first fundraiser the Mulvihill’s did was a cake sale in the Rainbow Ballroom for Christmas where Breege made 103 Christmas cakes and 65 Christmas puddings.
“We had Raymond Evans who gave us great support and they pulled out everything and anything that could be sold in the Rainbow.
We did that for years and we had car washes and everybody rallied around us.
The youth club did something every year, the choir came out and sang with buckets for a collection and music and we had Kathleen Meehan who is one of the famous McKeaney singing sisters and everyone wanted to help us.
We have had a dance in the hall every year for him and then there are people leaving stuff on the steps of the hall”.
Breege and her husband Michael are also keen social dancers which was also a help.
“We have had great Raffles and we often had over 100 prizes in the raffle.
We get great crowds to the Rainbow and there is social dancing there every third Sunday.
We get great donations with over €147,000 raised before the dance on the 23rd (which brought them up over the €150,000 raised) and they will probably end it there.
The same James’s people in Dublin have been in touch with the Mulvihills and come down to every dance and ”that is a great thing and they tell us what they do with the money and we stay in touch still with the consultant up in Dublin”.
Breege is grateful that her other two sons John and Aiden are living on the family farm and her daughter Michelle is only up the road in East Barrs.
When asked what advice she would give to parents of children who are diagnosed with serious illness Breege said, “What can they do only put their trust in God and we prayed for a miracles that didn’t happen. You have to be strong and trust in God and that was what Seamus did and when he knew that he had to go we said novenas and got masses and he was prepared.
He thought to himself that he could not stay and he prepared himself for death and he prepared us.
Seamus had wonderful faith and he sacrificed his life so we say Seamus can’t be with us and we wanted to keep him but we have to trust in God that we will meet again in heaven.
It is a heavy cross to carry, but we are just so proud of Seamus as he died so young and he will always be shockingly young”.
Seamus’s brother John said his brother fought his illness with great character and fortitude.
“I was only 16-17 when it happened, when the leukemia came back we were told he would live from six weeks to six months and he lived for six weeks to the day.
It was a very aggressive cancer of the blood and sadly he did not make it.
It was hard on our mother Breege and our father Michael.
They say time as a healer, and we now have families of our own, but every day Mammy wakes up she is thinking of Seamus and it is still nearly like the day it happened.
She will never get over it and it is very hard on a mother but she has a great heart.
Seamus was a very happy go lucky fella. His passion was cars and his motorbikes and from 12 or 13 years of age there were Honda 50s around the house and he was always fixing things.
The hospital was very good to him so we thought we would like to give something back and Mam and Dad started it.
There was always a walk from Glenfarne to Lough Mac Nean on St. Stephen’s day and that was a big part of the fundraising.
That was the first big event and then over the 20 years there was a dance in the Rainbow, Breege said, ” We love the dancing and Seamus used to play the banjo and now our grandchildren are into music”.
This will be the first dance since Covid. but Seamus’s death was a terrible shock to the then 16 year old John.
“Nothing prepares you for that, but his attitude was great even when he got the word that he was not going to make it.
In his last six weeks at home, he made plans for everything including the funeral and he told us not to be sad and to clear out his room and to get on with life which can be hard at times, we just get on with it.
He was so positive and where he got that strength from I will never know.”