Seán Holland with chief supt David Sheahan and Paul O’Connell
IN HIS 15 years on this planet, Seán Holland packed in more than most do in a lifetime.
You see, according to all medical advice, he shouldn’t have had those short but precious years. One consultant told mum and dad, Pearl and John that their beautiful baby boy was going to die.
“Get on with your lives. Leave Seán in hospital,” he told them.
Pearl looked at John and said, “Let’s stick together and give this little boy everything”. They were as good as their word, took Seán home to Herbertstown and gave him everything.
The toddler was diagnosed with Lissencephaly - a rare brain formation disorder - and given just two years to live.
In a moving eulogy at Seán’s funeral Mass in Caherline church before Christmas, John said: “So our boy is gone and our hearts are broken. But we have built a life of memories that no one can take.”
Expected to die at two, Seán turned three and four and five…
As well as having wonderful parents, Seán had the best big sister in the world in Niamh. His beautiful wide smile shone through his severe physical and neurological disabilities.
Seán had multiple problems like scoliosis, constant severe congestion of his lungs, he needed Botox injections into his muscles to relax them, his hip clicked in and out of place, he had seizures, strokes, chest infections and pneumonia.
Yet amongst it all Seán continued living. He was a fighter and he fought for life.
Fr Roy Donovan, who said the funeral Mass, said it was John, Pearl and Niamh’s love that kept him alive.
“It was sheer love. They said he was the most kissed child in the whole world because he was so lovable. His smile was so disarming.
“Seán had been such a part of his parents’ and older sister’s lives. The four of them were intricately linked together through him. There was a massive bond,” said Fr Donovan.
And what a life they lived. John and Pearl somehow manage to scrape together the money to travel to Disneyland so many times that Seán and Niamh were on first name terms with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Seán was a mascot for Munster in Thomond Park and met Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls.
One day they met Keith on the street. He ran over to the boot of his car and presented Seán with a handful of gear. Seán had that effect on people.
He was St Brigid’s GAA ladies gaelic football team, who Niamh plays with, biggest fan.
Seán was there when his sister was part of the minor A cup win. Niamh was captain when the club won the All-Ireland sevens for the second time last September and in her acceptance speech she dedicated it to Seán.
At home in Herbertstown, Seán could be found in the arms of John, Pearl and Niamh as they danced around the sitting room.
Seán couldn’t express his love verbally but his smile told you all you needed to know.
There are too many people to mention who helped the Hollands - but they would all say it was Seán who touched their lives.
To the doctors, nurses, Jack & Jill Foundation, St Gabriel’s staff, family, friends and neighbours - the Hollands say thank you.
John, Pearl, Niamh and Seán were a team. And in Niamh they had the most selfless team player, who was the best sister a boy could have.
John says simply that Seán inspired him and the family.
“It’s not a bad legacy for a 15-year-old boy who was told he would never live.
“If Seán and our story helps one single person or family, well I will be a happy man,” he said.
Seán concluded his eulogy by sharing a powerful message of hope.
“To all the young people out there, grab your dream and run, run like you have never run before and never stop, because after the sun goes down and darkness descends and all seems lost - the sun will rise.
“Because that’s what Pearl, Niamh and myself are going to do.
“To the love of my life, Pearl, we will rise again with Seán in our hearts knowing we did our best. And Niamh you have seen things no child or daughter should see, but Seán loved you and you loved Seán. I am so proud of you.
“Seán, we love you and your granddads Joe and Donal will look after you and your uncle Noel too.
“Now run like the wind Seán, you are free.”