In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy pays tribute to Paul Minchin who suffered from cystic fibrosis and was the first to recieve a double lung and heart transplant in Ireland.  He passed away on May 12, 2011.

The recent death of Paul Minchin, has brought great sadness and deep emotion, not just to his dear family but right throughout the country. Since Paul’s successful double lung transplant in the Mater Hospital, he has become a national icon of hope, especially for those who live with the reality of Cystic Fibrosis. Paul, was without doubt, an extraordinary young man. He made a real difference in making so many peoples lives to be more fulfilled, uplifted, happier, inspired and now forever grateful because of his friendship and genuine nature.

Paul, was resilient, intelligent, witty, humble and deeply spiritual. His short life was not defined by restriction or limitation but rather an active embrace to the possible. His spirit unique and gifted personified a spiritual movement that encourages the sentiment ‘Yes We Can’.

Paul’s life packed in so much, he was a farmer, ploughman, pike man, mechanic, engineer, son, brother, relative, friend, neighbour and valued member of Bagenalstown parish. Paul Minchin’s smile summed up the ‘Good News Story’ today that reminds us ‘all will be well’. When I consider Paul’s life, I think of mountains. I remember four days before our Easter Dawn Mass on Mount Leinster in 2010, being caught in a snow storm with Paul and his brother Martin on top of the mountain. Paul suggested ‘we were cracked’ to go ahead with the Mass but had the faith and determination with God’s help, it would happen. Paul was instrumental to the success of this annual hope filled event. On Easter morning in 2010, Paul facilitated traffic throughout the night so that thousands of people could indulge in the Christian hope. I remember sharing in a fantastic full Irish breakfast after the Mass in Coolnacuppogue and sensing from Paul great pride and deep fulfilment in the success of the early morning. Where else to celebrate that night, Paul headed to the Foundry with his friends.

Paul had much bigger mountains that Mount Leinster to climb. He did so with determination, courage and deep spiritual faith. He had many reasons to complain yet his spiritual gentle soul never gave up, but continued to plan, look forward and hope. His life is a testimony that we are necessary, our lives are important and yes we can truly make a difference. Paul spent the final year of his life in hospital; however he remained fully connected to his family and friends. From his hospital bed he offered hope and inspiration. A great hero of mine is another young legend Padraig Pearse. He described death as ‘the land where it is always summer’. Surely Paul’s life is now truly fulfilled in a place where ploughing and tilling, health and sunshine are eternal.

After Paul’s death I spoke with the children where Paul went to primary school in Ballinkillen. The children told me Paul had died and gone to heaven. I asked a question ‘What do you think Paul is doing in heaven?’, one little boy replied ‘Paul can breathe in heaven’. Our lives are short, we are but passing through. Let’s make the most, like Paul of every moment. Yes we can breathe, the energy, enthusiasm and love this young man shared in abundance.

‘He has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, he has kept the faith’.