I will never forget Saoirse's face of bravery

Saoirse Ruane

Saoirse Ruane

In the winter of 2020, the world was a dark place. Hope was in short supply in a country and world laid low by a common cause. Our mood not helped by the nightly roll call of the departed; everything we knew as life had come to a standstill in a world in which even the most devastating news stayed within homes, dwarfed by the enormity of the worldwide virus.

The Toy Show of that year was a rare moment for the country to remind ourselves of the wonder of youth; the innocence of childhood; the nudge to us all that beyond this pandemic, there would be a generation shaped by it. A generation that needed to be nurtured by the magic of Christmas and decency.

Into this world came our consciousness of young Saoirse Ruane. Unknown to us, her life had changed irrevocably a year beforehand. In November 2019, around the time of that year's Toy Show, when she was aged 7, Saoírse was diagnosed with an Osteosarcoma tumour, a rare form of cancer, in her tibia. In the interim, Saoirse had to have her leg amputated. The country let out a collective gasp when she revealed this to Ryan Tubridy on the 2020 Late Late Toy Show. Immediately, the arms of the country were wrapped around herself and her mum Roseanna and dad Ollie who accompanied her on those TV appearances.

In the years since, the smiling face of Saoirse adorned campaign after campaign to raise funds for ill children throughout the country. Every treat she received in that time sent an arrow of joy to our souls. Unselfishly, Roseanna and Ollie kept us informed of her progress; the setbacks, and the experiences they shared at what was undoubtedly a challenging time. Here in Galway, we took Saoirse into our hearts. Her name became a byword for bravery. Her face ensured people dug deep into their pockets for good causes, raising millions and millions.

I think of any of us would have offered to take her place so that she could experience the full joy of being that age, of running onto a pitch with her camogie teammates, of living through the vagaries of early teenage years. Many of these aspects were denied her, yet she came back smiling and singing every time, the epitome of courage in the face of adversity.

Nothing the rest of us were enduring could come even close to what was happening with her life, but yet through it all, Saoirse smiled. And in that smile, she inspired us all to be a better version of ourselves.

Whenever she appeared in public, she carried a beautiful smile, this gorgeous child; and it lifted us all, although we had to know that she was experiencing a devastating diagnosis.

When the news came through yesterday that she had passed away, I felt the sadness in the pit of my stomach, and that is the reaction right across the country. Since the moment she appeared on that Toy Show, we have all taken her into our families, all proud to say that she comes from this part of the world.

To her family and classmates and teammates, we extend our deepest sympathies, but thank you for sharing her with us; for enabling her to make the impact she did in her all-too-short life.

Saoirse Ruane will live on in all our memories of these years; a smiling freckly face of Galwayness, full of childhood innocence and a spirit to do the best she could for others.

May the drive she has shown be replicated in us all to do what we can for the betterment of our communities.

Saoirse, you were the ultimate Galway girl, fly little angel. It was our pleasure to know you. You will be forever a beautiful child whose courage will live on in those whose lives you've touched through your fundraising and loveliness.

Saoírse will repose at home on Friday, March 8, from 2pm to 8pm. A bus service will run from the car park at Bullaun Church (H62 YH66 ) and you are asked to follow the directions of stewards and only attend by using the bus service. Funeral cortège will arrive on Sunday, 10th March, to St Peter and Paul's Church, Kiltullagh (H65 KC89 ) at 1.45pm for Mass for Saoírse at 2pm. Saoírse will be laid to rest in Bullaun Cemetery (H62 YH66 ) after Mass.


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