Aged 22, Patrick died in his sleep last monday night. He was buried at Shanganagh Cemetery yesterday after a heart-breaking funeral mass in Shankill. I didn't know Patrick that well, I met him maybe once or twice a year when visiting Eoin and Jill. But the short life of this young man should be celebrated as a example of achievement in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Nine years ago, Patrick was hit by a car and suffered massive head trauma. He was not expected to live. He spent 4 months in a coma. It took one and a half years for him to start re-learning how to speak and how to walk. Many of us would have given up and resigned ourselves to a silent life in a wheel-chair being waited on hand and foot. Not Patrick! With willpower the size of a planet, he refused to consider himself disabled and improved both his physical adeptness and speech clarity day by day.
It was a humbling experience listening to Patrick speak. Initially I couldn't make out very much, then I suddenly realised that everything was being done perfectly apart from the speed. It was like a strectched audio tape. If you simply slowed down the rate at which you expected to receive each sound, you could understand everything he said. And he was one funny wee bloke when you did listen! His sense of humour was obviously completely untouched by the accident. I often wondered if he was trying to push his thoughts through a damaged speech-centre or if his brain has re-used some other part of itself to provide speech functions. Either way it was a joy to encounter.
At his eulogy yesterday, his Dad said that Patrick always did whatever the hell he set his mind to and as a result, he fell nearly every day. I've seen some of those falls and they were frightening to be near. But he simply got himself up as if nothing had happened, dusted himself down and continued on doing whatever it was he was trying to do. I don't think any of us will forget that protective hat he had for all those years.
Patrick could not have achieved everything that he did without the enormous sacrifices made by his parents Pat and Barbara. Every parent is going to do their best for their baby boy but seeing what they did for Patrick made us all realise what parenting under extreme pressure really means. I am very sad for the pain that Patrick's siblings are feeling right now. No-one should have to lose a little brother so suddenly. But, as a parent myself, I am deeply upset for his parents and the grief that they are experiencing after 9 years of "living on borrowed time" as his Dad put it.
Whilst we rightly criticise the dreadful money wasting in our health service, the serives provided to Patrick in his rehabilitation were world class by all accounts and once again I heard nothing but praise for the [NRH](http://www.nrh.ie/).
I had never encountered [The Peter Bradley Foundation](http://www.peterbradleyfoundation.ie/) until yesterday. Long may they help young adults like Patrick achieve the independence that they yearn for and deserve.
In the modern world our kids have a multitude of nonsense role-models to pick from. I dread the day one of my boys tells me he wants to be David Beckham. If (and when) they do, I'll be telling them all about young Patrick Pierce and the nature of true character.
My deepest sympathies to all of the Pierce family and to Patrick's many friends.