Editor’s note: Have you ever observed a family with a seriously disabled child, and wondered how they persevere with such a heavy burden? Morristown Fire Chief Robert Flanagan opened his heart, and our eyes, over the weekend in a moving eulogy for his sister Patty. Patty Flanagan, 56, died suddenly last week from complications of Spina Bifida, a crippling birth defect. Her brother’s reflections on the meaning of love seem especially appropriate for this Christmas season. We offer them here, with permission, to anyone facing adversity.
EULOGY FOR PATRICIA FLANAGAN
Delivered by her brother, Robert Flanagan
Dec. 13, 2014
Thinking back on Patty’s life, it would have been hard for any one of us sitting here today [to imagine].
In and out of hospitals. Procedures. Treatments and medications. Her whole life. Yet she never complained. Not once.
Her life was her family, and God. I remember our father, having been an usher here at the 10 am Mass for many decades, would come home after Mass and then help get our mother and Patty to the 12 noon Mass. The 10 am Mass was way too early for our mother and Patty to get out of bed and ready. That’s how it was.
Patty on weekdays would so look forward to seeing Father Francis Glenn come to the house and offer Communion, and say a prayer with her. As did Monsignor Patrick Brown, who had a watchful and caring heart for her.
This was her life. God was in it every day.
Patty loved our parents dearly, as they loved her so much back. I remember listening to many people saying that my parents were saints, because many children with crippling disabilities were institutionalized back in those days.
But not to my parents. She was their daughter, and they would love her and raise her as they would raise their other children. They were so proud of her. I remember my father doing everything in his power to get Patty to experience everything a normal kid would — even taking her in the ocean on our summer vacations, and playing on the beach… although we knew she preferred the salt water pool down in Spring Lake vs. the ocean.
My father and Patty played cards for hours. Not hundreds, but thousands of hours over the years. And he loved it. And then there was our mother. She took care of Patty on a daily basis and devoted her life to making sure Patty had a comfortable and happy life on a daily basis. My mother was a true angel on earth.
After my parents’ deaths in 1996 and 2007, my sister Karen stepped into the role of being Patty’s daily caretaker. Karen was a blessing to Patty, not only her sister, but her best friend.
That’s a one-minute history of Patty’s life. There’s so much more, especially with [Patty’s brother] Ed and myself, and everyone else. But I’d be here all day.
I just wanted to share one text I got from my daughter about Patty the other day. It reads: “I’m very sad too, Dad. She’s in a better place with your Mom and Dad. She can probably walk in Heaven, too. I love you.”
Patty loved music so much… I hope you are dancing your day away, Patty!
The most important thing I can say is that Patty put joy into everyone’s lives. Just meeting her and saying hi, you would be rewarded with the biggest smile and hello back at you. Patty has the most caring and sweetest soul. She was gentle and quiet, yet so powerful with her love and passion for her family.
I will end in saying that I feel so privileged that God put Patty in my life, and in my brother Ed and sister Karen’s lives. Ed and Karen — we’re the luckiest people on the planet to have had Patty in our lives. She will live in our hearts for the rest of our days.