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‘A void that will never be filled’ – CMO pays tribute to wife at funeral

Dr Emer Holohan, nee Feely, was a specialist in public health medicine.

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Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) arrives for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) arrives for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) arrives for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said his wife has left a legacy “that can never be destroyed, and a void that will never be filled”.

Dr Emer Holohan (nee Feely), who had been living with a terminal form of blood cancer since 2012, died on Friday.

Dr Feely was a specialist in public health medicine and a medical graduate of UCD.

She died at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, in the company of her husband Dr Holohan and children, Clodagh and Ronan.

Her funeral took place at St Pius X Church in Dublin on Monday.

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Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (left) prays by the coffin of his wife, as it arrives for her funeral mass at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (left) prays by the coffin of his wife, as it arrives for her funeral mass at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

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Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (left) prays by the coffin of his wife, as it arrives for her funeral mass at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Paying tribute to his wife, Dr Holohan said she was someone who lived for her family.

With his two children by his side, Dr Holohan described Dr Feely as a “loving, caring, warm, witty and sunny person”.

“Emer, this is the day that was always coming, we knew that, we all did,” he added.

“After that dreadful day in September 2012, you and I both knew you would leave us before your time, and you have.

“Your suffering is over, the pain, the anguish and the tears are at an end.

“We gather in this cruelly constrained way to mark your passing, in word, prayer and in song.

“This is not going to be a chronology of your life, I think too much of you to try summarise you in a few short minutes of words for people who may not know you.

“For those who do know you, they don’t need me to set it out.”

He praised his wife in how she handled her long illness.

Your suffering is over, the pain, the anguish and the tears are at an end Dr Tony Holohan

“Once upon a time, I worried about how you would ever cope with the adversity we met along the way of our lives.

“I thought your soft and sensitive nature might mean you would find some of life’s tests too much for you.

“How little I know,” Dr Holohan added.

“You faced the illness without fear or anger.

“Sure, you asked the usual questions about why us and why me, but you didn’t dwell on them.

“You didn’t let it rule you or define you, no matter how it impacted you.

“Amazingly, it was in how on the countless occasions we received the proverbial bad news, you would get up the next day and simply choose to put it to one side, to get on with things and to be there for Clodagh and Ronan.

“For it was Clodagh and Ronan that kept you going, and in them and the people they are, all that they have and will achieve in their lives, that your greatest legacy will be felt.”

Dr Holohan has been the public face of the State’s response to the unprecedented public health emergency.

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Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) embraces family members as they arrive for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) embraces family members as they arrive for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

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Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) embraces family members as they arrive for the funeral mass of his wife Dr Emer Feely, at St Pius X Church, Terenure, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

He took time off work last summer after she entered palliative care in early July.

Dr Holohan said his wife amazed the medical professionals who looked after her and defied their predictions through “sheer determination” to live for as long as she could.

“Your passing leaves a legacy and a void, a legacy that can never be destroyed and a void that will never be filled,” he added.

“The legacy you leave me, Clodagh and Ronan is how you made us feel, loved, valued, appreciated, understood and supported.”

Their daughter Clodagh, who is in college, described her mother as a “ray of sunshine”.

“Throughout our childhood mom was always there for us,” Clodagh added.

I have always admired her so much for her strength and resilience whenever an obstacle came her wayRonan Holohan

“I remember the day when we were told that mom was sick, which was a complete shock to us all.

“The fear of the unknown was the worst bit.

“She epitomised the word brave.

“In the last number of years this horrendous disease took so much from her, her freedom, her independence, her mobility and her ability to do some of the things she loved, but it never took her strength.”

Dr Feely’s son, Ronan, who is studying for his Leaving Certificate exams at Terenure College, said his mother was “extremely important” to their family.

“She was truly one of a kind.

“She was one of those people who had the ability to click with every person she met, she had such a sharp wit and her sense of humour was like no other,” he added.

“I have always admired her so much for her strength and resilience whenever an obstacle came her way.

“She always had that special ability to put on a brave face even when it got tough.

“She said to us the other day, ‘I have fought my best fight’, and she really did.”

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