Courage, love & faith: the extraordinary life and death of Fr Tony Coote

Some people just leave their mark. Tolerance and justice and kindness and courage shine from them. You can feel love emanating from them. They inspire even when they don’t try to.

You may never meet or have met them, but you know them. They’re like friends. You rely on them. And they never let you down.

Fr Tony Coote was one such.

Here was a man who, not only got a death sentence, but was told that death would come slowly, tortuously and painfully.

Yet he never stopped believing in himself, in life, in love, in friends, in people or in God.

His book Live While You Can, is tough but inspiring.

We all have heroes. Mine are people like Denis Law, Ray McLoughlin, John Lennon, John Hume and, recently, Greta Thunberg.

There are many more.

Today, though, I think of just one: Tony Coote who achieved as much in his life as any of my other heroes.

He could have stayed quiet and gone off to seek what comfort he could when he was diagnosed.

But instead he put himself forward and tried to pass on the courage he didn’t realise he had, to others. 

He undertook that arduous journey from Donegal to Cork in his wheelchair to raise awareness of and funds for, MND. And those funds, in the same way as his words, have helped many others.

Yes, we’re all going to die eventually. Some of us already have chronic illness and live with it every day. And it is people like Fr Tony who keep us going, who shine a light, who tell us to cheer up and get on with it.

Read his book. But even if you don’t, think of the title he gave it: Live While You Can.

And do.

May he rest in God’s peace.

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