Death and Burial
In 1910 he was diagnosed as having cancer. On Nov. 12th 1912 he returned home from hospital after a five month stay, said to his housekeeper ” I am home at last, thank God and nothing shall ever make me leave it again until I am in a coffin.”
A short time before he died he was in his study with his brother Denis. He took from his desk a bundle of papers- they were a part of his autobioigraphy. In a feeble voice he said ” these might do harm to others, let us destroy them.” The papers were then thrown into the fire and reduced to ashes. How valuable to students of the period those papers would be today.
He died on Rosary Sunday Oct. 5th. 1913.
“I came to Doneraile “, writes John J Horgan author of Great Catholic Laymen, “on the day of his funeral. All the countryside had come to do him homage. A nation mourned by his grave. Lords and Members of Parliament, farmers and labourers, professional men and artisans, all were as one in their sorrow and in their loss. But it was in the little that one missed him most. The gentle presence, the quite voice, the kindly smile all gone.
The procession passed through the little village street, through the convent grounds where he so often went to encourage and help the good nuns in their work, and finally they laid him to rest beside his church. His spirit lingers in the village, and the visitor as he approaches the gate of the church may see, almost at any hour of the day the kneeling figures of little children of women and men, who bend their heads in prayer over the stone that covers the remains of their beloved pastor of old. The praise of his memory is everywhere and is perpetuated for those who worship within, by the memorial windows in the church, and for the stranger outside by the marble figure on the green fronting the street. it is a testimony of affectionate reverence not only from those to whom the love of their pastor appeals in death, but from the entire population, and from admirers across the Atlantic and the Pacific, among whom he was held in the highest esteem for his intellectual gifts and his big-hearted charity, for his public-spirited forethought in behalf of his fellows and the humble gentlemanly dignity that shone forth from his conduct.
The common tribute to Canon Sheehan’s worth has been summed up by his friend William O Brien who writes in his epitaph” one of the truest men of genius who have illustrated the Irish name, and one of the truest saints who ever sanctified the Irish soil.”