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If I close my eyes
I can see the sunlight tumbling down between the native pines
Broken by the breeze, splashing red and orange light
I can see the wedge-tailed eagle climbing stairways in the sky;
If I close my eyes – John Schumann, If I close my eyes
With great sadness we report the death of Stuart Mangan, the young Irishman who was paralysed from the neck down in 2008 following a spinal injury he received while playing rugby.
Stuart, then 24 and a talented fly-half (pictured below), suffered the catastrophic injury on 5 April last year. A major fund-raising campaign – well-supported by the travel retail channel – swung into action, resulting in a remarkable outpouring of support for Stuart from all around the world, including magnificent contributions from the sporting community.
Stuart’s brother John is L’Oréal UK Luxury Fragrance Division Deputy General Manager and a former travel retail executive for the French company.
Stuart passed away on Friday after contracting a chest infection and then pneumonia. He is survived by his parents, Brian and Una, and his brothers Keith, John and Barry, who were all with him at his bedside.
Poignantly, Stuart had insisted that his organs be donated so that others might have a chance of life.
John Mangan told me on Saturday: “Stuart left us yesterday. He died in his sleep, very beautifully and very naturally.
“He did so much in 16 months and we will continue to do extraordinary things in his recognition. It was such an honour to be his brother.
“He’s saved five or six lives through the donations of his organs so there are happy lives all around London this weekend.”
That generosity of spirit runs through the blood of the Mangans. I met Stuart on several occasions, in particular spending one long and enjoyable afternoon with him at his London flat talking about everything from Irish and All Blacks rugby to sportsmanship, literature, voice recognition software and of course the challenges he faced.
He spoke frankly, honestly and with a candour that simply breathed determination. He ended up lifting my spirits when I had been trying to raise his. That was the stature of this young man, whose courage and optimism humbled and inspired all who met him.
Describing Stuart’s death as “devastating”, Munster and Ireland rugby legend Mick Galwey told the Irish Independent: “Stuart has made a huge impression on me and on a lot of other people. He was a very positive young man who dealt with this whole thing so well. His name will not be forgotten”.
Stuart’s eyes are closed now. But his spirit still soars like the eagle in Schumann’s song. May the soul of this beautiful and brave young man rest in peace.