Unveiling of COVID-19 Memorial

(August 4th 2021) Earlier today in a dedicated space outside the TUH Chapel, a small group gathered for the unveiling of a permanent memorial honouring those that died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sculpture by artist Mark Ryan and sponsored by the Adelaide Health Foundation will be known as the ‘Heart Memorial’.

The memorial is located in the garden adjacent to the Hospital chapel and contemplation room. The memorial known as the ‘Heart Memorial’ is in honour of those who died during the COVID-19 Pandemic, for the grieving families, for Hospital Staff and the Community who provided so much supporting during the pandemic.

The piece is based on identical hearts, an initiative by the Pastoral Care team throughout the pandemic. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continuously since then, Healthcare Chaplains in TUH incorporated into their end-of-life care the practice of placing a handcrafted heart in the hand of a dying or deceased patient while an identical heart is given to the next of kin/family member (when present) or if not forwarded to them by post. These identical hearts are handcrafted by hospital staff and also sent in by members of the public.

The message to the bereaved families reads: “Your loved one was not alone, we cared for them, we stayed with them “life has to end, love doesn’t - a pair of identical hearts, one is with them and this heart is for you made with love” The identical hearts are deeply appreciated by family members as a meaningful keepsake of the time of their loved one’s death. 

Commenting on the unveiling, John Kelly, Director of Pastoral Care at TUH said “The image of the identical hearts incorporated into a permanent memorial commemorates this tragic time of COVID-19. 

The memorial has a reference to Celtic standing stones. The split in the piece vertically relates to the identical hearts with the bronze heart in the centre connecting the piece.  Standing here it conveys a forceful message to remind us of those who died and the sacrifices it commemorates. 

It serves as an everlasting tribute to beautiful lives well lived and worth remembering. The heart of those we remember returning to the loving heart of the source of their being and a reminder of the love they shared in the world. It stands here least we forget. As a place of remembrance, a place to honour, to respect and a place of healing.”

Niamh Gavin, Chief Executive of the Adelaide Health Foundation commented: “We were delighted to support this tribute. Memorialisation is an essential part of the grieving process and it is a wonderful way to cherish the fond memories of those who have died.” This dedicated space will honour the patients who died in the care of the Hospital.”

Lucy Nugent, Chief Executive of Tallaght University Hospital commented, “This memorial provides us all with a space to honour those that have died in our hospital but also for those of us that have lost loved ones during this pandemic. It also recognises the dedicated care provided by staff throughout this pandemic who have and continue to contribute to the care of end-of-life patients with courage, selflessness and dedication. The COVID-19 Memorial ensures that there is a special location where family members and hospital staff can pause and remember, a reminder that loved ones lost to us, are forever in our hearts”.

Mark Ryan is a sculptor. He works in a variety of materials – wood, clay, plaster, steel, stainless steel and bronze.  He welds, cuts, casts and shapes. The scale of his work varies from small scale intimate works to very large scale sculptures in public spaces. His work is included in many national and international collections.

He has received the Braun prize at Carlow Eigse and the Halward Sculpture prize. His work is selected regularly for the RHA annual show and Sculpture in Context, the Botanic Gardens Dublin and by various galleries throughout Ireland. Mark has successfully completed numerous Public Art Commissions in the Per Cent for Art Scheme. He has received commissions from The Office of Public Works, Pastoral Care Tallaght University Hospital, The Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Education, The HSE, University College Dublin, Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and many Local Authorities.