It was about this time last year that Current Practice in Forensic Medicine was published. And I was thinking of Patricia, and found her tribute page on the web. Patricia had invited me to co-write her contributing chapter, this took several months of e-mailed drafts and eventually completed: a chapter written continents apart yet blended skillfully and expertly by Patricia. In the summer 2010, I and my wife had the pleasure of meeting Patricia & Rob in London. I am saddened it's taken until 2012 to discover that Patricia, a women's champion physician has gone. May her contribution to the 2011 book be a lasting legacy. Ian Berle
I am saddened to learn of Patricia's death, and would like to share memories of her from time I spent with her in the Movement for the Ordination of Women in 1987 - 1988, both at the Melbourne MOW conference 'Crossing the Frontier' and as part of a group that went to the UK to attend a women's gathering at the Lambeth Conference in 1988. I remember Patricia as articulate and full of energy and vision, and will never forget the great times we had singing and putting together a cabaret-style presentation at the Canterbury Centre in Canterbury, Kent. The many inspiring songs are still with me ... I see 'To Be A Pilgrim' mentioned here. Thank-you Rob and Kate for the site and place to share memories. Thinking of you and sending love and best wishes, and warm regards to other MOW friends who visit too. Christina
I first heard Patricia on the radio in about 1991. I was interested in her ideas about women and the power to be priests if they wanted to. Although not an Anglican I made a sculptural installation called ‘Inner Light’ about the ideas she expressed. The work included 3 works on paper, and 15 electric lights set out in a circle of women archetypal female shapes and 3 male lights set up on pedestals above the circle group and separated by a barrier of barbed wire under which the power cords for the lights ran. I have some of these lights and the framed works on paper in my lounge room. I was so pleased to be introduced to Patricia by Suzanne Vernon many years later and for Patricia to share an interest in the visual arts with me. We spent some precious time together discussing her ideas about life and the projects she was involved in. Patricia would turn up out of the blue on my doorstep needing to discuss some important idea that was in her head or to discuss visual arts. We talked about the way that ideas could be expressed in the visual arts. Patricia declared she was going to leave her projects behind and take up visual arts to express her ideas using this language. I was so pleased to encourage her to take it up sooner rather than later. Eventually she went back to her medical and legal method of attempting to educate and change community ideas. Patricia did not seem to get past the beginning/exercise stage in her art practice. The visual arts world would have greatly benefitted from her contemporary images. She would have been so hard hitting and to the point in a way that this cultural medium had never seen. I feel humbled that she became my friend. I am so pleased to have met and shared with her. When I heard her voice at the funeral in the Skype discussion and her saying it was her only regret not to have developed those ideas further, it broke me up to think she nearly went that way. I wish I had been more forceful and encouraged her to just do it. I still have her voice message on the answering machine pleading for me to come to the celebration party in December because she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
We were shocked and saddened to learn of Pat's death when we caught the end of Compass last Sunday night. We treasure memories of beautiful, vibrant Pat, a wonderful neighbour. Not only a dedicated and fearless campaigner, Pat's wit and humour made her tremendous fun to be with, whether we met in each other's homes, the schools, protest meetings or the supermarket. We missed all the family when you left Summer Hill. Rob, Kate and Gabriel, Peter and James, our thoughts are with you. Pat was truly 'a woman for all seasons'. from Bernadette, Peter, Anna, Nicolas and JP
I also saw Patricia on the Compass special. I've never met her myself but heard about her through my association with Diane Heath. What a truly inspirational woman. My prayers to family and friends, you were obviously gifted to know her. No doubt she will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Just saw Compass. Truely inspirational. For anyone to change society in anyway means having many against one. To overcome that is amazing.
Rob, I am very grateful to God to you and Pat for your audacity to recruit me into Christian missions. Pat's wonderful warmth and her very bright mind gave me great inspiration to explore many new areas of life. As a person she was so colourful and vibrant and I will always remember her great enthusiam. I pray for you all at this time of loss of Pat and thank God for the memory that I do have of her. I pray that you will know God's comfort at this time of deep grief. Allison Howell
We were very saddened to read of Pat's passing. Our thoughts are with you. Gilbert,Frank and Marie
http://www.smh.com.au/national/obituaries/faithful-doctor-fought-for-women-20110407-1d615.html Thank you Elaine
Hi Rob, I heard Pat on the radio on the weekend (ABC Radio National, Big Ideas: Ichabod) and I was shocked to hear that has died. I'm so sorry to hear that, and I never had the chance to say goodbye. I remember you both very fondly from the St Stephen's home group. That group was wonderful - a source of great nourishment of the spirit. It was inspriring to hear her again on the radio. She was the same Pat, speaking forth, truth straight as an arrow, like the prophet that she was. I imagine that your grief is unbearable (in your position mine would be too), so I won't pretend to be able to say something that can offer any comfort. But I am so sorry that she is gone. Vale, Pat. Ben Morphett
It seems so long ago now that a small group met monthly in each others living rooms in Adelaide under the name of the Women in Holy Orders to talk, theologise, console and dream of change that the older ones amongst us scarcely dared hope see in their lifetimes. Then out of the blue a letter from Sydney - would we be part of forming the Movement for the Ordination of Women in Australia? That was how I met Patricia. She would always describe the subsequent changes as being due to the efforts of many and the complex, often slow moving processes of social change but there is no doubt in my mind that none of it would have happened as quickly or in the way it did without her. The implications were/are far reaching because Patricia always saw a bigger picture as is so eloquently articulated in many dimensions of her life. I have never known anyone so passionate, so purposeful and with such a capacity for joy. I note with irony hearing the news of Patricia's death over the radio and within days reports from that major crime statistics in Australia are on a downwards trend in all areas except sexual violence - a testament to Patricia's work and the work still to be done. As I look at the photos so lovingly assembled and see again Patricia's dark eyes - warm, welcoming, intelligent and penetrating. I imagine her saying - thanks for the memories, but what are you going to do about it. Thank you Brennans so much for creating this site.
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/stories/2011/3174028.htm Interview with Stephen Crittenden
I’ve just listened to Patricia speaking in an interview with Stephen Crittenden on Radio National. It was wonderful to be reminded of her powerful intelligence and eloquence. It was wonderful to be reminded of the role she, and indeed all the Brennan’s, played in exposing me to the possibility of inquiring thought and articulate expression as a teenage girl on the cusp of her journey into knowledge and social understanding. It’s possible that I can only now appreciate the real impact of spending time in Patricia’s company. Her somewhat imposing presence and that laugh that would burst forth at surprising moments, resonating from somewhere genuinely amused, bemused and delighted by the circumstances. I can remember her suddenly bursting into song as she wandered down the echoing hallway, heralding her arrival and her mood. I am smiling now as I remember feeling like something of a hobbit amoungst the towering beings of the Brennan’s (or so they seemed to me!). Fascinated and overwhelmed in equal parts by the intellectual presence paired so perfectly with the physical. That intellectual presence, which seemed so mysterious and alluring, especially embodied in the study with books lining the shelves and a special atmosphere of mental industry. It occurs to me just now as truly “a room of her own.” I think of Rob, the most perfect foil to Patricia’s qualities. His gentle giant ways and solid presence. In fact, if Patricia inspired my world of thought Rob just as surely created a sense of certainty and practical care, a reassuring steadiness to my time spent with any combination of the Brennan family. Thank you Rob and Patricia for providing that role model of enduring partnership, sadly so much missing in many other circles in my life. In conjunction with some inspiring teachers I have Patricia to thank for encouraging my emerging awareness of feminism and the powerful potential of a female mind open to intelligent social enquiry. I’m looking up now at my shelf of feminist texts from three years of a degree majoring in Women’s Studies and realising the formative nature of that awareness. I honour Patricia as a mother of an equally strong and strong-willed daughter. I remember her through the eyes of a daughter, also with a powerful mother. I’m recalling now, perhaps properly for the first time, the special bond of fellowship this fostered between Kate and I. I think back on the sense of teenage injustice, I dare say imagined, and latterly the sense of respect, most certainly real, that being a daughter of a remarkable woman engenders. As if on cue my own daughter stirs in her sleep. I’m acutely aware of the wonderful potential and inevitable complexity of the mother-daughter relationship. What a dialogue it would have been if I’d had an opportunity to theorise with Patricia! I feel a real sense of regret that I won’t have that conversation and many more. What I do have is an opportunity to continue my dialogue with Kate. A dialogue that resumes immediately with truth and depth no matter the subject, the time or distance between us. Thank you Patricia for raising a strong daughter who could engage and challenge me, and alongside me, and who still does. It is Patricia’s legacy that we have the skill and inclination to inquire, to theorise, to verbalise and her legacy that we have the confidence and motivation to assert and debate and politicise. I like to think of her, taking her place as a prophet in paradise, giving those bearded relics a run for their money with her incisive perception, sharp intellect, faultless eloquence and quick wit. I can almost hear that laugh… Ness xx
The first thing that comes to mind when remembering Patricia is her spirituality. Someone once described her as a 'Child of the Universe', and for me that is an apt description.Such a spiritual person is a rare find and even lovlier to know. Spirituality does not compromise truth and Patricia was a seeker of truth. She saw the big picture but never pretended to know all the answers...and maybe that's because all the questions have not yet been answered. Let's hope that the unique qualitiesof her wonderful spirit live on, contributing to a more joyous, wise, tenacious, generous and compassionate level of collective consciousness. Long live Patricia's spirit.
If, as that old heretic Martin Luther Said, Christ’s presence is the heat of a horseshoe Thrust into a fire until it glowed, Your energy burned enough To melt iron & boil the wine Into a hard drop of crusted blood - But should your humble prophet Be still around, then he will greet you With his broken body, A smile & a long cool drink. The example of your humanity Should be a parable to those Who preach humility & practise power But this is unlikely Because the world is very small & could warm up fast then break apart At any time & crack Like a brittle biscuit, Or a goodbye kiss from a loving God.
This is a conversation Mum and I had on Skype in November. I edited together with some piano music i improvised in Scotland a few months before we spoke. Mum was improvising too when she spoke. Like a great jazz player riffing on ideas. Always focussed on something worthy of illumination. James Brennan
Patricia was my friend and mentor. I will always appreciate her love and patience, her understanding and guidance and especially her loyalty, her ethics, her friendship and the many laughs we shared. She always understood me better than most, probably because we are so much alike in so many ways. And she supported the Bravehearts ethos in defending children.......'without fear or favour and without compromise' even at the times when it was confronting for her to do so. Patricia was the longest serving member of our Executive Advisory Board and it was in that capacity that she agreed to be the key note speaker at our Inaugural White Balloon Day luncheon in Brisbane. As she always did, she stunned the audience and enthralled the media with her calm, intelligent, candid, take no prisoners delivery of the indisputable facts. She was genius. She will be dearly missed. On the 6th of December Patricia sent me an email which reminded me to ‘stay calm” but to remain “tenacious” in the media and in raising awareness in the community about child sexual assault. She ended with yet another thing we shall always agree on.....’Educating school kids, both boys and girls, is where the hope lies.” On ya Patricia! Much love and respect always.
Patricia sent me this poem six months ago after we had talked about the recent death of Karin Margolius, another amazing woman who contributed so much to forensic medicine. These words are no less apt for Patricia herself...a 'truly great' woman whose friendship I valued immensely. I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great Stephen Spender I think continually of those who were truly great. Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history Through corridors of light where the hours are suns Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition Was that their lips, still touched with fire, Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song. And who hoarded from the Spring branches The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms. What is precious is never to forget The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth. Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light Nor its grave evening demand for love. Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit. Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields See how these names are fŠted by the waving grass And by the streamers of white cloud And whispers of wind in the listening sky. The names of those who in their lives fought for life Who wore at their hearts the fire's center. Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun, And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
It’s obvious that recollections from childhood necessarily distort the actual facts of the matter; things are left out, simplified, transformed in such a way as to render them comprehensible to the mind of a child. The very fact of that recollection is perhaps of greater significance than the object itself. That precise moment in time - the characters that peopled it, the objects which furnished the setting, and the actions which unfolded, the words that were spoken - was so incisive as to remain forever in one’s memory, despite the imperfections. So are my memories of Mrs Brennan. I don’t remember the last time I saw her. Perhaps it was a couple of years ago when I last saw Kate and James in Sydney, although it’s possible I didn’t actually see her with my eyes, just in my mind. I was in her home. I saw her locus of intellectual activity (that windowless room at the very centre of her home filled to the brim with books, if I remember well) and I could imagine her, as though she were there, larger than life, because she always seemed larger than life. Regardless of how long ago it was when I saw her last, my clearest memories of Patricia Brennan are from my childhood and early adolescence. I was a young girl of 11 or 12 and she frightened me sometimes. I was accustomed to female figures of authority. My mother is a strong woman, following in a line of strong women before her - not least of all my grandmother. She was always my point of reference but she was never as formidable as Pat Brennan. I realise that the fear that I recall from those encounters, years ago in the Brennan household, was a hue of awe. I have no reason to ever have been afraid of her. Indeed, among many fond recollections are those of roars of laughter when we children performed silly sketches and games to the amusement of the Brennan elders and others. Rarely do I remember occasions at the Brennan’s when there was not a string of guests present. The Brennan home was always warm, welcoming and full of interest and curiosity. It was intriguing and exciting to be part of. It was Pat Brennan’s creation. Early adolescence is a formative time and even brief encounters and impressions can have a great impact upon one’s life. Pat Brennan was one of the first to teach me an important lesson: that a woman can shape and change lives, not only those of her children through her role as mother, but also those of others. She was a role model and she helped shape my life. She showed me that women can achieve many things and that one achievement need not to be at the expense of another; women can be exemplary parents, raising and nurturing their children to become accomplished and fulfilled adults; they can be loving, supportive and trusting partners; they can be capable professionals working with the highest level of commitment; they can be intellectuals, spokespeople; proponents of change; crusaders for good and justice; cordial and convivial and capable of compassion and humanity. It is with a mixture of joy, sadness and gratitude that I look back on those years and I remember Pat Brennan.
I barely knew Patricia but have spent lots of amazing times with her children, Kate, Peter and James. Such a positive, intelligent and socially aware bunch of siblings who I understood even more when I got to see Patricia and James "in conversation" at an arts event. This talk gave me the insight to where Kate, Peter and James inherited their inquiring minds, sharp wit and passion for social change. An amazing legacy! x averil
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which word is to be master - that's all.' For Patricia, each word was masterful and she was master of them all. She was very fond of Lewis Carroll's stories about Alice, and she used one recently at my Eremos farewell. It was about a fortnight after she had been diagnosed with the disease that would give her a short few months to live. How could she keep her mind so focussed on others while she bore the burden of that news? Patricia's words meant a lot to me, as did the gift of a warm knitted 'shrug' when I was ill myself. Those of us who were privileged to be at Patricia's burial service at Gosford remember the rolling thunder as her grave was filled with the good earth, before we came home to news of the third largest earthquake in Earth's history. Suddenly our grieving broadened to include far away Japan, to mourn the plight of those we did not even know, along with the loss of a great friend whom we knew and loved. Somehow that seemed appropriate on Patricia's Day. If there is some kind of personal god beyond the grave, then I can imagine Patricia bowling up to that careworn deity and saying, 'Have courage, they're a good lot, those Earthlings, and they'll work with you if you give them a hand from time to time - but right now do something about those earthquakes and all that suffering.' She'll aways be with us.
"patricia brennan was nothing like the other girls' mums at school. that is why, today, i remember her much more vividly than the others. she was a force and her amazing children are testament to that. our deepest condolences to those she has left behind and may she RIP xo"
She who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster, Let her in constancy walk with the master There’s no discouragement shall make her once relent Her first avowed intent to be a pilgrim. Who so beset her round with dismal stories Do but themselves confound - her strength the more is. No foes shall stay her might; though she with giants fight, She will make good her right to be a pilgrim. Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit, We know we at the end, shall life inherit. Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say, I’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.
I have worked with Dr Brennan since April 2008 at the Liverpool Hospital Sexual Assault Service. I can truly say that she was the one who taught me what I know about this field of Medicine. I remember when I had to attend my first call-out with her. I will not forget what she said "You are truly a gynaecologist - the way you examined that patient" and then she laughed. Patricia would drop by at the clinic and would sit there at the Medical Director's Office. I would sometimes join her and we would talk about the service, her goals and vision for the service, etc. We would also talk about religion and spirituality. She always commented on us - Patricia, Kim Chen and myself - being busy with church commitments and how we were somehow brought together as a tem in the hospital. Patricia would also talk about her trips overseas. One story she told me which was an eye-opener for me was the plight of the Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East. I will miss Patricia - her friendship and her views about life. It saddens me that someone so beautiful, so kind, intelligent and talented would pass to the next world early in her life. There is so much she could have done. Her vision and dreams have not been fulfilled. Perhaps I inherited some of her passion for work as a doctor in Sexual Assault. Hopefully I and the others in our team would be able to help in the achievement of Patricia's vision for the service. Thank you, Patricia, for everything you have taught me. I will never forget you. I'm praying that you are right now in heaven having some discussions with the great saints there. Farewell, Friend and Teacher.
We were privileged to live next door to Patricia and Rob in Summer Hill. How many words fail me? Kind, principled, self-effacing, hugely witty, truthful to a revolutionary degree. An enormous mind, a spirit to match. So sad she's gone, so happy to have known her.
Trying to remember the lyrics of a song sung in the MOW era - all help welcome included the line; let your NO re-echo making every woman strong Speak your truth and bring your brothers home