My role as a dad was ‘proudest thing of my life’

This Sunday marks his first Father’s Day without his darling daughter. CHRIS DUNNE talks to Eoin O’Connor who, along with his wife Irene, is building a legacy of kindness in his daughter’s memory
My role as a dad was ‘proudest thing of my life’

Eoin O'Connor and his late daughter, Béibhinn, the heart angel

THE ‘heart angel’, Béibhinn O’Connor, who prompted so many random acts of kindness after her passing, was always a Daddy’s girl.

“Béibhinn was loaned to us for 10 years,” says her father Eoin, speaking about his precious daughter who suffered from an extremely rare congenital heart disease. She died after open heart surgery on September 16, 2020.

Béibhinn, who was a real trooper, survived the major heart surgery but passed away a day later after a routine post-operation procedure triggered cardiac arrest.

“She was known for her beautiful smile and for her kindness,” says Eoin, who loved being dad to Beibhinn.

He still has a circle of friends, who surrounded his daughter, looking out for him.

“Her friends, the ‘pink ladies’, all look after me and check in with me, which is lovely,” says Eoin.

A special bond.
A special bond.

“The ‘pink ladies’, Ruby, Chloe and Lucy, are like my adopted daughters,” he adds.

“The girls and their mums will always have a special connection with Irene and I.

“Béibhinn’s gang, both girls and boys, are our best friends.”

Eoin is not short of hugs.

“The girls give me hugs,” says Eoin. 

“I miss Beibhinn’s hugs. She hugged me first thing every morning and every evening.”

Béibhinn is never out of her daddy’s thoughts.

“Sometimes when I hear the door opening, I think it might be her,” he says.

“Every time I think of her, it’s a struggle. You have two choices. Fall apart, curl up, or try and carry on.”

Eoin has just completed a level 7 engineering electrician degree in CIT, saying: “You have to do your best and carry on.”

He knew a special kind of loving for 10 years. The love continues.

After her death, Béibhinn’s parents set up an ‘Act of Kindness’ campaign in her memory called The Heart Angel.

“The most important thing for us is to keep Béibhinn’s spirit alive and for people to help embrace kindness and posting a picture to social media with the hashtag ‘heart angel’,” says Eoin.

“The response from people near and far has been tremendous,” adds the dad, whose heart swells with pride at the love Béibhinn has spread, and which reverberates all over the world.

“We got beautiful messages from as far away as New York and Australia,” said Eoin.

“The New York Police Department posted their random act of kindness. It was lovely.”

MARKING SPECIAL DATES

“Father’s Day and my birthday were special days that Béibhinn and I always spent together,” says Eoin, who cherishes 10 years of magic memories he made with his only child.

Eoin never thought there’d be days like those.

“We waited a while for Béibhinn,” he says. 

“She brought us joy from the very beginning.”

Wonderful memories.
Wonderful memories.

When Irene and Eoin got Béibhinn, it was the best gift they were ever given. Without the beat of her heart, there is a hole in their hearts. Yet the empty void is being filled with love and kindness.

The heart angel, still spreading love from heaven, can help heal her daddy’s heart.

“I don’t mark birthdays anymore,” says Eoin sadly.

“We always spent birthdays together. I am glad we did that, life is so short.”

Eoin says his role of dad to Béibhinn made him very proud.

“The role of dad was the proudest thing of my life,” he says.

It was the hardest thing.

“Then it was the hardest thing losing Béibhinn.

“Father’s Day means nothing to me any more. I try not to think about it and I will spend the day grieving by myself.

“Béibhinn and I made that our own special day and we always spent the whole day together.

“I hope to visit Béibhinn’s grave in West Cork on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20. Irene and I go there to be with Béibhinn on special days like her birthday, January 20 and Christmas Day.”

Béibhinn made everyone’s day special.

“She was an angel on earth,” said Eoin. “She wanted everyone to be OK and didn’t like to see anyone upset.

“Her teachers loved her. Sometimes it is hard seeing her pals and wishing she was still here.”

Béibhinn always spread hope as well as love and joy.

REMEMBERING WHEN SHE WAS BORN

“We knew at the 22 week scan that there was a 50/50 chance she would live,” says Eoin.

“Professor Colin McMahon was the first to give us hope.”

“The medical team in Crumlin Hospital are fantastic; I couldn’t say enough about them. They are the best people and deserve huge praise, they do so much good.”

The couple spent 10 unforgettable years fuelled with love, together with Béibhinn, who had a wonderful life.

“The day she was born, I knew we’d have to bury her,” says Irene.

Much loved.
Much loved.

Béibhinn’s parents knew something else.

“She had an incredibly happy home.”

Béibhinn began a miraculous journey, being embraced and loved by her mum and dad, by her relations, her friends and her teachers.

“She touched everyone she met,” says Eoin.

Béibhinn was always an angel.

“In school she was never disciplined, or never at home either! If she fell over, Béibhinn never cried.”

The little girl didn’t do sadness.

“B expected everyone to be happy,” said Eoin.

A LASTING LEGACY

Eoin is very proud of his daughter’s legacy of love and kindness.

“We see the posts where her friends and others do lovely random acts of kindness,” he says.

“During lockdown, they baked cakes and delivered them to the people in nursing homes. We get messages from neighbours and mums all the time to tell us about various random acts of kindness.

“That is really precious to me and brings tears to my eyes sometimes.

“When I meet Béibhinn’s friends, like the ‘two Lilies’, I feel the care.

“We appreciate the kindness so much, it is hard to put it into words.”

It’s tough not being a dad anymore.

“As a man, it is tough,” says Eoin. “As a human being; it is tough.”

Béibhinn’s short life was a wonderful one that lighted up everyone’s life who knew her.

“There is a big gap in our lives,” says Eoin. 

“We had her for 10 wonderful years which wasn’t long enough. She was a unique little girl and she was worth waiting for.”

Eoin, coming to terms with healing his heart since losing Béibhinn, knows in his heart that he will see his beloved daughter again.

“Yes. I firmly believe 100% that I will see her again,” says Eoin.

“We’ll never forget her, ever.”

Eoin, is a proud dad who knows that his ‘heart angel’ touched the lives of so many people when she was here... and continues to do so after her passing.

“I am so very proud of her.”

For more information, see www.theheartangel.com

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