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Leona O'Neill: 'Amazing' Aideen Kennedy will be much missed

UTV presenter Aideen Kennedy passed away at the weekend following a short illness. Leona O'Neill pays tribute to her friend, who was an inspiration to all who knew her, despite being no stranger to tragedy herself...

Aideen was a familiar face on our television screens

LAST Friday evening, former UTV reporter Aideen Kennedy put a status up on Twitter telling those who followed her that she was sick and going home from hospital to die.

Like many who knew Aideen – it seems so weird writing about her in the past tense – I was shocked and stunned by this news. A sad text on Saturday morning from a friend relayed the news that Aideen had passed in the night. My heart broke for all those who loved her, and there were many who did.

I've known Aideen well for several years. I got to knew her through journalism and later, when she left the field, I interviewed her for the Belfast Telegraph about the tragedies that she endured in life. We remained firm friends since.

That was Aideen's gift. Once you connected, you were drawn in by her passion for life, her wit, her heart, her compassion. We remained in each other's lives over the years, cheering each other on, laughing, crying, ranting, a constant support during life's ups and downs.

She was an amazing woman. For someone who had endured so much heartache in life, she was extraordinarily kind. She did not let her pain make her bitter or hard, quite the opposite. Aideen felt everything deeply, she cared.

She was a familiar face to so many on our television screens for years, beaming into our living rooms every evening in her role as a UTV news presenter. But behind the slick, camera-ready on-screen appearance lay crushing grief and heartache for Aideen.

Six years ago now, she lost her beloved younger brother Dara to a brain tumour. Still reeling from the unimaginable loss, her older sister Fiona was diagnosed with cancer. Six months after burying her brother, Aideen had to lay her sister to rest. Her only other sibling, Rory, was killed in a road accident when he was just one year old.

Aideen's poor mother and father have now lost all four of their precious children. Her beautiful children Jacob and Eva, just 13 and nine-years-old, have to navigate this life without their mum, a mum who loved them more than anything in this world.

I remember Aideen talking to me about her brother Dara and sister Fiona after they died. She said that she will remember them by talking about them, and by hearing from others how good and kind they were.

"There are always going to be times when I burst into tears and think that it's so unfair," she said.

"But then there are other times when I just want to remember the good things, like how everyone loved them. They were good, kind people."

That's how Aideen will be remembered: as a good, kind, caring person with a massive heart, full of compassion and empathy, ready to do anything needed to help a friend. She was loyal and a bright light in the dark to so many.

Like her Dara and Fiona and Rory, we will remember her by talking about her, so her little children, who will miss their mummy so very much in this life, will know what an amazing human being she was. How lucky we all were to have been touched by Aideen's light in this life. How lucky the world was to have her in it, even for such a short time.

Aideen lived her life well. She did not let her challenges, and they were cruel challenges that might have tumbled many of us mere mortals, stop her. She taught us not to sweat the small stuff, to be kind, to care, and most of all to love. She taught us the worth of things, and now in her passing that life is so short, to embrace every day.

Thank you Aideen. Rest easy now in the arms of your beloved Dara, Fiona and Rory.

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