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Family's tribute 'All our prayers couldn't save my little man,' says heartbroken grandmother of tragic Mason O'Connell (4)

"He was a beautiful child and far too young to be taken."

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Grandmother Breda holds Mason’s special cushion

Grandmother Breda holds Mason’s special cushion

Breda talks to our man Patrick at her home

Breda talks to our man Patrick at her home

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Grandmother Breda holds Mason’s special cushion

The heartbroken grandmother of a four-year-old boy who died after an apparent fall from a bunk-bed has told how she spent four nights praying for his recovery as he battled for his life in hospital.

But, sobbed Breda O'Connell, the maternal grandmother of little Mason O'Connell: "All our prayers couldn't save my little man."

Speaking with the Sunday World at her Castleconnell home in Limerick, where just last week her handsome grandson Mason was waked in a little white coffin, Breda said: "All I have now is my memories and the joy he gave me.

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Breda talks to our man Patrick at her home

Breda talks to our man Patrick at her home

Breda talks to our man Patrick at her home

"Nothing can bring him back to me and that is the hardest thing to bear. I have to trust that God has a plan for everyone.

"But I will never get over him. He was my little man and that's what he will always be."

On Saturday, March 14, while staying at his father John Paul's home in Rathbane, in Limerick, Mason suffered a severe head injury.

He was rushed to the Regional Hospital in Limerick before being transferred on to Cork and then onwards to Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin.

Tragically, and despite the best efforts of medical staff in all three hospitals, Mason lost his battle for life four days later.

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Little Mason O’Connell

Little Mason O’Connell

Little Mason O’Connell

Recalling the moment she learned of Mason's injury, Breda said her whole world stopped.

"The shock that evening when I got the phone-call - I nearly died," she said.

"And then there was praying and praying and praying. We all lit candles hoping against hope that he'd get better.

"And we had said, no matter how he came home, no matter what way he was after, we'd mind him here ourselves."

Describing how the people of Scanlon Park - where the family home is located - rallied round, Breda said: "The people were so good, you couldn't name one above the other.

"Theresa Ryan, a neighbour of ours, had bags of food up here in the kitchen every day after it happened. She stood out, but I want to thank everyone because they were so good.

"While the little angel was in the hospital in Limerick and then Cork and then Dublin, every person in the estate had candles lighting in their windows for him.

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Little Mason O’Connell’s white coffin is removed with a horse drawn carriage

Little Mason O’Connell’s white coffin is removed with a horse drawn carriage

Little Mason O’Connell’s white coffin is removed with a horse drawn carriage

"They all knew Mason, and they were all praying for him. But it wasn't to be. All I can do now is talk about him and tell of the memories I have of him.

"It's not going to bring him back to me.

"But maybe it helps me a little bit to know people will know him."

Describing her first memories of her little grandson, Breda said from the moment he was born he brought joy into the lives of everyone in the family.

"He was here, on and off, from the time he was born," she said.

"We'd been expecting another girl but we were delighted when he came along. How could I describe him? He was a lovable rogue and he had some imagination on him.

Laughing

"When he was staying here, he'd come down the stairs in the morning and I'd hide behind the coats on the banister and say: 'There's a monster coming down the stairs … I'm scared'.

"And he'd be laughing and laughing and say: 'It's only me nanny'. I'd ask him what he wanted for his breakfast and he say: 'Spuddies'.

"He loved a bowl of mash and he'd eat that on its own all day, but I'd give him sausages or chicken nuggets or gravy and he would devour the whole lot.

"A man wouldn't eat as much, he was just a lovable, beautiful child. The greatest nature you could ask for in a child." One of the memories that makes Breda smile, even now in the midst of her despair, is recalling the day Mason ran into the house asking her for a packet of crisps for his friend Oliver.

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Mason O’Connell

Mason O’Connell

Mason O’Connell

"He used to play outside by this little hole in the pillar out the front and he'd come in and ask for a packet of Tayto and I'd say yes." Breda recalled.

"Then, ten minutes later he'd came back in and asked for another packet saying 'Oliver is hungry'.

"I gave him another packet and I saw him putting a few down on the ground for Oliver.

"I'd thought Oliver was another child but he wasn't. Oliver was an ant - and he was feeding Oliver because Oliver was his friend.

"And then, a little later again, he came in and asked for a bowl of water to wash Oliver.

"And when I looked out, there he was, sitting inside in it himself."

Saying goodbye to her grandson was, said Breda, one of the hardest things she has ever had to do. It was an ordeal made harder due to the restrictions in place to help combat Covid-19.

"Out of the 10 we had in the church, we had to have two readers," Breda said.

"We were at the doors of the church and I let someone else in instead of me, someone who had to be there - and the priest thanked me for having them all ready.

"Everyone knew what Mason meant to me, everyone knew that I was devastated.

"But I had to be strong for everyone else, for Mason's mum and for my sons, because my sons are devastated too.

"He followed them everywhere. He always wanted to help if they were cutting grass down at the pitch or if they took him down the bank to show him the birds and flowers.

"When he was being brought to the graveyard, I came back here and when I opened the door, all the chairs were lined up inside for after.

Headstones

"And when I saw the chairs in the place where he had been laid out, that nearly killed me.

"I had come in here each morning to talk to him when his little coffin was here.

"When whoever had sat up with him overnight went up to the bathroom, I'd come in and talk to him on my own.

"You hear of babies and children dying, and you'd see the little headstones in the graveyard and you'd read them and say: 'God help us'.

"But it's when it comes to your own, when your family is the one to lose a child, it's only then you really know what grief is.

"He was a beautiful child and far too young to be taken."



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