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PRECIOUS GIFT Aoife Beary endured and loved, she was greater than her suffering

Aoife endured unnatural, excruciating physical trauma. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, she required open-heart surgery. She suffered lacerations of the liver, kidney and spleen.

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Aoife Beary, Vicky Phelan and Charlie Bird are towering inspirations to us all

Aoife Beary, Vicky Phelan and Charlie Bird are towering inspirations to us all

Aoife Beary, Vicky Phelan and Charlie Bird are towering inspirations to us all

Aoife Beary, smiling and vibrant, heroic in the eye of an unfathomably ­violent Californian storm of ­mischance.

Charlie Bird, hypnotising a Late Late Show audience with his fortitude, vowing to hike to Ireland's spiritual peak, to rise above Clew Bay and a jolting, inescapable, brutal death sentence.

Vicky Phelan, impossibly strong-willed, consumed by a mother's instinct to love her children until the last day.

Three heart-shattering, mind-blowing, elemental and, yes, strangely beautiful images, three remarkable images of mortality that have seized a long-term lease on the home page of the nation's consciousness.

Snapshots that drill down to the essence of our humanity.

Aoife's midweek funeral ­celebrated the life of an ­irrepressible, strong-willed 27-year-old, one who declined to be defined by the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse that killed six of her friends and left her with ­­unspeakable injuries.

Her life after Berkeley - resolute, purposeful, bursting with substance - evokes a powerful line from the poet, Ben Okri.

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Flowers being placed in a hearse at Aoife Beary’s funeral at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, Co Dublin (Garrett White/PA)

Flowers being placed in a hearse at Aoife Beary’s funeral at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, Co Dublin (Garrett White/PA)

Flowers being placed in a hearse at Aoife Beary’s funeral at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, Co Dublin (Garrett White/PA)

"The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering."

Aoife endured unnatural, excruciating physical trauma. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, she required open-heart surgery. She suffered lacerations of the liver, kidney and spleen.

She broke arms, hands, ribs, pelvis and her jaw. She collapsed a lung. The force of the 40-foot fall stole many of her teeth.

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Read that hellish list again. Imagine the accumulated agony, the ceaseless ordeal, the distress, the tsunami of adversity.

Alongside this were the unimaginable mental scars, the psychological torture of knowing that six of her friends had been snuffed out even as they toasted her 21st birthday. Aoife's response to catastrophe defied the rules of nature. The pulverising force of her years after Berkeley is a towering, inspiring, humbling, soul-stirring tale of valour.

She completed one college degree and commenced a second; she channelled her inner Phileas Fogg, resolving to visit 25 countries and drink in their disparate cultures.

She laughed and loved with her family.

And, ladling from some deep, visceral reservoir of courage, she addressed a Californian state legislature that, up to then, had been loath to introduce greater oversight of the construction industry and its abominable shortcuts.

Quite literally, she changed the course of American history.

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Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan

Aoife's eloquent testimony altered everything.

Less than 14 months after ­falling from the skies, her vivid and articulate delivery compelled Democrats and Republicans to set aside tribal passions.

The years have done nothing to diminish her words' passionate punch.

"None of this needed to happen. Some of my injuries will be with me for the rest of my life. I have lost a lot of my independence. My career goals have been stopped…my life has been changed for ever.

"I cannot believe you are even debating this bill. People died. You should make sure that balconies are scrutinised in this state to prevent this happening again."

Senator Jerry Hill, who had put forward the bill, is unequivocal about the young Dubliner's role in pushing open the doors of closed minds.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the house (after Aoife's testimony). I don't think the members were quite ready for that, for how powerful it was. The bill passed mainly because of the testimony of Aoife and her mother."

Each time I re-read this story I find myself torn between skyscraping admiration and tears.

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Charlie Bird

Charlie Bird

Charlie Bird

Many of us cried listening to Charlie Bird on Friday night.

The walls are closing in on RTÉ's beloved old newsman, ­Motor Neurone Disease - a ghastly, undefeated foe - merciless and rapacious in its advance.

Yet, despite the fear, the incomprehensible sadness of a terminal diagnosis, the devastation of counting down the days until the candle of life is extinguished, there was a serenity to Charlie as he sat on the RTÉ couch.

Without sugar coating the ­terror, Charlie told Ryan Tubridy about his personal voyage of discovery.

"I have found peace. I told you recently that I cried every day but I don't cry now. I have found hope. In one sense, I'm not as afraid now as I was when I got my diagnosis."

I observed Charlie's stillness. I read the message of encouragement to him from the inestimable, steadfast Vicky Phelan. I heard again the words of Aoife Beary.

And my lone urge, after ­giving thanks for the precious, ­precarious miracle of life, was to wrap those I love in the longest embrace.

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