pain  | 

Irish dad's anguish at not having his daughter by his side on Father's Day

"My biggest fear in life was to lose one of my children, when it happened it was worse than I could have ever, ever imagined"
Sean Smyth who is campaigning for more donor stem cell research pictured with his late daughter Eimear

Sean Smyth who is campaigning for more donor stem cell research pictured with his late daughter Eimear

Paula Mackin

Today is the day Sean Smyth would rather forget.

Father’s Day, a day to be celebrated and enjoyed by many, but to him is a painful reminder that his beautiful daughter Eimear is not by his side.

Eimear Smyth, died on June 27, 2019, aged just 25 due to complications from a Donor Cell Stem Cell Transplant. Three years from her tragic death her family is doing her justice.

Her dying wish was for the world to know she had beaten cancer and for her family to raise Stem Cell Donor awareness in Northern Ireland, a campaign for age appropriate care for teenagers and young adults who are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.

“Eimear was a force to be reckoned with, I miss her so much,” dad Sean told the Sunday World.

“My biggest fear in life was to lose one of my children, when it happened it was worse than I could have ever, ever imagined.

“People always say that it’s the worst thing in the world to bury your own child, I never knew how true that was until I actually had to do it.”

Eimear Smyth whose dad Sean admitted battling suicidal thoughts following her tragic death

Eimear Smyth whose dad Sean admitted battling suicidal thoughts following her tragic death

Sean who admits he had suicidal thoughts, decided to live and honour the wishes of his brave and beautiful daughter.

“I miss her so much, Father’s Day I would just like to let it go past because it’s another day where I don’t get to hold my beautiful daughter but I have to remember I have two other children, I’m obsessed with Eimear, the loss of her and my other children Honor and Sheinán.”

Sean admits that when he puts on the pink t-shirt that is the symbol of Eimear’s Wish – the campaign set up in her name - he’s a different man. He’s invigorated and wants to help others but when he closes the door at home and takes off the pink shirt, his grief returns.

Eimear as a young ballerina

Eimear as a young ballerina

“I’m two different people, when I put the shirt on for Eimear’s Wish it’s all fun, I smile I laugh I joke, I do what my daughter wanted me to do but when I come home and I take it off my home is my sanctuary. That’s when I can be a grieving father.”

He has had to confront his own frailties and demons in trying to come terms with his family’s loss, taking him to dark corners and ultimately planning his own death, a death that would not look like suicide because he wanted his family to be financially secure.

“In my head I know now it was wrong but I genuinely believed that if I took my own life in a way that my life insurance would pay out, my wife and children would be ok and I could go and be with Eimear.”

Reflecting on his daughter’s life – the beautiful ballerina – who’s life was cut so short before she could realise her dream of becoming a teacher he remembers a strong willed and determined person.

Eimear with her loving dad

Eimear with her loving dad

In life and in death Eimear made her wishes and demands known.

Her father had the heart-breaking task of giving his daughter the devastating news that because of multiple organ failure she wasn’t going to survive. She told him "get me a priest" and she was married within three hours.

Before the cancer she had planned a three day wedding.

“I told her I’d compromise, you’ll get two days, but in the end she got three days for her wedding, married before Covid with family around her, and we celebrated. She woke the next day and asked why she didn’t have a wedding cake.

“Her sister and cousin ran around the place to get her a cake.”

In her darkest hour her motivation was to help others.

“Even on her death bed she wanted to help others, on her death bed she told us what we had to do.”

Eimear called in members of the family one by one informing her sister that she wanted her eyebrows done, she wanted to wear the brown wig and to be buried in the wedding dress she never got to wear.

She called in her father and told him “I want the world to know you can beat cancer, but I want the world to know that for teenagers and children that they should have a better experience that what I had.”

Her last act was to call her mum and dad together after her three day wedding.

“She called her mummy into the room first, "mummy, mummy I need you” Sinead asked her what was wrong and she just said “I just want to tell you that I love you.”

“Then I went in “daddy, I just had to tell you that I love you” her last words to me.”

Left with his cherished memories, he has dedicated his time to carrying out Eimear’s wish. He travels the country in a converted horse box visiting schools with his daughter’s message of hope.

The need for stem cell donors is great and it could not be easier to register as a potential donor.

“It literally takes a few seconds, it’s painless. Just think if you needed such a treatment or if it was your mother or sister would you take it stem cells donated by a stranger? If you’re answer is yes, then you shouldn’t just be a taker but a giver as well.”


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