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Lives Lived: Georgina Bronwen O’Neill, 16

Georgina O'Neill


Daughter, sister, niece, singer, teen. Born Jan. 21, 1997, in Toronto, died April 30, 2013, in Toronto of epilepsy, aged 16.

Georgina, my sister Kate's beautiful 16-year old-daughter, twin to William, sister to Maggie and Emmett, died in spring in a ray of sunshine under a cherry tree pushing out blossoms.

When Kate was pregnant she would say, hand patting her enormous belly, "this one is small and fast and this one [stroking the underside] is big and slow."

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I was there at the birth. Georgina? Easy out: Textbook.

William? Not so much – emergency C-section a few minutes later, and such a rush that the porters broke the drywall making the turn into the surgery.

This was the pattern: Geo out in front, eager and in control; William at the back, sometimes far behind.

When they were very little, one Friday night at home, a carelessly placed gin martini became the centre of our evening when Georgina, thinking it was water, drank it, cried and quickly threw up.

At age 3, 4 and 5, she wore gowns – floor-length, shimmery purple, sometimes with a tiara. She carried glitter in her backpack, and always had a pen and a book to write in.

She liked order. When Georgina came to stay, moments after being shown her bed she would unpack the comforts she had brought from home – her pillow, blanket, clock, flashlight, stuffies, a few sculptures for the bedside.

William? Many times I covered him, asleep in his bathing suit, on the floor.

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At the cottage, everyone would eat and Georgina would organize the tidying up.

It is only right that William, who shared so much in her life, beside her in the beginning, should be beside her in the garden at the end.

Brave Georgini Pini Felinni died too young. That's what they say about all kids who die, and it is true.

She liked girly stuff: Dolphins, polka dots, decorating cupcakes and her nails, singing, laughing and teasing.

She took no guff from the guys. She adored her pets. She loved her friends. She loved her family.

She did not give herself any slack at school, determined to recover her former life despite a series of epileptic episodes.

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After her first huge seizure in November, 2011, I came each day to the Hospital for Sick Children to support my sister. Rough doesn't begin to describe the nightmares of that week. There were at least two mornings when I got the impression that Kate used willpower and sorcery to keep Georgina from death. She had spent all night coaxing, wooing, mindfully breathing with her little girl, keeping the thread taut to this side.

We had Georgina for 18 months after that. It was a miracle.

Venetia Butler is Georgina's aunt.

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