When Katie Donnelly was born 18 years ago, her mother, Erin, could not take her eyes off her. She stared the whole night through at her perfect daughter.

Last Saturday, Erin did the same thing as she and many others prepared to say goodbye to Katie.

“She was just a doll. And I remember when she was born, and I remember sitting up the whole night looking at her and going, ‘You are the most perfect thing’, and I was just staring at her the whole night,” said Erin.

“And I did that the last night as well. Just stared at her. Like the first night she came into the world, this will be the last night I’ll do the same.”

Katie’s death last Sunday has left a void in those who loved her – her family, goddaughter, boyfriend and friends.

But in her 18 years, she has left an impact that will last a lifetime on those she knew.

“Katie was just loved by everybody,” said Erin, who recalled how her daughter took part in everything, from her beloved horse Louis to cheerleading, from Irish dancing to karate. Whatever it was, Katie tried it out.

But while she loved being out and about, she loved animals, Louis and Tara, her horses, and her dog Roxy in particular.

“There are more pictures of Louis in our house than there is of anybody else.”

She had a love for others as well, with Erin describing her as a “loyal friend” who would have no hesitation to help someone out.

She loved her trips to Murvagh beach in nearby Co. Donegal with one of her friends, where they would sit at night in the dark and quiet, just one aspect that made Katie who she was.

“I cannot even explain what Katie was like. She was full of life; she would just brighten up the room and she was just a loyal friend. She would have been out at 4am to lift someone.

“She adored the twins [Cian and Callie], and she adored Eabha [her goddaughter]. Everybody she came into contact with, she made an impact on.”

This impact was seen in the huge numbers that came to her funeral last Sunday, or watched it online. There were guards of honour from the local GAA club, the schools she went to, and from people in horse riding gear, which painted a picture of the wide circle of friends she had.

It could also be seen in the many tributes Erin and her family have heard and read over the last week, such as one which said: “A beauttiful, young lady that shone so many bright colours and to many people who were privileged to have met Katie. She emphasised a true and bright colour of kindness, respect, warmth, friendliness and manners to everyone she met.

“May Katie rest in peace and shine bright in the true and bright colour that her beautiful soul is.”

“She was just adored by everybody. She was a beautiful soul, one of those people you couldn’t not like,” said Erin, with someone remarking to her that it looked like the whole of Ireland had come together for her daughter at her funeral.

Katie was also a hardworking person who worked in several jobs, including care in the community and Dunnes Stores.

Her ability to socialise with whoever she wanted was seen when she would call in on the people she helped out in the community: “She could speak to a baby the way she would speak to a 90-year-old.

“She used to visit the clients privately, and go out and sit and hold their hand, and just chat to them.

“That just gave her a whole different sense of feeling. She said, ‘Because, mummy, they all have so many amazing lives, and people just see them as old people’.”

These memories will be of some comfort to Katie’s family and friends in the days ahead. But Erin is grateful to have those 18 years of memories at a time when it was hard to feel anything.

“She was like the perfect daughter. If my other two are anything like her, I will be blessed. She was a pleasure to raise. I just feel there will be no one like her again. I will never meet anybody like her again. I can’t even explain how she just brought so much happiness.”

Katie’s funeral mass took place at St. Joseph’s Church, Ederney on Sunday, September 18, followed by private cremation.

Funeral arrangements were by Claude McKervey Funeral Directors.

Beloved daughter of Colin and Erin, much-loved sister of Cian and Callie, loving girlfriend of Turlough, Katie’s death is very deeply regretted, and she is sadly missed by her sorrowing father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, boyfriend and entire family circle.