Go be with our triplets: Widow's moving last words to dying Derry City star Mark Farren
The wife of former Derry City star Mark Farren has told how she said a final farewell to her beloved husband - moments before he lost his brave fight against cancer.
The footballer passed away in February after battling an aggressive brain tumour. He was just 33.
Mark played for Derry City from 2003 to 2012 and was their all-time top scorer, hitting 113 goals in 209 appearances for the club. He joined Irish League side Glenavon in 2013 but was forced to quit the game because of his illness.
In an emotional interview, Mark's heartbroken wife Terri-Louise told of their last moments together, and how she told him to go and be with the triplets they had tragically lost.
The three girls were born in August 2014 at just 23 weeks, but passed away.
"I remember saying to him - go and be with the girls. They need you. Don't stay because of me, I have friends and family to look after me, they need you now, let go, and he squeezed my hand and that was it," Terri said. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the 30-year-old recalls how Mark stayed positive right to the end. The couple had met when Terri was just 18.
They hit it off straight away and became almost inseparable, getting engaged during a football trip to Paris, when Mark surprised her by proposing at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
But, a year before they were due to get married, a routine scan revealed Mark had a brain tumour. "We were naturally devastated, but at the time the doctors didn't seem overly concerned," added Terri. "They said it was benign and just needed to be kept an eye on."
He underwent an operation, and returned to playing football, and was Derry's top scorer and player of the year. The couple married in December 2009.
In August 2014 Terri found out she was pregnant. Scans later revealed she was expecting triplets.
The babies, Terri, Marley and Millie, were born at just 23 weeks, and survived just three weeks. As the couple were coming to terms with their loss they were told Mark's tumour was back and it was growing. He underwent a second operation, but returned to playing football, and in 2013 signed for Glenavon. But last April a scan revealed that the tumour was growing, and following a further operation Mark's speech and movement down his right side were affected.
The couple travelled to Mexico to a clinic which offered treatment with a high success rate for his condition. But Mark's health soon deteriorated. Terri brought her husband home last December because she wanted to make every second with him count.
Slowly her husband and the man she loved began to fade in front of her eyes as he got weaker day by day.
"In the last few weeks he couldn't really speak though I was able to understand everything he wanted and every morning and every night he made the effort to tell me he loved me," she added.
Just three hours before Mark passed away Terri took a last photograph of them together.
He died at 4.52am with his loving wife at his side where she had been since they first met.
Terri added: "Mark made me promise two things - that I would always stay connected to his football world and go to matches and events and that I will always stay in touch with his friends.
"His legacy will live on through me doing those things."