Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shared the meaningful moment of Paul Hill jumping into the water on Instagram Wednesday

By Joelle Goldstein
August 07, 2019 11:49 PM

Paul Hill conquered his fears in honor of his late daughter Saoirse Kennedy Hill.

Two days after Paul, 65, buried the 22-year-old, whom he shares with Courtney Kennedy Hill, the Irishman paid tribute to Saoirse, by jumping into the harbor at Hyannis Port.

The moment, which was captured by Saoirse’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was especially meaningful due to the fact that Paul is afraid of heights and water.

In the post, Robert, 65, explained that the family was asked to witness his jump so that they could “rescue him when he hit the water,” since he doesn’t know how to swim.

“Saoirse’s Dad, Paul Hill, has a terror of both heights and water,” Robert wrote on Instagram Wednesday, alongside a series of photos featuring Paul jumping from the buoy and fist-pumping in the water.

“Having grown up in the Catholic ghetto of the Falls Road in Belfast, and spent most of his adult life in 38 British prisons, he never learned to swim,” Robert explained of Paul, who spent more than a decade behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Paul Hill hitting the water
Robert F. Kennedy/Instagram

RELATED: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Remembers Niece Saoirse in Touching Eulogy: ‘A Brilliant Beam of Light’

The Irishman — along with Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson — was wrongly convicted of a bombing carried out by the IRA and the four men became known as the Guilford Four.

The group confessed to the bombing under extreme coercion by the police. Their battle for justice was immortalized in the 1993 film In the Name of the Father starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Despite not knowing how to swim and being afraid of heights, Robert said Paul was determined to take the plunge this week into the water that his daughter had loved and spent so much time in.

“Nevertheless, he wanted to jump off the HH buoy in Saoirse’s honor,” Robert explained. “He asked us to be there to rescue him when he hit the water.”

In the second photo where Paul finally made contact with the water, Robert captioned it, “Baptized,” while the third featured him hanging onto a ring buoy in the water beside his family members. “Rescue,” he simply wrote.

Paul Hill in the water
Robert F. Kennedy/Instagram
Paul Hill and Saoirse
Robert F. Kennedy/Instagram

• For more on Saoirse Kennedy Hill’s young life and unexpected death, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

Saoirse was laid to rest on Monday, following a suspected overdose last week at her family’s storied Massachusetts compound in Hyannis Port. Her cause and manner of death are currently pending a toxicology report.

During her emotional funeral mass, Paul called his daughter “a rebel” but said, “I loved her to death,” according to a family friend attending the service. He then broke down in tears after brief welcoming remarks to the mourners.

Robert also read a eulogy for his beloved niece — which he shared in the same post on Instagram Wednesday — and remembered Saoirse for her charismatic personality, expressive nature, “endearing recklessness” and ability to connect with others so easily.

“She became a sister or daughter to a hundred Kennedys, Shrivers and Lawfords. We all considered her our own,” he said. “She had a knack for friendship that put her at the center of an enormous network of our relatives, and their friends, and their friends. She made herself the axel of a sprawling community. She was like a politician. Everywhere I went people knew Saoirse.”

Saoirse Kennedy Hill
Saoirse Kennedy
Paul Hill (left) and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy/Instagram

RELATED: Scenes of Love & Loss at Saoirse Kennedy Hill’s Funeral: ‘She Was a Rebel and I Loved Her to Death’

“She connected to people on the deepest level. She met our broken world and all its troubles with kindness, compassion, understanding, empathy, humor, and courage,” he added. “She put out a bright light … She was very, very, very easy to love.”

In addition to her “magnetic” personality, Robert commended Saoirse’s “fearlessly” open approach to her mental health struggles, noting how she wrote a piece for her school newspaper at the elite Deerfield Academy about her battle with depression and a previous suicide attempt.

Robert also detailed the final hours of his niece’s life, which he said were spent finishing a paper, having dinner with her grandmother Ethel Kennedy, going out on the town with a friend and watching the sunrise from their Hyannis Port beach  — a night he referred to as “a flight of her characteristic exuberance.”

“It was a perfect night and, as was her habit, she documented much of it on social media,” he said, adding that she was excited about flying to Los Angeles the following day.

Sadly, that trip never happened. “The two friends went to bed in Douglas’ room. Saoirse woke up with God,” Robert said.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) and niece Saoirse
RFK Jr./Instagram

RELATED: Saoirse Kennedy Hill ‘Had Her Demons’ but She ‘Tried Not to Let Them Rule Her’ and Spoke Openly of Her Time in Treatment

Toward the end of his eulogy, Robert praised Courtney, 62, and Paul for raising such an outstanding young woman before finishing with some comforting words.

“… We will say to each other, ‘She’s gone.’ But she is not really gone, she’s just out of our sight,” he said of Saoirse’s passing. “She is still sailing with all her freight, her beauty and her elegance and her speed.”

“If anybody ever wondered whether God loves the Kennedys the proof is that he gave us Saoirse, this brilliant beam of light and laughter,” Robert finished. “Now, it’s time for us to cease being sad at her passing and to practice being grateful that we had her for 22 amazing years.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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