A brave eight-year-old from Co Down who “touched the lives of everyone who knew her” has lost her battle with an extremely rare ageing disease.
Lucy Parke, who was born with progeria – an incurable condition which causes her to age at an accelerated rate – passed away peacefully on the morning of New Year’s Day surrounded by her family in their Ballyward home.
The family’s minister said news of Lucy’s passing has left an entire community with “heavy hearts”.
Reverend Russell Edgar of Drumlee Presbyterian Church said he had spoken with the Parke family following their daughter’s death.
He said they were a family with a strong faith in Christ which will be called upon to help them through tough times ahead.
He commented: “As you would expect they are very, very upset. Sadly in Lucy’s circumstances her death was not unexpected, that is not to say it makes it any easier to come to terms with.”
Lucy’s mother and father – Stephanie and David – both come from farming backgrounds, and the eight-year-old has three younger siblings – twins Jake and Jenny, and a little brother called Ben.
Children affected by Lucy’s condition can age up to eight times faster than normal, and there are less than 100 cases worldwide. Lucy is only the third child in Ireland to be affected by it.
Rev Edgar added: “During her short time on earth Lucy brought a great deal of joy to others, especially her family. She had a wonderful smile that would light up a room. She packed an awful lot into eight years.”
A funeral service of thanksgiving for the eight-year-old will take place on Thursday in Drumlee Church at 12.30pm.
The family have asked that her house remain private and also requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.
In her death notice she is described by her family as a “special and precious” daughter who brought “eight years of smiles and fun”.
Banbridge councillor Elizabeth Ingram said the Parke family are well known and highly respected.
She added: “The passing of their special little girl will no doubt be heartbreaking for them.
“Lucy touched the hearts of everyone who had the joy of knowing her and I would want to commend her parents and other family members for the love and devotion shown to her in her eight short years.
“My deepest sympathy to the family at this very sad time.”
In a previous interview with the News Letter, her mother Stephanie said: “God had been preparing me all my life to deal with Lucy and her condition, and to glorify Him through her. God has been and is our rock throughout it all and is definitely carrying us through.”
Yesterday her mother Stephanie posted a poem to Facebook in tribute to Lucy on behalf of her family.
She wrote: “Our special girl could fight no more,
“Her body was weak but her heart was strong
“Her love for life and wonderful smile,
“Made us proud to be her parents.
“We have lost our precious Lucy,
“The past year was hard and our hearts are broken,
“And tears are flowing.
“Just photos, videos and memories left.
“But your life was not in vain,
“We know you are in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We are so thankful for everything you have taught us, the hugs, the laughs and smiles you gave us.
“The last eight years have been amazing, thank you Lucy and thank you God.
“We will miss you every single day.”
When she was initially diagnosed, Stephanie admits that the whole family were “devastated”. A committed Christian, she confesses that she questioned God.
“Why? Why would you allow the child we longed for to have a premature ageing condition?”
But she later concluded: “Why not us. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that life is easy but that we have God to help us deal with it”.