'I will miss so much about mum - her kindness and how she always put me first' says daughter of late Michelle McStravick in moving interview
After the tragic death of care worker and fitness fan Michelle McStravick, her father and daughter speak movingly of their loss. By Stephanie Bell
The devastated daughter and devoted dad of care worker Michelle McStravick, who was killed with a colleague in a car crash in her home town of Randalstown last week, have paid a moving tribute to the beautiful body building champion.
The shell-shocked family revealed that Michelle had been at her fittest ever as she spent months preparing for a body building contest she was due to take part in at the Titanic in Belfast last Sunday.
They also revealed how the big-hearted 35-year-old had run the Belfast Marathon four times in recent years to raise funds for the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Her heartbroken 15-year-old daughter Cliodhan last night said her mum always put her first and she feels lost without her.
Now staying with her grandparents Eddie and Elizabeth, the teenager says she doesn't know what the future holds and that life without her mum feels unreal.
Michelle's dad Eddie (56) described his pain at his only daughter's loss as like having had his heart ripped out.
Michelle and her colleague Lorraine Clyde (56), who was also well known in the Antrim area as a patrol lady for St Comgall's Primary School, were on their way to work with Homecare Independent Living when their car was involved in a fatal collision with another car on July 25.
Michelle's funeral took place last Thursday at St MacNissi's Church in Randalstown, where Fr Diarmuid Sheehan described Cliodhan as her mother's "living legacy". He told the congregation: "Certainly there were things your mother wanted to do on earth that she was not given the time to do. Yet she leaves a tremendous legacy. Not only the legacy of how she touched so many people's lives, but you, Cliodhan, are the main legacy, you are a living legacy."
And he ended his homily with a quote of Michelle's: "You have to take the good with the bad, smile when you are sad, love what you have got and remember what you had."
Last night the teen said she and her mum had enjoyed a special bond and she had no idea how she was going to get through without her.
Cliodhan who is due to start her GCSEs at St Benedict's College in Randalstown this year, shared her mother's love of sport and plays camogie for the Antrim county team and her local club and gaelic football for her local club.
She said: "It was only us two at home and with our sport we were both constantly on the go and mum came to my matches and supported me from the sidelines and I went to her competitions.
"Mum was an outgoing person, who didn't care what anyone thought of her and she did her own thing.
"I will miss everything about her - her kindness and how she always put me in front of everything else in her life.
"I just miss her so much and it doesn't feel real. I'm staying with my grandparents at the minute and I don't know what will happen after that."
Her granddad Eddie, who works as a group IT manager, said that the entire family circle was shattered by their loss, including Michelle's mum Elizabeth (56) and her two brothers Robert (37) and Eddie (34). In a moving tribute to his daughter, he said there was only one word to describe her and that was "WOW".
"Michelle was exceptional, independent, determined, dedicated and a very diligent person who had a tremendous work ethic; she would ask for nothing, yet would share and give to all," she said.
"She lived life for her wee daughter and her sport.
"She was a very caring and supportive mother to her daughter, they shared a very unique bond and as Cliodhan became a teenager their relationship was more like sisters than mother and daughter.
"She has raised Cliodhan exceptionally well and this will be a consolation, knowing that her legacy will live on through her."
Mr McStravick said that his daughter had been passionate about health and fitness since she was 11 years old, participating in running, kickboxing and, more recently, body building.
He said she was fully committed to her body building, attending the gym twice a day and following a strict diet which had won her a number of titles.
"Last Sunday she was to attend a show and had trained so hard for it, she was probably at the fittest she had ever been," he added.
Mr McStravick also said his daughter had a "tremendous likeability, which attracted people like a magnet" and he described her as the "dream daughter".
"She was the dream daughter any father could wish for, bubbly, loving, generous and kind and who never refused to go the extra mile. She was always first on hand to jump in at times of need. It's so unreal that she is gone and we are all heartbroken," he said.
"Michelle would have visited the family home every day and always had a smile, a conversation to share and a wee saying like 'Jesus, you're a geg'.
"It's been eight days since we received the tragic news of our daughter's death and I feel that my heart has been ripped from my chest.
"It is news that no parent should have to receive. It's difficult to comprehend. You are just hoping it's a nightmare and that someone will pinch you to wake you up."
Mr McStravick said that his family had been overwhelmed by the support they have received in the past eight days and very proud, as many stories emerged of his daughter's devotion to her clients through her job as a carer.
"While I thought I knew my daughter, I began to learn a lot more from the community and her friends from Randalstown and beyond," he said. "It was so comforting to us all, listening to the countless stories of honour, care, generosity and support.
"I met an 80-year-old man at Michelle's wake and he introduced himself to me. Tears had been running down his cheeks and he explained that he felt it his duty to express his condolences and told me that my daughter was an angel who looked after his sick wife.
"We must have heard 50 stories like that and it has been such a comfort to Elizabeth and I. It has made us so proud."
Mr McStravick thanked everyone in the local community for their support.
"From our hearts we wish to thank everyone, from both our families and Michelle's second family, Pure Flex Gym and the entire Randalstown community, for their generosity and support. It's been a real comfort to us all," he said.
And the heartbroken dad, who said he never believed he would one day bury his only daughter, added: "We are now facing a very long journey and have no idea how we are going to cope with Christmas, birthdays and many other special events.
"It's a loss nobody can ever be prepared for. We all loved and adored her so much; she will be forever in our hearts, thoughts and prayers."