Prayers for devastated Parke family as Lucy (8) dies from progeria
Prayers of comfort are being said for the family of an eight-year-old Co Down girl who died on New Year's Day.
The devastated family of Lucy Parke, who passed away peacefully in her Ballyward home, said "they will miss her every day".
Born with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, which affects one in four million people, the rare genetic condition accelerates bodily ageing by eight times.
Diagnosed just after birth, the majority of sufferers do not reach their 13th birthday.
No treatment has yet proven effective.
Lucy is survived by her parents Stephanie and David - who wrote a poem in tribute to their daughter - and younger siblings Ben and twins Jake and Jenny.
A service of thanksgiving for Lucy will be held in Drumlee Presbyterian Church at 12.30pm tomorrow followed by private burial in the adjoining graveyard.
A pupil at Drumadonnell Primary School in Banbridge, Lucy had enjoyed celebrating her eighth birthday on November 10 and loved music and dancing.
Announcing her passing on Facebook, devout Christian Stephanie said: "We have lost our precious Lucy.
"Her body was weak but her heart was strong.
"Her love for life and wonderful smile made us proud to be her parents."
Rev Russell Edgar from Drumlee Presbyterian said Lucy "brought a great deal of joy to others" and the community is coming together to support her grieving parents.
He said: "Lucy was a wonderful little girl who had a faith like no other.
"She was very much one who loved to sing and would learn Bible verses and would often speak of her love of Jesus Christ as her saviour.
"She was a regular attender of the church and a member of the church Sunday school."
Rev Edgar said that Lucy's passing had caused a great sadness.
"We will remember her smile, it would have lit up a room," he added.
"She had the fullness of life and was always so positive and joyful. Lucy was extremely unique and she will be greatly missed by the whole community."
Author Catherine Campbell, who interviewed Stephanie for her book When We Can't, God Can, said many people had been encouraged and blessed by Lucy's story and her life.
"She was beautiful in every way, but had the premature aging condition progeria, and fought bravely against the effects it had on her tiny body these past eight years," she wrote on Facebook.
She added: "Lucy is now free from pain and limitation, but please pray for her wonderful family who are devastated by her passing.
"I am so blessed to have met this amazing little girl, and feel Stephanie and David's pain very keenly today."
Parents' special message for their daughter
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. Daddy, Mummy, Jake, Jenny and Ben.