Lucy Parke was born on November 10, 2009, but her little body looked much older than she really was when she died at 8 years old, after capturing the hearts of people around the world.Stephanie Parke/Facebook
Her parents, Stephanie and David Parke, found out when their daughter was 9 months old that she was born with a rare condition that made her age eight times faster than her friends, according to Meaww.
Lucy was diagnosed with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome, commonly known as Progeria, which causes rapid aging in children, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms, such as slow growth and hair loss, begin in the child’s first year of life. And it’s a disorder that only happens to one in four million people.
The average life expectancy for a child diagnosed with Progeria is 13 years. Sadly, there’s currently no cure for the disease.
Lucy began experiencing the painful side of the disease at just four months old when she experienced contractions of her knees and ankles and underwent a hip operation. Later, she suffered through heart problems, arthritis, and severe hardening of her arteries.
The Daily Mail reports Lucy’s short life ended on New Year’s Day in Ballyward, Co Down, Ireland, with her family surrounding her, as they had since she was born.
At her funeral, Lucy’s father helped carry her body on his shoulder. In a fitting tribute, the parents placed a rainbow on their daughter’s tiny, pink casket.
It allowed them a way to say goodbye to the little girl who stayed strong and kept a smile on her face throughout her painful battle with the illness.Stephanie Parke/Facebook
Belfast Live shared a touching message that Stephanie and David wrote after Lucy’s short life came to an end:
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.
Author Catherine Campbell says Lucy brightened many lives throughout her journey, inspiring them with her story, and opening their eyes to an extremely rare disease many people weren’t aware of.
According to the Daily Mail, Campbell spoke to Lucy’s mom about her daughter’s journey for her book, “When We Can’t, God Can.”
On New Year’s Day, the author shared an emotional Facebook post after learning the child’s battle had ended:
She wrote, in part:
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.
Thoughtful responses poured in:
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for people to send donations to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, so they can help other children like Lucy.