The Prince of Wales paid a touching tribute to Hayley Okines, a teenage girl who passed away in April. 17 year-old Hayley, who was sometimes known as the “100 year-old teenager”, suffered from progeria.
Progeria is a rare ageing condition which causes individuals to age at nearly eight times the normal rate. The life expectancy of sufferers is about 13 years, and the disease affects over 125 children across 43 countries.
Hayley was well-known for her efforts to raise awareness about progeria. She made many appearances on television, and even published a book, titled Old Before My Time. Hayley met The Prince of Wales in 2004, at a Children of Courage event which was held at Westminster Abbey.
In a letter to Hayley’s parents, Kerry and Mark Okines, Prince Charles wrote:
“I know that she was an inspiration to millions.
You must be so very proud of the way that she used her brief life to make such a difference to the lives of others through her charity work and I do hope you can take some comfort, despite all the anguish you must be suffering, in her truly astounding achievements.
It is all the most tremendous credit to the unfailing love and care which I know your family gave her. I fear that under such unspeakably sad circumstances mere words are hopelessly and utterly inadequate.
So although I realise only too well that it will be of no consolation whatsoever, all we can do is to hold you in our most special thoughts and prayers at such a heart-rending time.
Yours, with the greatest sympathy, Charles.”
Indeed, Hayley’s death has affected a number of celebrities that she had met over the course of her life, including Justin Bieber, who expressed his sorrow at the young girl’s passing.
Hayley’s funeral was held at All Saints Church in Sidley, Bexhill-on-Sea, and was attended by over 250 mourners from all over the world, including America, Portugal and Belgium. The Prince’s letter was read during the service by Father Michael Bailey, and candles were lit in Hayley’s honour.
Mrs Okines, who was a pallbearer at the funeral, paid a tribute to her daughter, telling the gathered mourners that it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do.
“I’m so proud to call you my daughter,” she said. “You are the reason why I got out of bed in the morning and managed to put one foot in front of another. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without you.”
Hayley’s younger sister, Ruby, sang a song called ‘You’re Free’, and told the assembled congregation that she “could not ask for a better sister.”
“Now we all have to be strong about it,” she added. “I still can’t get my head around it.”