As 15 day old Faith Wilson was about to begin her final journey on Saturday a vibrant rainbow appeared outside the window of her nursery and stretched across the grey sky above Church Hill.

Minutes before her funeral service was due to begin in the Methodist Church nearby the showers settled, even her parents Joanne and Philip wiped away their tears. They ventured outside where they marvelled at a magical symbol of hope knowing that there can never be a rainbow without sunshine and rain.

“Look – you are surprising us again,” remarked Joanne when she returned inside, gazing down at her daughter’s body which had been dressed in a most beautiful outfit, with a little set of angel wings sitting close by.

After being diagnosed with life limiting anencephaly it was unlikely that Baby Wilson would even survive the birth yet Faith Isabella -- which means devoted to God – defied all the odds. Her parents could not have been prouder.

As the little white coffin was carried out the door Faith first came through [when she was carried in a car seat over two weeks before by her proud father] all of Joanne and Philip’s fears of that slow walk down their concrete lane disappeared.

“I know she sent that rainbow to bring us comfort,” Joanne told The Impartial Reporter yesterday (Wednesday).

It is the sparkles of light amid the storm that typifies Faith’s story: the beauty of her short life, the difficult challenges faced by her ever loving parents, and how something utterly joyous has emerged from such darkness.

“In her 15 days on earth she never spoke one word but she did more good and touched more people than I have or ever will,” said Philip, looking out the window towards the fields where the rainbow was first spotted.

“They were the best 15 days of our lives,” he said, with a smile as bright as the stars.

This is the tale of Faith Wilson, the warrior princess, and her parents who never gave up on her.

It was supposed to be very different. After trying for a baby through IVF farmer Philip and health worker Joanne finally got the news they had waited for – they were expecting their first child. They felt nothing but “pure excitement”.

“We had a few months of where we could dare to dream about our child, we thought about the future of what it would be like and if we would have a boy or girl,” explained Joanne.

But during the scan at 21 weeks the radiographer at South West Acute Hospital uttered the words: ‘your baby has anencephaly’. Working with terminally ill children at the Children’s Hospice, Joanne knew of the seriousness of the condition. Her heart sank; their dreams were shattered in an instant.

“When they said ‘the baby is incompatible with life’ that’s what made it real. At that point I thought that’s it, we are never even going to meet this baby,” said Joanne, who has praised the “dignified and passionate hospital staff” who went above and beyond to help them.

Impartial Reporter:

“I felt that it was all out of our hands. You never knew you were going to have 24 hours, or one minute,” said Philip. “You always thought, what if they are wrong?” added Joanne.

Then on January 8 at 9.16am Baby Wilson was born.

“The midwife said to Philip ‘what is it Daddy?’ and he looked into my eyes and said ‘we have a baby girl’. We couldn’t believe she was there and she was alive,” said Joanne.

The couple named her Faith, a nod to their belief in God and their belief in their daughter.

“I did look at her thinking we were never going to get this baby home,” said Joanne.

“It was surreal,” agreed Philip, “even getting to leave the hospital we still didn’t know if we would get home, we didn’t think we’d get Faith home alive.”

The couple’s first stop was to see Philip’s Grandmother Edith who relished the opportunity to meet Faith as did several of her friends.

“The joy that brought those women was something else,” said Philip.

“A wee lady held Faith’s finger and she said she never forget the feeling of that grip,” said Joanne.

There are many parts of Faith’s story that will never be forgotten, such as the journey home along the Lough Shore Road towards Church Hill.

“I remember Philip looking into the mirror at Faith and I, towards Ely Lodge where I used to walk a lot when I found out about the diagnosis.

“He told me the following day that at that part in the road he looked at his wife and baby sitting in the back because it was something he never thought he would see,” she said.

For 15 days a steady stream of family and friends visited the Wilson home, many congratulating the couple on becoming parents, words they never thought they would hear, and all eager to meet the little girl with the big personality.

“She had an attitude, like her mother,” laughed Philip. “She knew what she wanted.”

“She was held by a lot of people and nobody wanted to let her go,” smiled Joanne. “She loved getting cuddles from everybody but once she was in my arms, she was different, she was content.”

At 10.30am exactly last Wednesday Faith passed away in her mother’s arms, as her father knelt on the floor beside them.

Philip had planned on going out to work on the farm but decided to stay in bed with his girls.

“I thought, no, I am going to spend the morning with them and it was the most amazing morning ever; so cosy and so cute, every second of it was special,” he said.

Then after taking a seizure Faith’s condition worsened, Joanne placed her on her chest.

“Philip knelt down beside her, she went so peacefully on my chest. There was no better way for her to go, or for God to take her,” said Joanne, fighting back tears.

“I got Philip to hand me the stethoscope and I listened to her heartbeat fading away and I knew that was God was taking her in his loving arms. It couldn’t have been any better, just to three of us in her nursery where she got to be with her mummy and daddy,” she said.

Mourners gathered at Church Hill Methodist Church to hear a fitting funeral service officiated by Rev. Mandy Durrell and conducted by undertakers Austen Stinson and Keith Elliott.

There people of all ages fought back tears as Joanne read a poignantly penned tribute and Philip read from one of Faith’s books ‘I Love You Day and Night’, the story he read to her the day she was born.

“It is only fitting that I read it to her now as she leaves this earth,” he told mourners, fighting back tears and pausing every so often to glance down at the little white coffin, sprinkled with pink roses.

“It summed up my love for her,” he said.

Then a fitting video was played on a big screen featuring photographs from every day of Faith’s life all edited perfectly with the sound of George Ezra’s Hold My Girl playing in the background. The lyrics ‘I’ve been waiting for you’ and ‘Give me a minute to hold my girl’ were never more apt.

“Faith defied all the odds,” said Joanne. “She defied the odds when our first IVF treatment worked, she defied the odds when she made it to the 21 week scan, she defied the odds when she got to full term and she defied the odds when she lasted more than one minute.

“She was absolutely beautiful, she was our perfect warrior princess,” she said.

Faith was always at peace in her nursery surrounded by a variety of lovely gifts, such as little bunny rabbit teddies, books, clothes and drawings from other children, including the couple’s niece Lily who had sketched a picture of a rainbow with herself and her cousin dancing under it as ballerinas.

“That’s where Faith is now… dancing underneath that rainbow,” said Joanne.

The greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow.

Gazing at its beauty will never be the same again.