Sunday 24 February 2019

'Tiny but tough' Michael touched whole country, hundreds told at funeral

The coffin of Michael Stokes is carried into the church in Malahide
The coffin of Michael Stokes is carried into the church in Malahide

Mourners at the funeral of "tiny but tough" Michael Stokes were told how his charisma "touched the whole country".

There were both sobs and laughter at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Malahide, Co Dublin, as they gathered to remember Michael, who died on Saturday, just a few weeks short of his 16th birthday.

His mischievous personality captured the heart of the nation when he appeared on RTE's Room To Improve in 2015, as architect Dermot Bannon redesigned the house of his foster parents, Ann Higgins and Barry McCabe, in Malahide.


Michael famously told Bannon to "go back to the drawing board" with his plans.

Yesterday, Bannon was among the hundreds of Michael's friends at the church to support Ann and Barry and Michael's birth parents, John Paul and Siobhan.

Parish priest Fr Martin Noone said that while some may have thought the odds were stacked against Michael given his disability, osteogenesis imperfecta, the teenager was "tiny but tough".

"What Michael has done in a few short years, many of us, including myself, will not achieve in a long, long life," he told the huge congregation.

"There are people right around the country who would love to be part of this gathering because Michael touched the whole country. In some way or other, through the lens of a camera or a cheery smile, he touched our lives."

Paying tribute to Michael at the end of the Mass, Eimir McGrath, who knew him all his life and was an advocate for him, said that when he was born "a tiny, fragile baby", he was not expected to survive.

However, "Michael the warrior came into being," she said.

Brave Michael Stokes
Brave Michael Stokes

"Inside this little body was a giant-sized heart and an enormous capacity to love us as his life unfolded."

She also spoke of Michael's hilarious turns of phrase, a classic being, "I'm sweating like a dolphin".

"His technical expertise kept many of our phones in tip-top order - including sneaking in his own custom ringtones and changing your password when you weren't looking," she said.

She added that Michael had typical teenage concerns, adding "his cool hair was very important to him".

"He also might have had a kiss or two in the last few months," she revealed to laughter around the church.

Eimir told how Michael's life "blossomed" when he met his foster parents, how he "bathed in constant and everyday love" and began to see a very different future for himself.

Room To Improve star Dermot Bannon was among the mourners
Room To Improve star Dermot Bannon was among the mourners

"He expressed this in his words 'I'm so excited for my life'. It's on this high note Michael left this world full of joy, excitement and love," she added.

"He would be so overjoyed with the outpouring of love over the last few days, especially that he was trending on Facebook and Twitter and being the main guy on the Six One News."

Ann thanked the staff of Temple Street Children's Hospital for their care of Michael throughout his life and especially in his final weeks.

"They could see his bravery in those few short weeks," she added.

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