Tributes to Stephen Dalzell - a 'precious and brave' young Derry man who lived life to the full

"Never judge a book by its cover he said, because through everything he always came out on top."

Stephen Dalzell

Stephen passed away last weekend at the age of only 17.

A popular Derry teenager who lived a 'brave and fearless' life while battling cystic fibrosis was laid to rest earlier this week.

Stephen Dalzell, 17, passed away peacefully at his home in Ballymagroarty last Sunday surrounded by his parents, Karen and Dermott, and his brothers and sisters, Kieran, Dermott, David and Nadine.

His funeral service took place at Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty on Tuesday morning, the same chapel where he was baptised.

In his homily, parish priest Fr Paddy O'Kane said 'Stephen had cystic fibrios from birth, but it didn't prevent him from living a full life'.

He told the congregation that Stephen, who would have celebrated his 18th birthday on January 19 next year, lived and died how he wanted to.

"He always said 'it's my life and I'll do it how I want'," said Fr O'Kane.

"Cystic fibrosis never controlled Stephen.

"He lived his life independent of it. He controlled it.

"And it was through his brave attitude and fearlessness that he showed everyone.

"Never judge a book by its cover he said, because through everything he always came out on top."

Many of Stephen's friends gathered for the funeral wearing t-shirts with his photograph and the words 'forever young.'

Fr O'Kane said the 'precious and irreplaceable' teenager was funny and loving and held in high regard by his family and friends.

A former pupil of Holy Family Primary School and St Joseph's Boys' School, he was an ardent Manchester United fan and loved getting tattoos.

"Stephen had a great sense of humour and always had an answer to everyone for everything," said Fr O'Kane.

"He called his mum 'the boss' and his dad 'the banker'.

"He loved his PlayStation and most days he would spend hours in his room playing it, even into the early hours of the morning.

"When I went up to give him the Last Rites last Friday, there was his PlayStation sitting beside him.

"His first love in life was Man United. He never missed a match and always had the latest rig.

"And I'm told when he was in better health he visited Old Trafford to see them and it was his pride and joy.

"His second love was his tattoos and when planning his funeral, top of his list was where his tattoos would have to be shown."

He continued: "Stephen had cystic fibrios from birth, but it didn't prevent him from living a full life.

"He died on Sunday morning at 17 minutes past 11, surrounded by his mother and father, brothers and sisters.

"How would you describe Stephen? This is what I have been told about him - he was the most outgoing, kindest, loving, strongest boy you could ever meet.

"He loved his family and he would do anything for them.

"Although he had his own illness to deal with, he never let it hold him back.

"He was the first port of call for his many friends and many of them are here this morning to pay their respects.

"He was the first port of call especially to his best friend Kyle."

Fr O'Kane said Stephen was deeply loved by his parents, step parents, brothers and sisters.

"He was also a pillar of strength for his family; although battling cystic fibrosis he showed his family that even whilst battling an illness, you can still live a life, which he did.

"He loved his family, even Nadine used to annoy him for cuddles, or Dermott when he asked him for one more time to cut his hair, or David when he refused to let him play on his PlayStation, or even Ciaran when he would give him a wrong tip for his bets in the bookies.

"Through it all, his two pillars of strength were his parents, Karen and Dermott.

"He loved them with everything he had and even in his final moments it was through their final words of comfort that he knew it was ok to leave them.”

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