Tim Tebow's fiancé, former Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, has shared the heartbreaking news that her younger sister — whom she called a "Angel on Earth — passed away over the weekend.
On May 5, the pageant-winner and humanitarian worker revealed to her Instagram followers that Franje, aged 13, had lost her battle with a lifelong condition.
"My little Princess, Angel on Earth, biggest joy and baby sister, Franje, passed away earlier today," she wrote. "Our hearts are aching beyond measure but I am grateful knowing she's forever relieved of the pain she experienced on earth. She's laughing, running and playing in heaven just like we always hoped she would on earth . She's free ! Thank you for all your prayers, love and support."
Also on Instagram, Tebow shared a photo of himself along with the sisters. He captioned the photo: "Our loss but heavens gain. So grateful for the hope we have of being reunited with the ones we love through our Heavenly Father. Mr & Mrs Peters and @demileighnp we are praying for you and love you so much."
Franje, was born with subtotal cerebellar agenesis, a rare condition that has left her without a cerebellum. This part of the brain receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain and to regulate motor movements.The condition severely limited her ability to walk, talk and develop as most other children would.
Previously, Nel-Peters told The Gospel Herald her sister was her biggest inspiration – and evidence that God has a plan, even amid difficult circumstances.
"She is the light in my life," the 23-year-old said of her sister. "She is my absolute biggest motivation and inspiration in life. Though I've never had a conversation with her because she's not able to speak, I know that she's been used in so many ways to be an inspiration in so many people's lives and to motivate so many people."
"God has a plan and a purpose with everything," she added. "We don't always understand and we don't always know what it is, but that purpose is there and that plan is there."
At the time, Tebow told GH that in order to overcome trials in life, it's important to understand the grace of God.
"And not that it's easy, but we can get through it with the right perspective," the Heisman Trophy-winning football player said. "Understanding that God's always at work in our lives and the good and the bad, and He can use all of it."
"A lot of times we just think, oh, He's going to use the platform. And He does. But He also uses the heartache," Tebow added. "My sister, who's been a missionary for the last 13 years, always says to me, 'God, will never waste pain that's given to Him.' And He never does. So when we go through those heartaches and the tough times, we need to give it to Him and say, 'God, this sucks, but I know you're going to use it.'"
Following the news of Franje's death, a number of celebrities took to social media to offer condolences.
"I'm so sorry Dems, I am thinking of you. May the lord carry you through this difficult time," commented Lee-Anne Liebenberg.
Getroud Met Rugby actress, Nadia Beukes commented: "I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Sending lots of love and strength."
"Praying for your family Demi," added model Kerry McGregor.
Miss France and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere also shared condolences, commenting: "So sorry for your loss…sending you love."