The beloved mother who was fatally shot while protecting her son during the massacre at the Orlando nightclub Pulse has been laid to rest, as family and friends tearfully said goodbye during an emotional service for the woman who gave her life to save those she loved.
Mourners gathered together at First United Methodist Church in Orlando Monday for Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, who was out dancing with her son when Omar Mateen opened fire, killing 49 people, including the much-adored mother of 11.
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool (Facebook)
“My mom was the best mom … Everybody who knew my mom knew she was the mom everybody wanted,” her son Isaiah Henderson, 21, said during a heart-wrenching eulogy. “She always took everybody in with open arms. She loved everybody equally, no matter what.”
Isaiah Henderson and his mother Brenda Lee Marquez McCool (Facebook)
Henderson watched as his mother was gunned down June 12 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. McCool saw the gunman open fire and pushed her son and a friend out of harm’s way before she was killed, witnesses said.
“I never thought her life would end right in front of my eyes,” he said, breaking down as he paid tribute to the mother he said was "crazy," but in a good way.
Michael Marquez (left) and Robert Presley (far right) join their brother Isaiah Henderson (center) as he sobs during their mother's funeral. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
"I didn’t want to speak, because I knew this was going to happen," Henderson said as he cried, leaning on two of his brothers for support. “But I knew I would have regretted it if I never spoke.
"I haven't stopped crying since this happened,” he continued.
McCool was a two-time cancer survivor who moved from her native Brooklyn to California and then to Florida, where she was reportedly working toward her real estate license before she was killed.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Monday a citywide day of mourning in honor of McCool, who he said was an “outstanding citizen” held in high esteem by all who knew her.
“She was a fighter, full of energy and full of life,” he said. “Our community will be stronger because of Brenda.”
After the service, mourners gathered in front of the church and released 49 white balloons in the air in McCool’s honor as her body was placed in a hearse.
Isaiah Henderson, Tatiana Harris, center, and Khiana Marshall watch 49 white balloons after they were released during the funeral for their mother, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
"She always told me that when she passed away she didn't want us to be sad, she wanted us to party and celebrate her life, because my mom — she never had any regrets,” her son Robert Pressley said after McCool was killed.
“My mom is in a better place," he continued. "And I know that she passed away but... she passed away doing what she loved — supporting her kids and having fun with her kids."
McCool’s brother Michael Marquez, Jr. honored that wish, saying during her funeral that while her death has left a huge hole in his heart, he knew that there would be more dancing in heaven now.
“Tell Jesus,” he said as the congregation laughed, “to step up his salsa game.”