Local Celebration set Friday for Brooke Mulford


A Celebration of Life for Brooke Mulford, the 12-year-old who, for eight years, grappled with neuroblastoma with an admirable bravery and ever-present smile, will be in Salisbury in coming weeks.

The funeral arrangements for Brooke:

  • Friday, June 16, 4:30 to  8 p.m, family receives friends at Haddonfield United Methodist Church, 29 Warwick Road, Haddonfield, N.J.
  • Saturday, June 17, 10 a.m., funeral service, same location as viewing reception.

A celebration of Brooke’s life will be held in Salisbury at 7 p.m., Friday, June 23, at James M, Bennett High School stadium on East College Avenue.

Brooke and her mother, Amy Stanton Mulford, moved from Salisbury to New Jersey in 2014 to be closer to family and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the child was cared for.

Brooke fought valiantly through years of treatments, surgeries, procedures and hospitalizations, giving others courage and the will to persist as they marveled at her strength, gentle voice and pleasant demeanor that became familiar to a community that loved her.

But on June 6, her mother issued a statement via Facebook stating the cancer had spread and she wouldn’t live.

“The time has come. Brooke had a CT scan last night of her abdomen and head. Dr. Maris told me this morning that the disease has filled her liver and her skull is covered and the tumors are pressing on her brain again.

“Her lower spine is covered with disease and she has very little feeling from the waist down. She will get platelets daily to help keep her from having the pain of another brain bleed.

“Palliative chemo will stop. We will do everything we can to keep her comfortable. Please pray for peace for both of us,” Mulford wrote.

In a photo, Brooke was asleep with a white stuffed tiger in her arms and floppy toy bunny above her head, her mother close beside her, kissing her cheek and holding her hand.

By midweek, the post drew 34,000 comments and 10,000 shares.

On June 7, Mulford gently told her daughter she wasn’t going to live.

Mulford “said all the right things” and Brooke accepted the news “with poise and grace,” a family friend said.

Ending the fight

Close friend Kellie Fox Noonan visited Brooke at the hospital last weekend. Although she didn’t speak, the child weakly raised her hand in greeting when Noonan told her, “It’s Aunt Kellie, honey.

Mulford said she told Brooke she didn’t have to fight anymore, but that after such a long battle, the little girl didn’t know how to let go.

Around 1 a.m. Monday, “Brooke went from my arms into the arms of Jesus,” her mother wrote.

“Sweet Brooke you were the most amazing person I ever met. Your smile lit up my heart and the whole world. It was my absolute privilege and honor to be your mommy. I miss everything about you already. I love you to heaven and back,” she wrote.

Her father, Rob Mulford, remembered Brooke repeating The Lord’s Prayer when she was 2, to win a pencil in Sunday school, and eating avocados, lobster and salmon at the family’s Market Street Inn.

“Every time I was with her, she always wanted to go to the arcade. We went there, 25, maybe 50, times. There was no, ‘Oh, we’re going there again?’ She was always just as excited about it as if it was her first time. She loved the tickets from the games. She loved collecting the tickets,” he said.

Brooke, her father said, “lived in the moment and in the day.”

“She liked to go to Dunkin Donuts. She would just smile when she looked at a bumblebee or a bird. It was a gift and she lived in the moment. She taught us not to take for granted, not to overlook, what we have today,” he said.

Throughout her illness, she never asked “Why me?” or complained.

“She was never in a miserable mood,” he said, adding she was a gift from God.

Rob Mulford shared a photo of himself sitting beside Brooke’s hospital bed, tenderly holding her hand and watching the sleeping child, looking peaceful, cuddled under a blanket decorated with hearts.

His message was: “A parent’s love … again thank you for everything. Good night.”

Monday evening he posted a message to “extend my gratitude to everyone in and outside of this community who has contributed to the life and light of my daughter Brooke.”

Noonan paraphrased a Bible verse from I Corinthians for the grieving family: “In a moment in a twinkle of her eye the final trumpet shall sound and she shall be raised up incorruptible, so we shall be changed.”

“Brooke, you changed my life and everyone’s life around you that were lucky enough to know you or know of you.

“I always said you were an angel on Earth, here for such a bigger purpose. I promise that my family will never forget you,” Noonan wrote.

Thousands more offered condolences, prayers and praise for the inseparable mother-daughter team whose endurance was as heartbreaking as it was encouraging.

“It is a sad morning,” Mayor Jake Day posted after her death.

He called for city flags to fly at half-staff and Monday night, hundreds gathered at the fountain at City Park for a silent prayer vigil. Memories were shared.

Bouquets of colorful flowers and stuffed toy animals were arranged around the rim of the fountain, lit gold in her honor.

Gold and purple are the colors that represent neuroblastoma.

An especially joyful moment came last month when Brooke was given a pet cat.

Celebrities from all over the nation had made a point to visit her in the past year.

Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee, issued a statement saying Brooke “stepped peacefully and lovingly into that special place in heaven where brave little girl warriors go.”

“She was our sweet inspiration,” he said.

The community supported Brooke from the time of her diagnosis, Dunn wrote.

“In so many ways, Brooke and Amy, in turn, gave back to us, with their strength, their courage, their Brooke’s Toy Closet at Peninsula Regional Medical Center and just by being themselves: a mom and daughter caught in what no mom and daughter should have to go through, and showing us all the right way to fight.”

 

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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