“I never thought that her life would be ended right in front of my eyes,” Isaiah Henderson choked out through his tears. “My mother accepted everyone with open arms. She loved everybody equally, no matter what.”
The 21-year-old poured his heart out in an emotional goodbye to his mother, Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool, who lost her life, while saving his, in the Orlando nightclub shooting. The funeral was held at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando where many of of her 11 children paid tribute to her.
Brenda’s brother Michael was the only one of her siblings to speak, but his words were incredibly powerful.
“I have nothing to say to you because my heart is on fire. I have no words,” said Michael. After offering up a few fond memories about his sister’s love for life and dancing, he turned his head up to heaven and said, “Tell Jesus to step up the salsa game.”
Brenda was with her son Isaiah celebrating latin night at the LGBT club Pulse in Orlando the night of the tragic mass shooting. Her sister-in-law Ada Pressley said that wasn’t unusual—McCool loved dancing, especially salsa, and she wanted to support her LGBT family.
When ISIS-inspired gunman Omar Mateen, 29, started shooting at partygoers at Pulse, McCool’s mom instincts kicked in fast. Her sister-in-law Pressley told the New York Daily News, “Brenda saw him point the gun. She said, ‘Get down,’ to Isaiah and she got in front of him.”
“She was shot dead. That’s how much she loved her kids. If it weren’t for her, he’d of been shot,” she added.
A grief stricken Isaiah Henderson wrote on Facebook, “Just laying here thinking that I was just with my mom 24 hours ago, this is so surreal. I love you mom.”
Henderson was separated from his mom in the panic that ensued after she was shot, and was later brought to safety when police stormed the club and killed Mateen.
McCool was a fighter, a two-time cancer survivor, and it’s no surprise to anyone that she took a bullet for her son. Her ex-husband Robert Pressley, the father of two of her children, says, “She was selfless, always giving of herself. All the kids in the neighborhood were part of her extended family.”
One of her other sons has set up a GoFundMe account to help the family and his 10 siblings.
My prayers are with McCool’s children…I’m so thankful they had such a loving, protective mother, and I pray God comforts and provides for them in her absence.