The final chapter: A family and community say goodbye to Brylee

Published: Friday, May 23 2014 7:15 p.m. MDT

Brylee Olson's casket is carried by several team mascots during graveside services at her funeral in Price Friday, May 23, 2014. Brylee was diagnosed with an inoperable and terminal brain tumor 14 months ago.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Editor's note: Journalists Emilee Eagar and Jeff Allred have followed the life of young Brylee Olson and her fight against an inoperable brain tumor for the past year. Here is their final report

PRICE — Standing at the pulpit, her husband at her side, Lara Olson returned again to that moment in a hospital room when she looked down at her nearly unresponsive daughter cradled in her arms. Her voice was pleading as she said to Brylee, "I don't want you to leave me."

For months, Lara knew something was wrong, but it wasn't until that day last year in March that Brylee was diagnosed with a lethal brain tumor, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

Doctors didn't think she would live more than two weeks.

"You can't leave me with all this guilt," she screamed and pleaded with God. She wanted to prove to God and herself that she could become a better mother. She wanted as much time as he would give her.

"And he gave me that," she said Friday. "He gave me so much more than that. We had the best 14 months of my life."

Brylee died May 19, just two days before her fourth birthday but hundreds of days beyond doctors' expectations.

Lara spoke to members of the Price community who filled an LDS stake center chapel Friday in support of the Olson family — Lara, Cory, and their children Bryker, 5, and Byrklee, 2. They reflected on Brylee's life and battle with cancer, and shared the lessons one young life brought to each of them.

"She was an angel on earth," said the man inside an electric blue falcon costume. Brylee and Felix the Falcon, with the Miracle Mascot Foundation, had been inseparable since her prom in November, part of a bucket list of activities that created the fabric of her short life.

"You could tell that she was here for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring humanity back together."

He said every child with cancer has that purpose.

"Without this type of evil, I guess you would put it, where would the world be?" he questioned. "There would be no reason for people to pull together," Felix said, using only his mascot identity, because that's all Brylee knew.

William Frost, Brylee's great-grandfather, lives in New York and did not get to spend much time with her as she grew up. He did, however, get to watch the changes in his family as they followed Brylee on her journey.

"We've seen them appreciate Brylee and her struggle, and yet her positiveness," he said.

"It's been a wonderful thing to witness."

People from across the state trickled into a small chapel room to say goodbye to Brylee. Her coffin collected items like a sucker from her nurse, a ladybug necklace from her grandfather and a bracelet from her brother.

Janneke Phillips walked up to Brylee's casket in her Smith's uniform. She left her mums as the floral manager at the store to give her last respects to the 3-year-old who touched her life.

"I met Brylee a couple weeks ago," she said as tears began to stream down her cheeks. "She gave me this bracelet and I haven't taken it off."

Tears choked the rest of her words. A gray bracelet, for brain tumor awareness. "Believe for Brylee," it said.

Claudia Mousques hugged Lara and the two women cried together. They met through a Facebook group for moms with children diagnosed with cancer.

She and her husband, Nelson, believe Brylee and their own daughter, and all children with cancer, are here to teach the rest of us.

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