Angel Myers used a white handkerchief to wipe the tears from her eyes before raising the cloth in the air and waving it as she followed the horse-drawn carriage carrying her daughter’s casket.
In a mausoleum topped with an angel with her head toward the sky, Angel and Josh Myers laid their “Baby Bug,” 7-year-old Sophia Myers, to rest surrounded by friends and family.
A three-piece jazz band played “When The Saints Come Marching In” as a second line made their way to Sophia’s resting place in Evergreen Cemetery along Fort Bayou.
Sophia Myers died Oct. 20 after a nearly eight-month battle with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.
Guests lit sparklers and waved them in their goodbyes to Sophia.
Her casket — bright pink and adorned with multi-colored jewels placed by those who attended a visitation service — was topped with an array of flowers every color of the rainbow, which was Sophia’s favorite color.
Just before the funeral ended, Angel and Josh Myers each took a moment to say their final goodbyes. Angel leaned down and rested on Sophia’s casket while Josh walked around and talked with their only child.
‘She was just so Sophia’
Earlier Thursday, it was as if a small piece of heaven bloomed inside of an Ocean Springs church, as Sophia’s secret garden overtook St. Paul United Methodist Church.
A grotto filled with fresh white, pink and purple flowers and overgrown vines towered above Sophia’s casket.
Hundreds of people attended the celebration of life service before Sophia’s internment.
The Rev. Kevin Bradley noted that many people wore bright colors like hot pink, orange and aqua blue rather than traditional dark colors. Bradley, who admitted he didn’t like to wear socks, wore them for sweet Sophia.
Bradley said Sophia, who had her own sense of fashion and thought animal print was a neutral color, would be pleased with the congregation at her service.
“She’s got to be looking down and thinking, ‘Finally! Everyone has come around,’” Bradley said. “She was just so Sophia, and she was so Sophia all of the time.”
Sophia, with her curly red hair and infectious smile, was a child with a personality that could not be forgotten, Angel Myers said in a eulogy filmed for the service.
“She had the perfect amount of sass and spunk,” Angel Myers said. “Bug always kept us on our toes.”
Parents remember their ‘Baby Bug’
Although her life was short, Josh and Angel Myers shared stories about their only daughter and how she made an impact on them and everyone who knew Sophia.
“My Sophia was beautiful, kind free and wild,” Josh Myers said.
He said he’d always give in and give Sophia what she wanted, but the material possessions weren’t what she treasured.
When they went on a trip to California, they went to Universal Studios and to Disney Land, but Sophia told her dad her favorite part of the trip was walking on the beach with him.
“I think she gave me more than I gave her,” Josh Myers said.
“Sophia was my heart. That’s what makes it so difficult. How can you move on without your heart?”
Angel Myers, who is a Jackson County Assistant District Attorney, said she didn’t know whether to be proud or concerned on a day when Sophia “cross-examined” her and made excellent points.
While they often got into arguments, their love for each other was fierce, and Angel loved Sophia’s independence and point of view more than anything.
While Angel adored Sophia’s wild, curly hair, Sophia preferred it straightened. Angel wanted Sophia to wear big bows, but Sophia preferred them “in the fish tank at Bass Pro Shop.”
“She was so perfect in all the wondrous ways God made her.”
On her last day on Earth, Josh Myers read Sophia “God Gave Us Heaven,” a book where a bear father describes heaven to his bear cub daughter.
He choked up as he read page after page, noting how hard Sophia’s last day was.
But Sophia, who went through radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries, never complained, Angel Myers said.
“She’s free. She’s free from all of the fleshly burdens that have plagued her the past eight months,” Angel Myers said.
Sophia’s first Christmas ornament that held pictures of Sophia taken each year. Her mother wrote love notes on the back of the photos. Her intention was to give Sophia love letters to read when she was older. She read them aloud in the eulogy instead.
In the last letter, Angel wrote that it was a tough year but their love for their “Baby Bug” was stronger than ever.
“I hope you know how much we love you...” she said.
Bradley said God was present with the congregation Thursday.
“I truly think that the good God is heartbroken and weeps with us on this day, for this earthly life for Sophia was far too short. But what a life it was.”