Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool, 49, was dancing at Pulse nightclub with her son Isaiah Henderson when shots rang out last Sunday.
Instead of running to safety, McCool threw herself on her son, shielding him from the gunman’s bullets, saving his life, but not her own.
On Monday, Isaiah paid a heartfelt tribute to his mother at her funeral at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando.
“I never thought that her life would be ended right in front of my eyes,” he said, before collapsing into the arms of his brothers. “My mother accepted everyone with open arms. She loved everybody equally no matter what.”
“I haven’t stopped crying since,” Henderson said.
Henderson said he and his mother used to wrestle and “play fight,” adding that his mother always won. “I obviously lost. She’s a linebacker!” he joked. His family roared with laughter.
Many of Marquez-McCool’s 11 children spoke. Michael Santos, her brother, was the only one of her siblings to offer words of remembrance, though he struggled at times to get through them.
“I have nothing to say to you because my heart is on fire. I have no words,” said Santos. He spoke fondly of his Puerto Rican heritage and said that Marquez-McCool was quite the dancer, the life of the party. He looked toward heaven and asked Marquez-McCool to “tell Jesus to step up the salsa game”.
Robert Pressley, Jr., another one of Marquez-McCool’s sons, joined his friends near the altar and sang a tribute to his mother, at times pulling the microphone away from his mouth and holding down his head as he struggled to finish the song through tears.
At the end of Marquez-McCool’s funeral, the family walked outside to the church rotunda and released 150 white balloons in her honor. They held each other as they retreated into a private room reserved for immediate family.
*Equality Florida, Florida’s largest organization dedicated to securing justice for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the victims and families of the horrific shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. Please donate if you are able. Click here for more information.