We first met Angel Brabham in November of 2009, when WJBF presented her with the Giving Your Best award for a mentoring program she established at Barnwell Elementary School. She was pregnant with her third baby at the time.
Little Zeta was born the following March, with unimaginable medical problems. She spent much of her 3 years on earth in the hospital, hooked up to machines, yet she always had a smile on her face.
You are about to meet a family you'll never forget... who learned powerful lessons about faith from a little girl who never spoke a word.
"Zeta could not walk, could not talk, could not crawl."
But according to her mom, Zeta most certainly could communicate! "She would yank the vent off, she would make something beep- cause she knew we would show up if the machines started beeping!"
Zeta was 6 months old before they heard her cry out, something that was music to the Brabhams' ears. "We'd never heard her cry out. She had real tears, we'd never seen real tears, and I mean it sounds kinda bad to say it, but we were like excited because she was doing this typical baby thing!"
Angel and Stevie Brabham knew about typical baby things; they already had two healthy little boys. Before Zeta was born, there were concerns: they knew there was a problem with her kidney, but Angel said they never anticipated that virtually all of her organs would have problems.
"Problems with her brain, some minor issues with her heart, and just breathing. I was like, 'you know I'm gonna have to quit work because she needs all the attention she can get to give her the life that she's supposed to have. The only thing I want is for my baby to know that I love her and for her to love me, and those two things definitely happened."
It was a big decision with two other kids at home, and that steady flow of steep medical bills since Zeta's birth. Stevie remembers it well.
"They start bringing in feeding pumps while we're in the hospital and they're giving you bills on top of that and you're like, 'Wow, how do expect us to do this?' But the Lord looks out for everybody. He feeds the birds and he'll feed us."
Friends and family were quick to organize fundraisers, beginning with the Team Zeta Golf Tournament. Angel was overwhelmed by the community support.
"We never had to ask anybody for anything, it's like everybody anticipated our needs. And that was pretty amazing."
But there are many who say Angel is pretty amazing. She started blogging after Zeta's birth. It became a way for her to share her feelings, frustrations... and her faith.
"I've had lots of people share very personal things with me. Some people I've never met."
These are some comments from readers:
"This is the first opportunity I have been given to witness the power of God through the life of a little child."
"You, Angel, have taught me what having FAITH is all about."
"God sent an angel to you... and through her, he sent a message to each one of us."
Her blog has reached more than 45,000 people. It's a place for strangers to find common ground.
"Like on Facebook or through email, but I think they're just like me when I write. You know, I want to feel validated in what I'm feeling and know that it's ok and that somebody cares, that's all that anybody wants."
This mother's heartfelt posts about her life's journey spread Zeta's story far beyond the 1200 prayer warriors known as Team Zeta.
"It was this little baby who came here helpless, just like we all do; but you know her struggle was harder than most babies', and for people to see the miracles that were worked in her life."
Jennie: "So what is the message that you want people to take away, to keep Zeta's memory, to keep her legacy, alive?"
"She met every challenge with a smile. And the message that I've learned from her is that God does exist. I hate that she was 3 and I wish that she could have stayed here and she could have been well, but she wasn't well. She came here for a reason and I think that she touched people's lives and I think that's what we need to keep sharing."
In the weeks before she died, butterflies started appearing- outside windows, on nurses' scrubs, even in a drawer, on a long forgotten baby gift, a stained glass sun catcher.
"And I pulled it out and then I realized it also has what we've come to call 'Zeta's verse,' which is Jeremiah 29:11 'I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper not for harm, plans for hope and a future.' You know to have the butterflies and that verse, right there on the same thing- that is not coincidence, that is not coincidence."
It was comforting, in a faith-filled way, knowing that love knows no bounds. And on May 7th, a love strong enough... to let go.
"You know, Lord, you can heal her. She's not healed here on earth but you can heal her in Heaven - and I know that's where she is and I know that she's healed."
Zeta never had a complete diagnosis, though she was a patient in children's hospitals across the country. Her sweet spirit gave hope to thousands, most of whom never met her.
The family wants to continue the fundraisers as the Team Zeta Memorial Golf Tournament & 5K, so they can help raise funds for other families with special needs children. Stevie says he and Angel feel an enormous need to give back to the community that supported them and loved them through this season of their lives.
We've posted the story that aired on the evening news May 23rd here, along with the entire interview with Angel Brabham.
Some of the lovely photos used in this story were taken by Fran Doggrell Photography and Rebecca Willis Photography.
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