Her name was Treasure.
And on Monday, her family and loved ones gathered in front of her elegant coffin covered with pink and white flowers to show 8-year-old Treasure Brighon how truly precious she was to them.
Her aunt, Gwendolyn Taylor, recalled the time she once asked for a “cheeseburger pie.”
Her teacher at Gateway Longview Day School spoke of the girl’s transformation. “Once you broke through that wall, she would do anything for you,” Tawan Slaughter said.
A young cousin said he and others missed her “so so so so so so much.”
And her heartbroken mother, Tempest Thomas, shared what her daughter meant to her.
“She was the brightest, smartest, cutest thing I ever got,” she said. “She was a blessing to me and ‘Meech.’ ”
Meech was Demetrius Johnson Sr., who died in a house fire on Feb. 19 trying to save his family.
Johnson, who was Thomas’ fiancé and like a father to Treasure, carried Treasure to safety before heading back into the burning house to find his son, Demetrius Jr. Firefighters found DeMetrius unconscious on a couch and rushed him to an ambulance but by the time they located Johnson, it was too late to save him.
Treasure, who was burned over nearly 90 percent of her body, was initially taken to Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo but then was flown to a specialized pediatric burn unit at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati.
Treasure lived for 65 days. She was in critical condition throughout her time at the hospital. She seemed to be doing better in the last few days of her life but suddenly became ill. She died April 24.
At her funeral in True Bethel Baptist Church, family and politicians paid their respects. A community activist called for a wing of the new Children’s Hospital to be named after Treasure. Masten Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. read a proclamation from the city honoring the little girl.
The Rev. Darius Pridgen, in eulogizing Treasure, spoke of how she had become “everybody’s baby” in the weeks after the fire.
“God, thank you for Treasure,” he said. “Now, she is back to you and we thank you she didn’t have to be in pain or suffer anymore.”
A few days after Treasure’s death, her mother shared her grief in an email: “No one knows the pain of watching your child suffer and have no way of helping them, why you watch them but still have hope and prayer,” Thomas wrote Thursday. “As a mother, I’m going to cry every day because she was a little ‘me.’ Bright, smart, caring and her spirit would always be with me.”
Thomas wrote that she knows her “princess” wouldn’t want her to be sad. She imagined her saying to her: “Look, Mommy. I’m all me. I’m not hurting no more and I’m with Grandma and Meech. I love you. I’ll see you and my brothers again. Don’t cry.”