Little Zoe Anyan, the 7-year-old Milford girl who succumbed to cancer, was remembered Saturday as an angel who loved life -- and lived love.
"My little angel, you brought out the good in people and brought a community together," Melissa (Castango) Anyan, said through tears at a Mass of Christian burial for her daughter, Zoe Anyan at St. Gabriel Church.
Zoe, a second-grader at Live Oaks Elementary School, was diagnosed with a brain tumor less than a year ago. Despite a valiant fight, she succumbed to the illness Wednesday.
"We all miss you so," her mother said. "Enjoy your purple angel wings. God, let her heart shine through and soar forever."
The Rev. Maurice Maroney, who officiated over the Mass, reminisced about days Zoe sat in the pews.
"I will miss those big eyes looking up at me," he said.
"She was everything she should be: perky, enthusiastic, loving," the pastor added.
"(She) loved fishing, collecting shells at the beach, ladybugs, hockey, bowling, Chuck E. Cheese and rainbows."
"I hope they have all these things in heaven, such as ladybugs and mac and cheese," he added.
Then, the priest spoke of a priceless gift little Zoe managed to give back to those around her.
"Zoe humbled all of us and, as the scripture says, so often children will lead us to the father."
Zoe's aunt, Angela Harris, said her niece always thought of others.
"Even during her illness, she reached out to other sick children at St. Jude's (Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.) by making them Build-A-Bears," the aunt said
Before the Mass, the mood was somber at Dennis & D'Arcy Funeral Home in Stratford. Loved ones knelt before Zoe, who lay in a small white casket, to say good-bye. They left tokens of remembrance and cherished items to be buried alongside her.
Among them were toys, cake mix (Zoe loved to bake) and a treasured stuffed animal.
Then, the mourners filed past more than 100 pictures of Zoe -- from birth to death -- showcasing memories of a beautiful, smiling girl before proceeding to the church.
After the Mass, the family invited all to their home for a celebration of Zoe's life.
Four tables of food were donated by Cracker Barrel and numerous family and friends. Through food, laughter and tears, every person, young and old, rejoiced at Zoe's memory.
Zoe's best friend and classmate at Live Oaks Elementary School, Haley Ruane, was sad as she recalled the good times.
"Zoe liked to come over and watch movies, make crafts, bake, and snuggle under the blankets. She always loved hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup, and would even wrote notes to her mom and dad (when speech became difficult) to bake brownies," she said.
Zoe's second-grade teacher, Nicole Campanaro, said, "Zoe was our sunshine in Room 20. She had an amazing passion for school and life and had an outlook most won't see or understand."
Finally, Zoe's principal, Rosemarie Lacobelle, held back tears as she described Zoe as a dedicated student to the end.
"Besides when she was away from treatment, Zoe attended school every single day. She enjoyed coming to school and was an inspiration to us all that I will never forget. I truly loved her."
The Anyan family expresses much gratitude to all those who have helped them throughout this difficult time. There are far too many to mention.