Brandy Marie Gibson remembered at funeral service
Just a few hundred yards from the spot where her life ended, speakers eulogized Brandy Marie Gibson Sunday as a "ray of light" who loved her friends and family unconditionally and who refused to let life's disappointments suppress her spirit.
Teenagers and 20-somethings far outnumbered adults at the service, held within sight of the intersection of the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and County Road. It was at that intersection on Jan. 29 that a violent collision left Ms. Gibson dead, and two others seriously injured.
Entering the funeral home, the mourners filed past Ms. Gibson's extended family, some sobbing, some quietly absorbed in grief. Others simply shook their heads at the many questions and few answers raised by the tragedy.
Purple bandanas adorned black jackets and black dresses. Many wore pins with pictures of the 20-year-old woman in happy times, clowning, smiling, or posing for graduation pictures. Others wore pins bearing words Ms. Gibson wrote; still others wore simple expressions of sympathy.
They walked past a poster-sized display of family photographs, picturing Ms. Gibson posing in figure skating costumes, looking over her fifth birthday cake with sunglasses perched on her dark hair, in her prom dress, cavorting with her cousin and sister, showing off the diploma from her eighth-grade graduation, and dozens of other happy and touching scenes.
In her opening prayer, pastor Marcia Buckley said Ms. Gibson "was to us a beautiful, beautiful light," a theme that was echoed by many who spoke at the service.
Her stepfather, Michael Bettencourt of Oak Bluffs was the man she called dad. He fought tears as he spoke. "Today is a hard day for us," he said. "The world is a little bit different now. We'll always remember her smile, her infectious laugh, and her outlook on the world. All of us are better people because of her.
"When you feel the sunshine, that's Brandy's kisses. Her warmth was infectious. Even when she got angry with her eyebrows pointing up. She'll always be a ray of light to all of us, she'll always be our little angel."
Her aunt, Stephanie Berryman-DePaula, told about asking Ms. Gibson to borrow sheets for a twin bed to make a sick girl comfortable. Ms. Gibson appeared with the sheets in a moment. It was only the next day, when passing her room, that Ms. Berryman-DePaula realized that Ms. Gibson had taken the sheets off her own bed.
"Brandy gave like that her whole life," said Ms. Berryman-DePaula.
Mary Vivian, a school nurse who took Ms. Gibson into her home after the death of her grandmother, noted the outpouring of support by her friends, which she called the "underground of empathy."
Ms. Vivian read a touching letter to Brandy, noting the many challenges she faced. "You didn't give up," she said. "You could have."
Pastor Buckley closed the service with a reading from Ms. Gibson's writings, which reflected the strength, independence, and determination that her many friends say marked her short life.
"I am a strong person," wrote Ms. Gibson. "I have the ability to apologize when I am wrong, I have the courage to tell you when you are wrong, I have the heart to believe in love, I have the trust to keep friends close, I have the motivation to do what I want, and I have the strength to keep on going."
Following the service at Chapman, Cole & Gleason funeral home, many mourners gathered at a reception at the Assembly of God church on State Road. Ms. Gibson's family said hundreds of individuals and many Island businesses donated goods and services for the reception and to help the family prepare for the funeral service.
A memorial fund to establish a scholarship in Ms. Gibson's honor will be created by the family.