Community says final good-byes to teen taken by brain cancer - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Community says final good-byes to teen taken by brain cancer

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Kennedy Branham (Source: Facebook) Kennedy Branham (Source: Facebook)

After a 22-month struggle against brain cancer, Kennedy Branham has been laid to rest.

The Lexington high teenager gained widespread support and even a measure of fame in her courageous fight against the condition that took her life last Friday.

It was a bittersweet experience for many who drew inspiration from Kennedy's approach to her illness.  They say their faith and hers convinces them that she is now pain-free and happy.  But there was still some pain for those Kennedy left behind.

They packed into Lexington Baptist Church late Tuesday morning trying to find some comfort in the life lessons taught by a 14-year-old who the pastor said was mature beyond her years.

It was only a few weeks ago when she was on the sidelines at the Carolina-Clemson game. Still capable of hamming it up with supporters who included Nick Ciuffo, who had been star catcher with her beloved Lexington High Wildcats baseball team.

Kennedy's smile could easily mask the fact that she was waging a nearly two year battle with brain cancer. Four days ago cancer took that smile and left the thousands of people who'd gotten to know the Lexington freshman with heavy hearts.

Hundreds showed up Tuesday for a celebration of Kennedy's life.

Among them was Kennedy's friend, Suzanne Ciuffo, Nick's sister.

"He has gone through a loss with my grandpa when he was young and he had a connection with him and he felt the same connection that he had with Kennedy and will still always have," she said. "He plays for her every day.  Every time he picks up a baseball it's always for her."

Cameras were not allowed inside the church service. Reporters were allowed inside, and we heard a series of tributes to a young woman who had inspired so many.

Wildcats head coach Brian Hucks told the mourners Kennedy showed him, "Winning is about how we live each day and making a difference in the lives of those around us."

Most, if not all, of the Lexington Wildcats attended the service in uniform.

"She affected them in positive ways," said Ciuffo. "I know she affected me in many ways. I think before I do anything now.  I think, 'What if Kennedy was here, what would she want me to do?' It's definitely brought me closer to Jesus and God and it's touched my heart a lot."

As Kennedy's casket was removed from the church, the music being played was Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire. One of the lines in the song says "she's living in a world filled with catastrophe but she knows she can fly away."

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