ELKHART — Beautiful, independent, brave and most of all strong — that’s how family and close friends remembered Sarah Crane at a funeral service this weekend.
The 15-year-old Elkhart Memorial student died Dec. 7 after battling stage four colon cancer for five months. The Crane family, along with about 500 friends and classmates, honored Sarah’s life and said goodbye one last time Saturday, Dec. 14, at California Road Missionary Church.
Fighting through tears, Sarah’s sisters Jenna and Allyson paid tribute to her by singing “Hallelujah” written by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Sarah’s older sister, Kylee, shared a few memories with the crowd — dancing together in the kitchen, painting each other’s nails and singing at the top of their lungs on the way to school.
“We’ve said it numerous times, but Sarah really had an infectious smile,” Kylee said. “She had the funniest giggle in the whole world. She would laugh and pretty soon, we would all be laughing.”
Sarah was diagnosed with cancer in early July, and her story quickly spread throughout Elkhart County and, eventually, across the country. Thousands of Sarahstrong T-shirts in her favorite color, purple, have been sold to help the Cranes pay for Sarah’s medical bills, and more than 10,700 followers have joined the #SARAHSTRONG Facebook group that was set up to keep people updated on the Sarah’s health and fundraisers.
Sarah’s father, Dean Crane, said his daughter was “strong, wiser and braver” than he had ever realized. During long nights in the hospital when Sarah was being treated for cancer, she had conversations with her father about how she wanted to repay the community for all the support she received throughout her battle.
“She looked at me without even thinking, and she goes, “Nobody ever talks about the family,’” Dean Crane recalled. “‘Nobody talks about the friends. Everybody comes and visits me, but nobody asks how you’re doing, and I’m going to do something for the families. I’m going to do something for the friends. There’s a lot of doctors, but nobody specializes in giving for everybody else.’”
Hearing his daughter’s words, Dean Crane said he was moved by Sarah’s ability to think of others as she fought for her own life.
“My petite, little Sarah Jo stood and faced death in the face,” he said. “She pushed back with all her might. She tried to shield her family and friends, and she did so for as long as possible.”
Dean Crane also described the family’s last evening with Sarah at their home.
“She looked at all of us, and in the way only she could, she smiled and she let us know it was OK, that it was all done, that it was time to go, and I was so thankful because I got to come full circle with my daughter. I was there when she was born. Out of my four daughters, I named Sarah, and I got to hold her when she left me.”