As news of Carmen’s passing reached the close-knit community of Knightsen last week, where Carmen attended school, the reaction was one of shock and sorrow. Flags were lowered to half-mast and teachers struggled to comfort students and staff.
“Carmen was always smiling and had a sense of joy about her regardless of how ill she was,” said a distraught Knightsen Elementary Superintendent Vickey Rinehart. “This has just been so hard on everyone. It’s beyond belief … that someone who was so tiny could have so much strength. You just don’t know what to say; how do you say, ‘I’m sorry’ with something like that?”
For the past two years, the school and the community-at-large has rallied behind Brentwood’s Gailbrath family, hosting fundraising events and monthly pancake breakfasts in support of the sweet-faced girl with the quick smile and infectious laugh.
Carmen’s parents, Reed and Dorothy, remember their daughter as a “girly girl” who always tried to do the right thing. “She would get very upset if she was corrected or told she did something wrong,” said Dorothy. “Her faith and desire to do what’s right were very important to her.”
Family friend and Old River Elementary School Principal Ray Witte said he will always think of Carmen as a happy little girl who loved to read and displayed a surprising amount of confidence, despite her illness. “Carmen loved to learn. Even when she was going through her treatments, when she was at home, she would want to do her homework,” said Witte. “She was a very, very brave little girl who didn’t seem, at least to me, self-conscious about the loss of her hair or her illness. She just didn’t seem fazed.”
The Galbraiths remain grateful to the Knightsen community, which has supported the family with food, visits and prayers. “Knightsen has been way above and beyond anything imaginable in terms of support,” said Reed. “We are so thankful for their kindness and love.”
And as Carmen’s parents – plus brothers Scott, James, Vincent and Timothy – continue to struggle with their loss, they remain steadfast in their beliefs. “It makes it easier to know that we’ll see her again,” said Dorothy. “And it helped Carmen to know that, too. She didn’t want to go; she fought it to the end, but she was peaceful and knew we would all be together again.”
A bank account has been created in Carmen’s name. The Galbraiths will contribute all donations to the Koret Family House, a free facility for families with loved ones at UCSF. The account number is 173294018. Checks may be mailed to Carmen’s account to Bank of the West, 4540 Balfour Road, Brentwood, CA, 94513, or the Galbraith residence, 242 Creektrail Court, Brentwood.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, at 2350 Jeffery Way in Brentwood. All are welcome.