Dozens of family members, friends and other mourners filed into an Oakland church Tuesday for the funeral of a teenage girl at the center of a medical and religious debate over brain death.
The congregation gave Jahi McMath's mother a standing ovation at the start of the service for fighting to keep her daughter on life support.
"This is a celebration of a miracle," Bishop Bob Jackson said at Oakland's All Acts Full Gospel Church. "And it started with her mother not accepting the doctors' conclusions."
A California coroner issued a death certificate more than four years ago for then-13-year-old Jahi after doctors say she died of irreversible brain damage during surgery to remove her tonsils in December 2013.
Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, refused to accept the California doctors' conclusion and took her daughter to New Jersey, a state that accommodates religions that don't recognize brain death.
"There were these doctors that looked at her, and said to her 'what part of dead don’t you understand? She is mentally, physically, spiritually dead,'" said family attorney Chris Dolan.
The girl was kept on life support equipment and received nursing care until New Jersey doctors declared her dead last week, saying the now-17-year-old died of excessive bleeding after an abdominal operation.
"I said, 'but I just want you to know, don’t stay for me, if you ready to go, you can go,'" said mother Nailah Winkfield. "My daughter should not have died in New Jersey. If she was gonna pass, she should have passed right here in the state of California."
Jahi will be buried in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Hayward.
"Even though I was focused on Jahi, and Jahi is gone now, I will not stop fighting," said Winkfield.
The family is suing the state of California and Alameda County to overturn the 2013 brain death diagnosis, as well as continue a medical malpractice lawsuit.