Destinee Alicia Parker died of swine flu at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Tuesday, and the next day, the 14-year-old's father went back to the hospital.
James Parker wasn't there to tie up loose ends, and he wasn't there to identify his daughter's body, mourners at the girl's funeral learned Saturday.
"Mr. Parker went to the hospital [Wednesday] and then he went to the hospital on Thursday because there were more sick babies in the hospital, and until they all get better, the fight is not over," said Camille Bell, principal of Montebello Elementary/Middle School.
More than 400 relatives, classmates and friends of the eighth-grader, as well as some city and school officials, packed Greater Bethlehem Temple in Randallstown for a "home-going celebration" marked by rousing oratory and audible sobs.
Destinee was the first Maryland youth with no apparent underlying medical condition to succumb to the H1N1 virus. Her death drew particular attention because of the absence of other health problems and because of the swiftness with which the virus seemed to strike.
Destinee's father thought she was healthy, if a little lethargic, when he drove her to school on Monday, Sept. 21. By the time the girl climbed two long flights of steps into the school, she was wheezing so badly that the principal called James Parker, then the school nurse, and finally an ambulance. Destinee died eight days later.
Mourners were urged to get their children vaccinated but also to accept that God has a plan for them.
"Her name was prophetic in itself," said the Rev. James Nelson Jr., who served as officiant at the church where his brother, the Rev. Jason Nelson, is pastor and several Montebello teachers are members. "God already has our days numbered."
Mary Minter, the city school system's chief academic officer, read a letter of condolence from schools chief Andr?s Alonso, who could not attend because of illness. School board members Jim Campbell and Maxine Wood attended, as did City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
Bell, the principal, said she looked at Destinee in her baby-blue casket, which was open before the funeral service began, and asked, "What are you doing in that pretty blue box? You're supposed to be in the computer lab taking your benchmarks."
She described a girl who came to the school as a sixth-grader and "immediately brightened up every hallway in the school because she had the most infectious smile ever."
"She laughed and she danced and she sang - ugly Lil Wayne," Bell said, taking issue with Destinee's favorite rapper.
" 'But Miss Bell, you loved LL Cool J,' " Bell said, recalling Destinee's comeback. "So I let her have hers, and she let me have mine.
"Montebello will forever remember Destinee Parker, and I'm not just saying that. I'm going to prove it to you," Bell said.
The principal went on to describe plans to celebrate an annual "Destinee Parker Day" at the school. Unlike the moment of silence observed on days like Sept. 11, Destinee's day will be "a day of noise," she said.
A muralist has offered to paint something in the school to memorialize her, Bell said. The school intends to establish an annual art scholarship in honor of the girl who'd begun assembling a portfolio of sketches, hoping to win admission to Baltimore School for the Arts for high school. And a separate annual award will be given to the Montebello eighth-grader who best exemplifies "what Destinee stood for," Bell said.
Bell said she has been asking God "why he decided to come tapping on my door, messing with my children." She said she has found inspiration from Destinee's father, who told her, "God don't make mistakes, Miss Bell."