Palmyra teen has one last dance

Posted on September 13, 2010. Filed under: Humanitarian Issues | Tags: |

By CINDY LANGE-KUBICK / Lincoln Journal Star

     buy this photo Brett Marie Christian, 15, and her date, Treyton Carter, at her homecoming dance on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010, at the Monarch in Lincoln. (Courtesy photo)

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    • Brett Marie Christian
    • Brett Marie Christian

    Palmyra High’s homecoming came early this year. The dance traveled to the Monarch in Lincoln, where people go to die.

    And where Brett Marie Christian, 15, crowned homecoming queen Saturday night, died, too, early Thursday with her family all around.

    The girl who loved horses and softball and Facebook and cartoons and peanut butter on a spoon had leukemia. The kind that hits mostly adults and is the most dangerous, with only a 30 percent survival rate.

    She was tired of fighting, her mom, Leah Buckbee, said Thursday.

    There were lots of things the high school sophomore knew she’d miss. Getting married, having kids, growing old.

    But she wanted one last dance.

    That’s what her mom calls the magic that happened at the Monarch: Brett’s Last Dance.

    Her daughter wore a pink dress and her hair in curls.

    She had a manicure and then a pedicure. Her date bought her a corsage and a necklace, too.

    Brett and Treyton Carter danced the first dance in the commons room, with 50 or more of their classmates who were dressed for a party.

    Treyton grew up with Brett, all the way through school.

    He went to see her every night at the Monarch. They watched TV, talked, cuddled. They kissed their first kiss.

    Treyton’s mom and dad were there with him one night when Brett was talking about homecoming, how much she wanted to go. She had her dress already, a bargain she’d found at the mall.

    She showed Treyton’s mom the dress.

    Debbie Carter loved a bargain. How much did you pay for it, little girl, she asked.

    Only $15, Brett told her.

    But Debbie, I’m not going to be able to wear this…

    Homecoming was still three weeks away.

    Debbie’s eyes filled up.

    By God, she thought, if she’s not going to homecoming, I’ll bring homecoming to her.

    She talked to Brett’s mom. And later that night Debbie and her husband, Terry, drove to Bennet, and friends helped them design fliers.

    Help us make a young girl’s dream come true. Let’s celebrate for Brett Christian. …

    Treyton took the fliers to school the next day.

    That Friday night at the football game, they told Brett’s story over the loudspeaker. Fans from both sides filled buckets with money.

    Debbie and Terry enlisted more friends and hauled in donations for pop and pizza and party goods.

    Nurses from Horisun Hospice, who’d cared for Brett at her home in Palmyra, found professionals to style her hair and do her nails.

    The big day came. The dance started early, 4 in the afternoon, and was set to end at 7.

    Late nights wore Brett out. Her pain was getting worse. Bruises were forming all over her body because her blood wouldn’t clot. She could still walk, but a wheelchair was nearby if she got weak.

    Everyone was quiet after that first dance. Not sure quite what to do.

    Then they just started rocking and rolling, Debbie said.

    They danced and ate and they all went outside and passed around a football and hummed the Nebraska fight song. Her hospice nurses cheered her on.

    And last year’s homecoming queen came.

    And announced this year’s queen. Brett Marie Christian.

    There was a sash and a tiara and lots of tears.

    Brett put her hands to her face, just like Miss America, her mom said.

    The dance lasted until 8:30. And she was so happy.

    “There were days she got really sad,” her mom said, “because of all the things she wasn’t going to be able to do.”

    But she didn’t allow the disappointment to stop her.

    A few hours before she died, Brett woke up. She felt strange.

    What’s happening, she asked.

    The process has started, her mom told her.

    Brett told her mom she loved her then. And her mom told her she loved her back, and her brothers and dad and relatives gathered close.

    It was hard, but it was a blessing at the same time, her mom said.

    “After four years of battling it’s nice to know she’s not suffering anymore.”

    And they have the memory of homecoming fresh.

    They have Brett’s last dance.

    Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or

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