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14-Year-Old Remembered For Smiles And Courage | News

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14-Year-Old Remembered For Smiles And Courage
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LILBURN, Ga -- The mother of 14-year-old Daniela Joel hopes her daughter's life will stand tall as an example of hope and courage.

At her Lilburn home, Bernadine Joel proudly watches the home video of her teenager performing at the piano. It reveals a talent that led Daniela's instructor to call her a prodigy, a one in a million. Long before she revealed her musical prowess, Daniela Joel was a winner on the tennis court. Her first swing of the racket came when she was 2-years-old.

It was the biggest challenge of her life that revealed her greatest talent-- courage.

"This disease robbed her from everything, and she could always smile and find some joke to make me laugh," said Bernadine Joel.

Daniela was 12 when doctors discovered an inoperable brain tumor. Her ability to play the piano, to sing, to swing a tennis racket slipped away. Eventually she could no longer walk or talk, but her ability to smile and love remained until the end.

During the 22-months after her diagnosis, Daniela and her mom would sit side by side on the couch and text one another.

"You are my love. You are my heart," Daniela told her mother in her final text.

Whenever Bernadine Joel was down, her daughter would shake off the pain and give mom a lift.

"It was an honor for me to be her mom," said Bernadine Joel. "Instead of me teaching her, she was teaching me how life could go on."

The loss of her daughter only amplified the pain Bernadine Joel was already feeling. 5 years prior to Daniela's passing, Bernadine lost her husband to a heart attack. 9-year-old Daniela sang at his funeral.

"This amazing woman has been through more than any of us should ever have to endure," said family friend Nichole West.

Friends have planned a fundraiser for Saturday, October 2, to help Bernadine Joel raise her 11-year-old son. On that day, 50-percent of all food sales at The Oyster Barn at 411 Beaver Ruin Road in Lilburn will go to the Joel family.

On October 11, a second fundraiser will be held at WPI Sports and Fitness at 1075 Satellite Boulevard, Suite 100, in Suwanee.

Not long before she slipped away in her mother's arms, Daniela Joel wrote a note that is now framed and sitting on the family mantelpiece. It reads, "Don't be mad at God for what did happen. Thank God for what didn't happen."

For her mother, Daniela didn't leave her heart.

"Her body is gone," said Daniela's mother. "But her soul is with me. I feel her everywhere."

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