Skylar Herbert, 5, mourned at funeral after giving 'a lifetime of love'

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Family members of Skylar Madison Herbert, the youngest known victim of COVID-19 in Michigan, gathered Thursday to say their final goodbyes to the 5-year-old.

Red ribbons, pink roses, a Minnie Mouse portrait and photos of a dressed up Skylar  filled the chapel in a send off fit for a princess.

Skylar's name stood in bright pink flowers beside her white casket surrounded by her immediate family members at James H. Cole Funeral Home in Detroit.

Thousands watched the service online as family members read notes of love and honored her memory.

Pastor Kevin W. Earley speaking at Skylar Herbert's funeral.

"You were the best thing that ever happened to me, Skylar," Skylar's mother, LaVondria Hebert, said in a note read at the service. "I remember looking in your eyes when you were born ... I had so many plans for us, baby girl. You always showed me love and loved me more than anything.

"Mommy will look to the sky when I’m down."

Watch the service livestream.

Skylar's battle with COVID-19 began a month ago when she first complained of a bad headache.

After Skylar was admitted into Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak on March 29, she developed meningoencephalitis, which caused her brain to swell, her parents said.  

Skylar Herbert

She was put on a ventilator April 4, where she remained until she died on April 19.

Skylar's mother said the family decided to remove her from the ventilator "because her improvement had stopped."

"The doctors told us that it was possible she was brain dead and we basically just knew she wasn’t coming back to us," she said.

Skylar would have turned 6 on June 3.

Last year, she served as valedictorian at her pre-K graduation and aspired to be a pediatric dentist "because she had a sweet tooth like her mother," family said.

Before the pandemic, she was a kindergarten student at University Prep Academy, where her personality shined.

"She had an infectious smile that would light up a room. She said I love you no matter what she was doing," family members said in a tribute.

Skylar loved dressing in her Disney princess dresses and putting on her mom’s heels. She had a very old soul, her family shared, because what child listens to Anita Baker and Anthony Hamilton to fall asleep?

She had a very competitive spirit like her father, Ebbie Herbert. She loved gymnastics, soccer, singing and swimming. Her two favorite places were Chuck E. Cheese and Target, where she could run around playing with toys and never begged to spend money, her family said.

“She had her own special connection with everyone and made you feel like you were the only one in the room," her father said. "Words can't describe how many memories I have. You were my princess."

Her teacher, Ida Simpson, spoke at the service sharing funny stories of Skylar insisting she had boyfriends in kindergarten and often shocking adults with her wit.

"She could do 100 addition and subtraction problems in five minutes without any incorrect," Simpson said tearfully. "She could multiply and divide fractions. She understood history and politics. She would have been our first black female president.

"She was kind and concerned about her fellow classmates. She wouldn't just master her own assignments, she would get out of her seat to help others understand them, too." 

Pastor Kevin Earley, who serves at the Metropolitan Church of God in Detroit, said the week before the first known cases of coronavirus were reported, he led a Sunday service announcing he was going to pastor in Atlanta. He grieved his decision and after the service, parishioners pulled on his heartstrings. 

"Skylar came up to me and my immediate thought was that I wouldn't get to see her grow up; who knew?"

"The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," he said. "I think 99.9% of us will agree that it's times like these in which we lose someone near and dear with us that we're crushed in spirit. There's no question in my mind that Skylar's life was a success.

"In just five years, Skylar gave a lifetime of love."

Detroit Police officers arrive during a public visitation for 5-year-old Skylar Herbert, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 29 at James H. Cole Funeral Home Northwest Chapel at 16100 Schaefer Highway in Detroit.

Many first responders paid their respects to Skylar during a public visitation Wednesday and to her parents, who are first responders in the city. Her father has served with the Detroit Fire Department for 18 years and her mother with the Detroit Police Department for 25 years. 

The Skylar Herbert Memorial Fund has been launched by the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, the city of Detroit, Detroit Police Department, Detroit Fire Department and relatives through Chemical Bank.

A rendition of "Goin' Up Yonder" played as her family, dressed in red, held one another as they exited the chapel.

Skylar will be laid to rest at Grand Lawn Cemetery on Grand River.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_