On July 4, Casey and Ben Daggett, of Fairport, New York, took an emotional photo of their 5-year-old daughter Zoey fast asleep in their laps. They didn’t know then that it would be last photo they’d ever take of their little girl.
“We were noticing that her fingers were turning bluer and she was getting more pale,” Casey tells PEOPLE of her daughter. “We had the nurses come and visit in the morning and we were just sitting with her. They knew that she was getting closer [to death]. So we sat with her and held on to her. We all just sat with her and waited.”
The Daggetts have shared updates on Zoey’s health via their “Zoey’s Fight” Facebook page. Casey says she was committed to sharing “the good photos and the bad photos,” and that she wanted to share the “peaceful photo” to “give others hope.”
On July 12, 2016, doctors found a brain tumor and diagnosed Zoey with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DPIG). After years of treatment, and many ups and downs, her health began to decline rapidly in March. By the end of June, Casey says she and Ben knew their daughter wouldn’t live much longer.
“Her tumor started to grow again so we tried another round of radiation. She just never recovered and she just kept getting worse and worse,” Casey says. “Last Monday, she woke up and she couldn’t drink from a straw anymore and she couldn’t talk and each day after that it kept getting a little worse. She couldn’t walk anymore, she couldn’t move anymore and she started to sleep all the time. Within a week, it just went downhill very fast.”
The day before Zoey’s death, she didn’t sleep through the night, Casey says. The doting mother says something was “different” about her daughter on the 4th of July, and she and Ben “just knew” it would be her final day.
“I was extremely sad. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. It was just heartbreaking,” she says. “Everything just fell to the pit of my stomach and I just sobbed and cried. I didn’t want to let her go. It was a horrible day.”
Around 11:30 a.m. nurses snapped the photo of the Daggett’s holding their little girl.
“We were both talking to her and crying,” Casey recalls of the moment. “I was saying, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay to let go. You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna see people that you love. Just let go.’ I was trying to talk her into letting go because I knew her body had already gone through so much. It was so sad.”
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Zoey died at 4:17 p.m. The Daggetts have shared updates on Zoey’s health via their “Zoey’s Fight” Facebook page. They broke the tragic news on the account, writing that their daughter was “finally allowed peace.”
“We knew this journey was coming to an end, so I felt at peace with that. But I was just extremely sad and gut-wrenched,” she tells PEOPLE of the death. “It was devastating.”
The grieving parents have been on “auto-pilot” in the day’s since Zoey’s passing, Casey says. The family held a funeral for the girl on Monday and Casey tells PEOPLE she’ll always have the memories of her daughter’s final day.
“I’m gonna miss her snuggles. [She] just had to be with me all the time and I miss that,” she says. “I loved her laugh and the way she always wanted to talk to people and say “hello” to people. She was so outgoing and would run up to people and give them big hugs. It was who she was in spirit. She was a giant ball of happiness.”
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