She sat in the witness chair in the courtroom, crying tiny tears at 66 years old, pushing gray hair from her face.
Brenda Langley, was admittedly nervous in front of all this officialdom, on time off from her job in housekeeping and laundry at a nursing home.
Then, with a strength immeasurable, she caused a courtroom to sit enraptured and silent. From Langley came the words as she looked at the three kids in the front row.
"I love 'em like I gave birth to them," Langley said of the kids. "I raised 'em right along with my own. I've done all I can for them.
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"If I did it all these years, I'll do it some more as long as I can - and I always will."
The kids are her grandchildren, the children of her murdered daughter, and Langley had raised them all of their lives before this Family Court hearing with lawyers and a judge with a robe and a court stenographer, and a bunch of bailiffs.
If her daughter lived with her, fine, but the kids stayed. If the daughter was not there, the kids stayed.
"All that mattered was the kids," Langley said, as every person in that room fought to keep from openly weeping.
The hearing was for one reason - to make official what Brenda Langley always did: Raise and love these kids.
Through murder and weather calamity, through nights not knowing if the kids would have a roof because bullets and storms and unseen bills from a funeral seemed to take all hope - Brenda Langley was there in a courtroom to legally adopt her grandkids.
Brenda Langley told the court a brutal truth: "We had one tough year."
She spoke of her grandchildren - Anthony McManus, 15; Timothy Ballard, 11; Elizabeth "Lizzie" Ballard, still 8 on Tuesday.
Langley looked at them and they looked back with eyes so warm and that cold courtroom of laws no longer was sterile and hard. The courtroom was where love, on this one day, presided.
Katherine Ann Ballard McManus, Langley's daughter, was murdered in Virginia on April 30.
It is not uncommon - in Rock Hill, in South Carolina, in America, even before murders - that the raising of children falls to a grandmother made of an iron backbone with hands hard from bleach and ammonia.
Grandmothers step in, when an America that has millions of fathers and some mothers who refuse to act like parents and help raise their children run off to act like children themselves.
That is not opinion. That is what the court found Tuesday in regard to the three kids up for adoption.
Langley had rearing and financial responsibility for these three kids, even when their mother was alive, almost from birth, testimony showed.
It is plain mathematics in an America where so many men are weaklings and refuse to accept responsibility other than to go out for a few drinks and allow the women to raise the children.
But the killing of Langley's daughter in a domestic squabble - a boyfriend faces a murder trial in Virginia next year - left Langley with a funeral to pay for in May, and those three kids that needed to eat still in her house.
Then just two days after the funeral, the springtime storms that caused such havoc in York County knocked a tree atop the Langley home, crushing the roof.
Through Langley's generous co-workers at White Oak Manor, and so many in the community who read about the family in The Herald, enough money came in to make it. A summer rental home was offered, free.
"Your honor, I sure had some nice people come forward," Langley told Family Court Judge David Guyton, about all who had helped her - and she shook a little bit from the memory of love from friends and strangers.
But Guyton and Dale Dove, the lawyer who helped Langley get to the courtroom Tuesday after months of tracking down parental records, made sure the court record reflected the years of love and hard work of Langley herself.
Love and devotion that Langley, a widow who has cleaned at the nursing home for the past six years, offered to these grandkids in front of her even before any official action would take place.
Long before any court told Brenda Langley to love these kids, she did it every minute of every day of their lives.
The court-appointed guardian ad litem, whose job is to investigate the family for the court, testified to the same love and hard work by Langley, too.
"Ms. Langley has proven herself through some of the very toughest times," said Guyton, a judge who is an adoptive parent himself. "Kids, you are special.
"I grant this adoption without hesitation. It is my honor to do so."
The Langley adoption was one of the last hearings on the very last day of 2011 hearings in Family Court.
It was a Family Court year filled with nasty divorces, bitter custody hearings, wayward juveniles accused of crimes big and small.
But Tuesday was different.
Tuesday was, aside from a couple of emergency custody hearings, the last day for adoptions so parents could qualify for the federal adoption tax credit.
Dove, who has helped hundreds of kids find parents through adoption, knows how important that tax distinction is to people such as Langley, who work in places such as a laundry or a kitchen.
On Tuesday, Dove finished four other adoptions. All of them - a child from Ukraine and other wonderful children and parents - miracles of hard work and persistence and love, certainly.
And on that list of wonders, the adoption of Brenda Langley's grandchildren after such a year of hard times.
The kids had a request for Judge Guyton, too. Anthony wanted his legal name changed to Anthony Langley McManus.
"The Langley is to honor my grandmother," said Anthony, who is in the 10th grade at Northwestern High School.
Timothy wanted his name changed to Timothy Ballard Langley.
"Because my grandmother's name is Langley," said the 11-year-old fifth-grader.
And Lizzie - with the smile that does not cease through so much that might cause a child, or an adult, to crumble; who turns 9 years old today - said she wanted her name to be Elizabeth Noelle Ballard Langley.
"Langley is my grandmother's name," said Lizzie, in the third grade. "I want it to be mine, too."
The judge said that was fine, and now was legal. And Brenda Langley asked if all could have new birth certificates, where she would be listed, legally on the birth certificate, as "mother."
"Absolutely," said the judge, who will sign the final paperwork before the end of the year.
Pictures were taken, and everybody smiled - even Brenda Langley, who sometimes in 2011 wasn't sure if she would ever smile again.
Then the family walked out of court, together, because Christmas is coming. This Christmas will be the first in six years that Langley has not worked in the laundry at the nursing home.
"These kids sure deserve a nice Christmas," said Langley, mother of four living children and one deceased, who officially became a mother of three more kids Tuesday.
Langley was asked what she wanted for Christmas. She squeezed those kids.
"I got my present," Langley said. "I had it all the time."