This beautiful woman, my cousin and dear friend Michelle, left us a year ago today, in the wee hours of April 13, 2015. At a little after 2:00am, I received a phone call from her sister Nicole, her best friend, who told me simply, "She's gone..." For a year and a half, Michelle had courageously fought her battle with non-smokers lung cancer, and her struggle was finally over.
|Michelle, holding one of my babies, Alexander|
The last time I saw her was on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12, the afternoon before she died. She was at home in her bedroom, in and out of consciousness, and along with her parents and one of her daughters, I was blessed to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at her bedside. The day before, on Saturday, I had my last personal exchange with her, when I told her how much I loved her and she mouthed those words back to me, her eyes closed. I reminded her that she had a lot of work to do for those of us back here on earth, and she nodded. She knew.
Several times in the previous weeks she had told me and others that she was not afraid to die. She did not want to leave her girls without their mother, but she was not afraid to go to the Lord. She knew Him, His Blessed Mother, and the angels and saints very well, and she loved them with all her heart.
Michelle had received Last Rites from more than one priest during her final weekend. She had hundreds of friends and even strangers praying for her, and her personal friends and prayer warriors included the Sisters of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who knew her well from the two Catholic schools in which she taught over the years. She was incredibly beloved by her students, and both schools closed for the day of her funeral mass so that all could attend. It was standing room only in the church that rainy day (she loved the rain).
So many people loved this woman dearly and continue to ache for her today: Her parents, her two sisters and two brothers and their spouses, many adoring nieces and nephews, lots of extended family, and, of course, her three beautiful teenaged daughters.
For a year now, I have wanted to write about Michelle. I have started to type out her story, then stopped. The time is not right, not yet. When the time comes, you will learn more about this holy woman of faith. What Father Dale Craig said repeatedly during her funeral homily was exactly correct: "Her life and her faith were not separate" -- and the story of that faith is incredible. Because of her abandonment to God's will many years before she became ill, the Lord transformed her and brought her close to His Sacred Heart, the manifestations of which are plentiful and astounding -- and which prepared her for her final trial.
For now, though, I will leave you with just a small glimpse of her spiritual life, with a look into her bedside prayer journal that was found after she died. These few images are not all that were there, but again, the rest is a story for another time.
A meditation on Mary, the Woman she loved so very much. It's almost as if she were describing someone right there in her presence:
|I love the repetition of "gentle"...|
She understood her suffering as a share in Jesus' own suffering:
Michelle offered her suffering by praying every day for a list of friends and family, and for those whom she didn't even know. She also included the following souls at the end of her prayers:
As she got weaker, she did a lot of "waiting". She had a deep devotion to St. Joseph and identified with him:
God was always Michelle's home:
She trusted God with all her heart, as He is the Master Gardener Who never let her down:
Some photos of our beautiful Michelle...
She is the beauty in red as all the female cousins on my dad's side posed at my daughter's wedding on September 28, 2013:
|This was the last day she felt good. No one had any idea what was to come.|
|Always fun and full of joy!|
|She was never far from the Cross, and the Cross was never far from her.|
|Her casket was lovingly handcrafted by monks.|
|Michelle Jean Habra|
April 26, 1970 - April 13, 2015
"What is it going to be like in Heaven,
if already here in exile, God so fills my soul."
I miss you and love you so much, Michelle. May your sweet soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
|I can't wait to see you again |
in the place we always talked about and dreamed of....
You've run the race; pray for me as I'm still running!