Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In Memory of Michelle Habra

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!

"The Look"!!

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

Michelle kept St. Faustina's Diary next to her bed, and it is filled with her penciled margin notes ("wow!" "beautiful" "Uh! Ok, Lord. me too."), starred paragraphs, and underlined passages. As I commemorate the first anniversary of her leaving this world for the next, I offer this quote from St. Faustina, which Michelle herself underlined with joy:

"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!


  1. Beautiful! May we all persevere as your sweet Michelle did.

  2. I am inspired by this lovely woman's faith and trust in the Lord. What an honor to read Michelle's story and with utmost gratitude, thank you for allowing her to continue to encourage others as we strive to walk with Christ.

    1. Thank you, Tracy! You are exactly right... she still encourages!

  3. Extremely moving, Leila. All I can say is, "I aspire to this." God bless you and all her loved ones who have lost her in this life, but have gained (I believe) a powerful intercessor!

  4. CFitzRN, I believe you have gained that. She has been extremely, well, active in the past year. ;) There are a whole lot of ladies who have really interesting stories when they turned to Michelle for help....

    I don't prematurely canonize anyone, and I pray for her soul, but she died two hours after Divine Mercy Sunday, after having gotten Last Rites and Communion, and she was not conscious after Divine Mercy Sunday. She would not have had the chance to sin. And we know the promises of the Church for that day. :)

    1. Whoops, I misread you! You didn't speak of you personally, so forgive me! But she surely is ready to work for all, I know that. ;)

  5. Do we ever truly recognize the miracles that surround us every day? I am so honored that I saw Michelle for the saint she is. I was blessed to have her example touch my life and my soul profoundly. Her bright smile is missed, but her presence is a guiding force.

  6. I am so grateful for our beautiful Communion of Saints! Thank you for sharing some of her story with us, her journal is beautiful and inspiring. I will offer my Rosary intentions for her and her beautiful family!

  7. This is the first time I have responded to one of your writings, Leila, after having followed you for about a year. Thank you for sharing your life with us through this blog.
    This story of your cousin touched something off in me as I read it this morning. I didn't want the story to end. I need to know more. At age 59, I am only beginning in what is to be my work for Jesus in my little corner of the world.
    I have been an active and practicing Catholic(cradle Catholic by grace of my birth)for decades now along with morning prayer and journaling as my saving grace, but I have always lacked the courage (and willingness) to live the faith that is in my soul ' in the marketplace' of my life. Many things hold me back. Fear of what others think is probably first and foremost the reason for me not letting my joy pour forth.
    Michelle's story, along with yours are truly so very inspiring to me. They are such concrete examples of faith lived 24/7, unashamedly and proudly!
    I read recently that Mother Angelica started EWTN in her late 50's! As I approach 60, I have to become the person that God has long-intended me to be. He's not asking for success in every venture, just my willingness to give my all for His Holy Name and for His Kingdom! Pray for me to allow for the grace of God to fill me and reveal the fullness of the gifts of my confirmation - to take hold and replace my weaknesses.(which the devil has exploited for far too long!).

    1. Marge, what a beautiful reflection!! You are set to do powerful things in Christ. :) I am excited for you to discover what is in store!! Thank you for this note. It means a lot to me and to Michelle's family. I also would love for you to email me at

  8. Oh Leila~ A life in Our Lord is radiant! He can be trusted! Thank you for sharing this. I needed it. May God bless you and yours.

    1. She has helped so many, and yes, He can be trusted... Thank you!

  9. Thank you for sharing an example of what a good death looks like. My sympathy to you and her family.

    1. Especially since the day you posted this was the day my country (Canada) came out with a bill regulating Doctor-assisted suicide.

    2. Oh, such a horrific practice! An insult to the suffering and the sick and the elderly and disabled. Lord, have mercy.

  10. How you must miss her! Prayers for all of you, especially her daughter's. I look forward to reading more of her story.


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