It's been three months since Michelle passed away. Since then she has been with me to two foreign countries and cheered me on as I did my first triathlon. I know that Michelle was also with me that sick, lonely day about one month ago when I was sobbing my eyes out for her.
I miss Michelle so much-- I just wish I could call her and hear that warm, encouraging voice again. I guess I feel like I can still call her, I just don't need to use the phone anymore. I can hear exactly what she would say to me when I gave her the good or bad news of the day. "Good job!" or "You can do it!" and sometimes, "Well, they're just jealous-- you're the best!"
I wrote the below passage right after Michelle passed away. Lynn and Stan, thank you for honoring me by asking me to speak at Michelle's funeral. I can never tell you how much it meant to me.
We gave a sisterness about us.
We have a sisterness about us.
We understand each other.
You know my stories, my secrets.
I know yours.
I call you my friend…
but deep in my heart,
I call you my sister.
These are the words of Maya Angelou. Michelle sent them to me in a card during my 6-month deployment to the Middle East.
I had moved away from Minnesota after graduation, but this time, living on a ship, there were no phone calls. Consequently, Michelle and I did a lot of writing. She always was so worried for my safety during that time. My command, the Eleventh Marine Expeditionary Unit, had a website, which I think she found before I could ever give it to her—Michelle was so quick on the Internet! She later wrote me in a letter, “So when are they going to post some pictures of you on that 11th MEU Website?! It’s been all boys so far, but I check every day.”
We dreamed that one day we’d live next door on Lake Calhoun and push strollers side-by-side on a sunny afternoon. I made a request to her in one of my letters that she vow that during our seventies we’d wear eccentric hats, find a park bench, and feed the geese together. She replied in a in a subsequent letter to say that, “We will, indeed, dress up and watch people together when we’re old and grey. We can take our grandkids on fun outings together and go shopping and have brunch, and spend our millions! ;)”
Michel le was never afraid to dream about the future, but she was always practical in her actions during the present.
Why we loved Michelle:
-Her curly locks of chestnut hair
-Her warm eyes
-She knows the difference between “Times New Roman” and “Garamond” fonts—AND that she actually has an opinion. She had sent me a copy of her resume, which was in Garamond font. I thought, “Who uses that?” Well, Michelle did.
-Her music and the way we could make music together.
-The way she danced—she had the perfect facial expressions which drew you right in to focus on her.
- The way Michelle would never sign her cards with just a name—there was always a smiley face to go along.
-How there was never enough purple and never too many elephants
-The fact that she and Sean had some of the cutest Halloween costumes you could ever think of. While I was away, she sent me pictures of her as a crocodile and Sean as the crocodile hunter. Sean—thank you for loving her the way you do.
-How she looked like Jaqline Onassis. Michelle could have easily been carved out of marble or painted on canvass for display at the Louvre.
-The way she was the best maid of honor one could ever have. I was so excited for my turn to chase after her train and make sure everything was perfect.
-The way she turned everything she touched into a little patch of heaven.
-Her integrity and moral character.
-The way she was never afraid to love.
My favorite memories of Michelle were those afternoons we spent together at the piano. I’d bring my Italian Arias book and she’d play—beautifully. I’d sing. I always thought that one day, we’d make music together—maybe folk songs—at a coffee shop down town.
In a later card she wrote, “You don’t have to be here for me to be there for you.”
I think about that a lot now.
The day I found out Michelle had passed away, I expected the Hawaiian skies to turn dark grey and to pour down in torrential rain. Instead, when I went outside, the sun smiled brightly upon me while light sprinkles of rain surrounded me, like little kisses. There is no better way to describe that rain than to call it Michelle rain—so graceful—so beautiful—so full of hope and love. That is my Michelle.
I've felt over these past few days, that Michelle has been looking out over all of us. I’ve wondered, what Michelle would say to us if she could. I think she would take each one of us individually so that she could make us feel her entire attention and tell us how beautiful and capable we are. She would tell us she loved us and to go out and make her proud.
Michelle, I will make you proud.