I asked my cousin Howie to give a Eulogy for Michele at her funeral. We were all very close, and I know that she would have wanted him to speak. His eulogy was beautiful and heartfelt and perfect for my sister.
I saw two pictures recently that captured the essence of Michele. The first one – a young Michele holding infant, Jill, on her lap. What leaped off the photo was pure joy and love. The joy that Jill brought to Michele’s life and the love that Michele had for her baby sister. I also think somehow that Michele was smiling so broadly because she knew there would be few times in life like this where Jill wouldn’t talk back to her.
The second picture was a few years later – Michele dressed up in a pant suit, purse in her left hand and the other hand holding hands with Jill. Literally and figuratively, they have always been holding each other’s hands. Their bond was so special and strong that nothing could ever break it.
These two pictures sum up Michele, a devoted daughter to Judy, adoring granddaughter to Nathan and Sara, a loving sister to Jill and a loyal cousin and friend to the people who were a part of her life.
Michele was vivacious, and had a sharp wit about her. Whenever I was about to travel, she must have marked it in her calendar to start calling me the week before and each conversation her first words were, “Packed yet?”. She knew I wasn’t but it was her little dig at me. After all, anytime she was set to go somewhere, the bag was probably packed and ready to go from the moment the trip was booked. It didn’t matter where, it didn’t matter when, she was ready to go.
Michele was genuine, straightforward and courageous. I valued her opinion because she never told me what I wanted to hear, she told me what I needed to hear. I drove her to Sunnybrook one day for an appointment with her diabetic doctor. I parked the car and before we got out Michele told me she had cancer. Everything stopped inside of me, she looked at me and said, “Howie…..my mother is a fighter and so am I. I promised her I would fight this and I’m going to keep my word.” Then she got out of the car, and marched into the hospital head held high. Her head was always held high. Each time Michele would have to change treatments, she would get on the phone with me and say, “I’ve had my pity party, now we move on”. And move on, she did. Always with Jill at her side and Judy looking over the two of them.
Once her treatments began, the first time I saw her wearing a wig, she pranced around the room showing it off like a crown. That brief action was a testament to how courageous she was and that she was going to fight on her own terms.
During the last nine months, when we had to be especially careful with contact, the majority of our communication was by phone. She always wanted to know where I was going, I would tell her and her response would be “again?” We only saw each other only on a handful of occasions. There are 2 that will always stay with me. While the weather was still nice, Sandy and I were able to sit on a patio in Yorkville and have dinner with the girls. It gave us a chance to walk together enjoy the weather and just be as though life had not changed. Sandy and I also were able to spend Rosh Hashanah dinner with Michele and Jill. It was a special evening and Michele was quite upbeat, teasing Jill about the accomplished cook that she was becoming.
In the last month, Michele couldn’t speak to me however on Monday I was able to speak with her twice. Even though she didn’t respond I know she heard me. I told her she was brave, courageous I told her I love her. I know that Michele, Judy, Zaidie and Bobbie will be looking down on Jill to keep her safe and Michele, I will keep my promise to you to make sure I look after her down here.