That last day that Michele was alive, when we were all saying goodbye, I sat at her bedside next to my cousin and looked at her. I saw so much pain written on her face, in her eyes, and understood for the first time what it really meant to feel your heart break. I knew that today was going to be the last day I would see her alive on this earth, and as I sat there, I was filled with this fear.

I knew more than anything that Michele would want us to stick together, and she would never want me to stop smiling and laughing. I really believe that a gift of mine was the ability to make her laugh and help her to be happy, even in the wake of all of the hardships she experienced. I know, without a shred of doubt in my body, that Michele loved me as one of her own daughters and that I was a special person to her. I know this because she told me all the time. Her love surrounded me always, along with her spirituality. She had the faith in God that I’m not sure I could’ve had if I had been in her situation. Then again, it probably was a great source of comfort for her.

So as I sat by her bedside, knowing that these would likely be my final moments with her, I was filled with this sense of fear that after she died I would be left with nothing but anger. I was scared that when she was gone I’d be this angry, bitter person and it would overtake me and blind me to the wonderful times and memories I had had with her. I didn’t want to be angry with God or with the world. I worried my propensity to turn towards pessimism would win.

The first couple of days, it was hard. The only time I could feel Michele was when I was at her house with my cousins and uncle, going through pictures and sharing memories with each other (luckily, I was able to do quite a bit of that that first week and it really helped a lot). However, as time went on, I’ve been thrilled to find that instead of the anger I was so sure would come, I’ve been experiencing a powerful sense of spirituality, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years.

I have my moments, of course, where I’m so sad and angry that I can’t talk to her or hear her call me “angel” anymore, and all I wish is that she was here. In those moments I try to remind myself, over and over again, that her suffering is over and, as my uncle says, “there’s no wheelchairs in heaven”. But most of the time I feel so strongly that she’s with me, and it helps me so much. Both of my cousins feel the same. I’m so grateful for that. I think it was Michele’s doing. She always wanted to watch over us, and she wants us to know that she’s still here. It might not be good enough, but it’s certainly better than I was afraid I’d get.


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