I remember the day as if it were yesterday. Nearly five years ago, my wife, Michelle, went in for a colonoscopy, only to learn that our lives would be changed forever. She never complained. She never blamed. She never cocooned or self pitied, even though many would understand if she had. Ever since that day, we committed ourselves to living with cancer as if it were a chronic disease and not a life ending one. Fortunately for me, Sienna, Phoenix, Marshmallow, our family and friends, Michelle lived an eventful and memorable life for five years, managing her cancer in unexpected ways and by unexplained means, all the while celebrating the coming of age of our children, and enjoying life’s many offered experiences that otherwise may have gone unnoticed and unrealized.
She lived as she only could, and her inspired example touched many, as she publicly and privately defined her life’s dash, as she wanted, impacting the lives of those around her in her unassuming and immeasurable way.
Over the past several weeks since her passing on Sunday November 18, 2018, our family has been lifted and carried by the generous, compassionate and altruistic love of our community. We can not thank you enough for your overwhelming and comforting words of encouragement and support during our most difficult time. We are humbled by all of your kind words and acts of kindness and friendship. Through your outpouring of love and affection for Michelle, our personal mourning and grief is dulled by our shared memoires, stories and acts of remembrance, that will remain in our hearts and our minds forever.
Our family extends our thanks to Windsor Chapel Funeral Homes, the Janisse Family, Philip Janisse, Scott Lockwood and the entire team at Windsor Chapel, for your exceptional care, compassion, support and guidance during our time of need. Your experience, efforts and compassion allowed our family to focus on what mattered the most while you and your team provided for a memorable celebration of life.
We also wish to recognise Chris Kavanaugh at Heavenly Rest Family of Catholic Cemeteries for his quick response and the exemplary care he took to provide the most fitting and respectable place of rest for Michelle.
We are grateful to Heritage Park Alliance Church for opening up their home to our family and friends for the public viewing, graciously accommodated by their Pastors, administration, and staff.
Michelle grew up in South Windsor on Massey Court, and attended Christ the King Grade School and Holy Names High School. Throughout her childhood and as a young adult, she was continually guided by her teachers and by the spiritual support of the Christ the King and Corpus Christi Parish. We are eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate her life at Corpus Christi and thank Fr. Roach, Fr. Cartier, Fr. Durham, and Monseigneur Zouein, for presiding and the accompaniment by the wonderful sounds of the Corpus Christi choir and long-time family friend Denise Amores.
As Mayor of Windsor and in her capacity as First Lady, Michelle and I had many occasions to experience the majestic, rich and proud traditions of the committed and dedicated members of the Windsor Police Pipe Band. For over fifty years they have been local and international in their pipe banding, and we have forever memorialized their Amazing Grace. A heartfelt thank you to the band leadership team and all the members who gave selflessly of their time to celebrate Michelle.
We also thank Police Chief Al Frederick and his leadership team; the Windsor Police Services Board; the men and women of the WPD, sworn and civilian; and the WPA for their dedicated service to our community and for those who were with us on the day of the funeral. Your professionalism and support were admired and appreciated.
Michelle found great comfort in watching our children, Sienna and Phoenix grow into their own, exuding a pride and confidence reflective of her strength and personality. Often their mother’s undeniable love of life is obvious when Sienna and Phoenix dance. Both of our children and our niece Paige are fortunate to be part of Edmunds Towers School of Dance in Windsor, where dance commitments, practices and weekends have forged unpenetrable bonds of friendship and family; each of us supporting each other no matter the time, no matter the circumstance. Our memories of Michelle’s celebration of life are forever enriched by the presence of our dance family and all of the young dancers who were there to support Sienna and Phoenix during their most unfamiliar and trying time, paying tribute to “Dance Mom” Michelle and keeping her fun and high-spirited dance weekend antics alive in all of us. Thank you to all of our young dancers for your tribute and honour guard.
Growing up, Michelle attended St. Hubert’s school for a period of time, and by life’s coincidence, today our children attend the same school but under a different name. Special thanks to Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence, M. Picard; M. Pype, Mme. Savary, Mme. Bassile, Mme Diemer, and all of the teachers and staff at École Monseigneur-Jean-Nöel for always being there for Sienna, Phoenix and our families. Your dedication, commitment and compassion for our children and all children, and their education is unparalleled; and we are eternally grateful to all of you for your continued support and care. Our hearts were filled with great emotion when the funeral processed by the school and we witnessed the school children and staff standing at attention with messages of love and support in a selfless and much appreciated tribute to Michelle, Sienna, Phoenix and our families.
Finally, in her final days we were blessed to have great care provided to us by many doctors, nurses and organizations and we thank all of them for their professionalism and for the dignity they offered Michelle and our family. Our appreciation is extended to CCAC; Bayshore; Bayshore Private; Paramed; Rexall Amherstburg; T2B and Hospice; Melissa Doyle; and our entire WFCU Credit Union family.
Michael Bennett thank you for introducing us to the wonderful Monique Hebert of Hospice. Monique, you have been our compass for the past several weeks and my children and I would be drifting without your continued support and direction.
Michelle’s warm and genuine smile expressed positive purpose while her heart and mind revealed a unique and remarkable individual always compassionate and considerate of her true and genuine love of helping others. Her unyielding determination to make a difference in the lives of others made a difference. Her relentless and persistent desire to make things better, made things better. Her calming reassurance, always reassured.
On behalf of my family, I extend a thank you to our entire community, and to our friends for all of your thoughts, prayers and acts of kindness. Every spoken word, written memory, heartfelt moment, or quiet tear, has been real and profound, and I cannot begin to thank you enough for reminding us of how she impacted so many, and for keeping her memory alive in the eyes, minds and hearts of our children, and those of us that love and miss her dearly.
On behalf of the Francis and Prince families, thank you and keep dancing.