Today I attended Michelle Lang’s funeral. And what a heart wrenching event it was. I felt overwhelming sadness as I walked into the Italian Cultural Centre Hall. On the screens placed around the hall a slideshow of images of Michelle was playing. Michelle’s smile could light up a room.
I cannot imagine witnessing anything more painful than the sight of Michelle’s father, standing with tears streaming down his face, looking down at a coffin draped in a Canadian flag. Inside that coffin is his daughter, not yet 35 years of age. His daughter, Michelle Lang was a reporter with the Calgary Herald newspaper. She was killed in Afghanistan when the military vehicle she was riding in hit an improvised explosive device…a roadside bomb. Michelle and the four Canadian soldiers in the vehicle with her were all killed.
Michelle’s was a life cut short. A beautiful and passionate life. A life dedicated to pursuing and writing the truth. As well as hearing about Michelle the reporter, the reporter feared by the people in the Alberta Ministry of Health, but today we also heard about Michelle the daughter, the sister, the fiancée, the niece, the granddaughter, the friend and the human being.
Everybody talked about Michelle as a kind, thoughtful and considerate individual. The friend who would remember your birthday and send you a card and a little gift, even though you probably forgot hers. Michelle the prankster, the confidante, the friend who was always there for you.
And then it hit me…everyone was saying “Michelle was…” It was no longer, “Michelle is my friend…” Michelle is gone.
That made me think about all the emails we had sent back and forth through the years of friendship. What would become of those emails? If she was anything like me, she has hundreds of emails saved. What becomes of those emails? At some point does some network admin just arbitrarily delete her email account thereby deleting another piece of my friend’s existence?
That thought sent me to the archives of my email account and I sat reading the emails Michelle and I had sent back and forth. The topics in our emails ranged from laughing at our university professors to advice about how to be an effective journalist in small town Saskatchewan to relationship advice. As I read the emails I laughed and I cried. I celebrated the friendship, the friends we had shared and most of all, the laughter we had shared.
As the bagpipers piped their mournful sounds and the pallbearers wheeled Michelle out of the hall, I felt an overwhelming sadness draped over my being. I mourn the loss of my friend but I feel the richer for having had her in my life. I just wish it could have been for a longer time. Good-bye, Michelle. You will always be in my thoughts.