Lessons learned from a friend

Courtesy photo Above, Michael Labre pauses for a photo.

Editor’s note: The Daily Press occasionally features the work of guest columnists. Today’s column is by Georgie Holbrook.

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Lessons I learned from my dear friend Rene Michael Labre, Escanaba, Michigan:

I met Michael years ago, he sat in a front row seat at Bay de Noc College, where I was a speaker for an event on holistic healing. Being legally blind and deaf, I’m not sure what he heard, but I do know something greater than the two of us arranged for us to meet.

Michael shared with me his own story of how he was diagnosed at the age of 2 years old with two major handicaps. His ability to speak with such clarity was miraculous. Michael’s vision was such that he could see large objects directly in front of him but had no side vision without turning his head. His lifetime transportation was his trusted bicycle, year-round he got his groceries and supplies by using his bike, even in the worst winters. He couldn’t see or find the simplest things in his house or read the labels in a grocery store. It became obvious to me that angels guided and protected him.

Michael loved to heal and care for injured animals. On my first visit to his home, I sat on his couch, he went to the basement and brought up two pets to introduce their stories to me. He placed a rabbit and pigeon down on the floor in front of me. The pigeon placed his head under the rabbit as if they were great friends. I thought I was seeing things, was it possible that love can heal our differences even in animals?

He told me about a life-changing event that had started happening while sitting late at night near the shore of Lake Michigan in tall grass, he was depressed and prayed for a sign for his lonely soul. He started singing to the angels, soon the fireflies swirled around him, even forming formations and designs. Michael was convinced they recognized his singing. He was reassured many nights for several summers that they and God loved him.

One summer, he invited me to meet the fireflies. We went out at midnight, walked with a flashlight down blocks of sidewalks into the tall grass overlooking the lake. In the pitch dark, we quietly sat side by side. Michael started singing to the angels. I was curious, would they show up if I was with him? Soon they came, drawn to his singing. They were obviously intelligent and showed up right in front of us. I sat motionless as my eyes validated his phenomenon. Time stopped. I thought, how much more of life have I missed out on? 

He was gifted with senses in his hands, body, and intuition. His treasure was restoring a historic boat that now can be found at the Delta County Historical Museum in a private, dedicated building with a write-up on Michael.

Michael had a computer, he loved to read, I bought him a downloadable, 40-page book on self-healing, and his computer magnified the wording, it ended up being 400 pages of big print.

Because he read lips poorly, Michael was incapable of interpreting another’s words accurately. Others thought that raising their voice was the answer. Imagine being talented, extra sensitive to feeling and sensing your environment and people, but struggling to communicate? Raising one’s voice is not going to show you I care, but my guess is that loudness would make you feel ashamed, internally traumatized, that someone was upset or angry at you. I learned that I could write large words on blank white paper with a black marker, and he could read and give me intelligent calm answers.

Love our neighbor as we love ourselves, the Great Book tells us. May we learn from Michael’s story, and people diagnosed with hardships and labeled as being different. May we no longer label anyone, but see them as a gift for us to learn from and take time to see how we personally measure up in practicing random acts of kindness. Michael now lives at Sunny View Foster Care Home in Gladstone.

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Georgie Holbrook was born and raised in Ford River, the daughter of the late Ralph and Viola Nordquist. She is an emotional/spiritual mentor. For more, visit GeorgieHolbrook.com.


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