A tribute to Michelle Bruheim

Eulogy from Per Kristian Hansen, Humane-Ethical Society of Norway

We are gathered here to remember and mourn the loss of Michelle Katrine Bruheim. She died August 17th – at a far too young age of 19. Left behind are Elisabeth, Åge, Marius, Arne, Ann-Kathrin, Alexander, Christian, grandparents, uncles, aunts and many other family members. We also see that many, many others have come here today to mourn her untimely death. I have been asked to hold a eulogy for Michelle here today by her family. I did not know Michelle myself. I just hope that my words will echo and reflect the Michelle you knew.

Michelle was born in Oslo in 1986 and spent the first years of her life in Svelvik and Spikkestad. Only 18 months later, Michelle was blessed with a little brother, Marius. Michelle was “big sister” with a capital B and looked after her little brother in every way – already at the age of 2 she showed she wanted to be grown up and like a mother to him. Once on holiday in Germany, at the age of 2, she decided to take off with her little brother on a tour of the town because she thought he needed to see it, and her parents were just too darn slow .. Marius and Michelle were extremely fond of each other – and it’s so nice that they were on such good terms the last period of her short life.

Just 2 years old Michelle was like a fish in the water and used to sit at the bottom of the swimming pool, underwater, because she liked it there so much. Not surprisingly she took her divers certificate later in life. Independent is a word that characterized Michelle: Nobody was to decide for her. She was never comfortable with any form of constriction. She was like a bird, fighting at times intensely to become free. Maybe she could be described as both bird and fish? Her struggle had its own presence and Michelle had her own very strong presence. There is so many that noticed and remembered Michelle. It was quite simply impossible not to.

After her parents Arne and Elisabeth divorced, Elisabeth moved with the children to Son. They lived there until around 2000 before moving to Moss. Things didn’t go well for her there. She was the victim of a terrible incident that marked her for the rest of her life. Her problems were so great that she ended up spending a lot of her youth in child welfare institutions. Moss wasn’t a good place for Michelle and Elisabeth moved them to Svelvik. Michelle managed better to begin with, but soon her problems returned and it wasn’t until the last couple of years Michelle really started her long, arduous climb up and ou. She had fantastic help from Katharina (Child welfare in Oslo) and Andreas and Geir from Gemt. Michelle’s family would like to send them a special thank you for the love and special attention they gave Michelle. Her closest family – and grandparents Kjell & Solveig also supported her as much as was possible.

But as you all know – not all was dark with Michelle. Quite the contrary! For so many people she was an incredibly lively and shining light – as we have heard many attest to here earlier – and will continue to hear about long into the future. A small visit to Michelle’s memorial website that her friends created spontaneously the day after her death, gives an indelible impression of just what a unique person she was.

Michelle loved to travel. She always tried to learn the languages of the countries she visited and spoke, for example, almost fluent Turkish (!) It was in this way she could learn most about the countries and places she loved – and become one of them. She did not want to be a tourist! She talked with everybody and was genuinely interested in learning everything about the people she met and places she visited.

Music in many forms became crucially important for Michelle. Michelle’s father Arne taught here her first chords on the piano as late as the winter of 2003/2004. Already in February 2004 she had decided to make music her career and recorded a demo-tape. It is that demo-tape (Moonlight Sonata), in fact, you will be hearing as we close the ceremony today. Autumn 2004 she was accepted into studies at Romerike College. There she could sit up to 6 or 8 hours a day at the grand piano – totally immersed in her music. Besides Moonlight Sonata; Rachmaninov and Mozart (not to mention Queen!!!) were among her favourites. Being a late starter to the music scene, she decided being a sound technician was her best ticket into the music world, and she assisted at many concerts during her last summer. She was also in the process of helping organize a concert in Norway for some of the Queen band members own groups.

Above all it was Queen that was Michelle’s group and which she become increasingly more involved with and attached to. As someone commented on her memorial site: It was strange that Queen stopped touring in 1986 - the year Michelle was born – and as fate would have it toured together again first 19 years later – “just in time” for Michelle to experience it. And did she ever experience it! Michelle was with them the whole way, following them around Europe. Always at the front of the queue, the first into the stadium and a spot front and center at every venue. Queen learned to appreciate their “Fan nr. 1” and sent her special greetings from the stage during many performances. She also became friends with everyone in the band and helped them backstage on several occasions. Michelle had already booked her tickets for their upcoming concerts in New York, Hollywood Bowl and in Japan. Unfortunately she won’t be going now, but she was certainly among Queens most dedicated fans as long as she lived. She saw the Queen-musical “We Will Rock You” at the Dominion theatre in London 7 times (or more? We lost count, really…) after it started up in 2002 (!)

Other than music and her friends – her family was a particularly special and important part of her life. She appreciated them so much and they supported her as far as was possible (or advisable…) We’ve heard that she lived together with Marius and Elisabeth and she also lived for both shorter and longer periods with her father Arne. She always felt she could confide in, and seek help from her family – and they always supported her. In 2004 she had her own apartment in Majorstua, close to her father, for about 6 months and he was there almost every day. They had meals together, played music and watched old movies or music DVDs. Arne’s family and relatives in Jostedal also had a lot of visits by Michelle and Marius. Maria especially had a unique contact with them and was/is a bright star in their lives. Last year Grandma Kay and Aunt Marie from Canada came to Norway and travelled together with Arne & Michelle for several weeks. A tour on the glacier (Jostedalsbreen) was one of the highlights – Grandma and Michelle were kindred souls and it showed by the way they both jumped happily around on the glacier.

Michelle possibly experienced more than many others do through a long lifetime and she shared a lot of these experiences with her family. One of the more memorable ones was when she and Arne took one of many trips to Canada – to surprise Grandma Kay in Vancouver at her 80th birthday party. In London Michelle “just had to” do so much that they missed their plane to Vancouver. They had a choice of paying an extra 15.000 NKr to get a space on the last plane crossing the Atlantic that day (to New York) – and the only possibility to make Grandmas party on time. Alternatively they could, without extra charge, take a plane the next day and arrive some hours late at Grandmas party. Michelle, of course, was in no doubt. They were going to make it to this party! Well, they arrived and surprised the h.. out of Grandma. That’s the way she was – if something was important it was going to get done – and she wouldn’t accept no for an answer!

Many of her friends, also in the music world, also experienced that side of her. More than just a few of them received backstage passes, souvenirs or got to meet their heroes because of Michelle’s persistence. She also went to great lengths to get souvenirs from Iron Maiden for her “new” brother Christian and when asked why she went to such lengths, she replied “Well, he is my brother!” What she had, she shared. Whether it was a backstage pass, drink or her last coins that she could give to beggars. The small, weak, old and those with difficulties hadde an extra large space in Michelle’s heart. A phrase from the Danish poet Piet Hein puts it well "What you get – leaves. What you give – stays."

When she worked with telephone sales she asked one day to leave early to attend a concert. The answer: She could leave if she managed 10 sales. A normal shift of 6 hours gives 5-6 sales for most sellers. Michelle averaged about 12-15 per shift and this particular day she managed 19 sales in only 4 hours – because that’s what had to be done!

Besides Canada Turkey and, in particular, the holiday resort of Alanya a special place in Michelle’s life. She visited there many times with Elisabeth and Marius. Michelle was again – a fish in the water. She loved jumping and diving from the cliffs there – diving from 15 meters or jumping from 20 meters for her was like nothing. One could say she was familiar with both great heights and great depths.

Besides all the Queen concerts she attended in 2005, she attended and/or worked at the Europride concert in Oslo, the 46664 in Tromsø and lastly, the Notodden Bluesfestival. Who else but Michelle would run into, and talk to people like Nelson Mandela, Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel? After 46664 in Tromsø Anneli Drecker said: ”Michelle managed to get a hotel room next to all the big stars in the center of town while we Norwegian artists were all placed far outside town. Yes, Michelle met several of the most well-known international names, but Queen and the “Queen-Family” were the most important. She had so many plans to meet up with people from all over the world that she kept in touch with via the net.

The night before she died she talked for a long time with Elisabeth and Marius, who meant so much for her. They really got to talk through everything and were on a wavelength the way only siblings can be. Afterwards, through the night, she laid out her plans for her next years, and her career. She wanted to work with music – of that there was no doubt. She received a phone call on Tuesday evening that she was to get an apprenticeship contract at D’Light, where she had worked freelance. She was going to sign the contract on her first day at work as an apprentice – the day she so tragically died. Now – when she had worked so hard to get to where she was, and had become a lovely, young woman, she was finally happy, confident and satisfied. She had cut a path, was to become a sound technician, and was ready to take on the world.

At this memorial we look back at a far too short life that has ended, but we must accept that life is limited. The thought of death can therefore force our thoughts towards ourselves: Questions of how we’ve lived our lives, the meaning of life and our priorities. In such questions we see life as a foreground to death. That’s why the thought of death – as absurd as it seems for us now – can also be something positive. Because we become more conscious of our own situation. Death can confirm the value of life and its meaning. We will all die – thankfully at a time unbeknownst to us.

A unique daughter, stepdaughter, sister, grandchild, niece, queen, friend and colleague has left us. The good memories of Michelle – that seized life with a passion – will live on with us forever. Remember her as the very considerate girl she was. May Michelle’s memory live forever.

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