CONCORD, NC (WBTV) - A woman known as the "Concord Christmas Lady" has passed away months after neighbors came together to grant her dying wish - one last, magical Christmas.
The Christmas decorations began popping up in October across Chinaberry Lane in Concord, even before the Halloween decorations were out. The early Christmas was a tribute to neighbor Michelle Fadel who had Stage 4 cancer.
When Kristen Hampton met with Michelle in October, she noted that when she talked about her cancer it was a matter of fact.
"She does not cry when she explains her life is coming to an end soon. She doesn't flinch when she talks about the breast cancer that spread to her brain," Hampton wrote. "It's untreatable now, which for many would signal a time for mourning. For Michelle, it's a time to start living."
"I told my husband I have a good mind to just start decorating for Christmas so our grandkids don't miss out on Christmas and he said 'I'd love that'" Michelle explained.
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Word spread around the neighborhood like wildfire. In just days, neighbors set out lights, reindeer, nativity sets, wreaths and signs pointing to the North Pole. Even the guy who never puts out decorations put a wreath on his mailbox.
"It may look a little strange this close to Halloween but we hope it makes her happy and we hope she knows we're thinking about her," Tim Hawkins said.
Michelle would spend nights being pushed down the street in her wheelchair looking at the decorations. That time as spent with smiles and laughter.
After Michelle's story first aired, it went all over the country. Michelle was featured in several articles, including one of People.com.
"I have boxes and boxes of cards from people all over the country," Michelle told WBTV in late October. "I had no idea this many people cared."
But people did care, a lot of them.
One of those people was Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith. Smith saw Michelle's story and decided to send over some of the light from the speedway's Christmas display.
The Concord Fire Department even planned a Christmas Parade just for Michelle. It ran right down her street and featured a marching band with all the bells and whistles.
This woman is a beacon of light. She's a hopeful soul in a world where hope might be growing thin, Hampton recalled. Her faith is what pulled her through. Her early Christmas kept a huge grin on her face.
"In all honesty, you don't know if you have this afternoon. My Mom doesn't know, she's 89, she doesn't know if she has this afternoon," Michelle said in October. "But we live that way. We live as if we can take it for granted. And I can't."
Michelle passed away Wednesday night surrounded by her family. She got to see her early Christmas and the real one.
"I said it from the time I was diagnosed with cancer. I'll get healed one way or the other," Michelle said in October. "It'll be here on earth or up in heaven, but I will be healed."?