Whether it was her family’s favourite falafel or cups of Turkish coffee, Isabelle Mikhail loved to introduce her friends in Lethbridge to new dishes, and to see them chatting and laughing together at her table.

Isabelle was born in Egypt and lived in Ireland and England before making her way across the Atlantic to settle in Lethbridge. She worked as a security guard at Eatons and Woodward’s department stores in the city and sang with the University of Lethbridge choir. In her late 70s, Isabelle moved to North Vancouver to be closer to her daughter, May, and her two grandchildren.

Died on March 18, 2020
Vancouver, BC

Age 94

“It was a very brave move on my mom’s part,” says May. “She bought a condo on her own and lived close to me and my kids. It was neat for her to see them through a few years of their lives.”

Isabelle’s family gatherings revolved around food. “My aunt and uncle and cousins would come over and we would all be cooking things for the freezer,” May says.

After May and her sister Carmen left home, Isabelle began writing a cookbook of Middle Eastern recipes. She tested out dishes with a close friend she knew from Egypt who had moved to Alberta.

“They would cook together and then she’d write the recipes down. It became her project into retirement,” May says.

The book is finished but hasn’t yet been published, a goal that Isabelle’s daughters are trying to accomplish in memory of their mother.

This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.