Elizabeth Mary Clare Schickel was born in Brighton, MA, on May 2, 1998, the fifth of seven children. With her curly blonde hair, warm smile and huge laugh, Elizabeth possessed an infectious enthusiasm. She was feisty and fun with a delightful sense of humor, and her brother and sisters loved just being with her. They enjoyed big family dinners, singing together, days at the beach and playing catch out in the street. When visiting her Grannie at Maryhill Farm, she played flashlight tag with her cousins and went to see the calves in the barn. Along with her friends, her family cherishes memories of swimming and kayaking to the little island in the pond, riding bikes and getting ice cream on hot summer nights. Campmates and friends fondly remember her capsizing the counselor’s canoe and chasing friends with a frog clutched in her hands. A star athlete, she played soccer and lacrosse with a speed, intensity and fierceness that contrasted with the sweet girl everyone knew and loved. At the last lacrosse game she ever played, her coach exclaimed in awe, “Schickel, you’re going to be famous!” Over the last year that she lived, Elizabeth would reveal the true glory of her short life – a remarkably rich interior life anchored to Jesus Christ in love and trust.
Elizabeth grew up in a Catholic family that dearly loved her and nurtured her love of God and the Church. She attended the Montrose School in Medfield, MA, where she loved going to daily Mass with her friends and schoolmates. Seeking to grow in virtue and holiness, she went regularly to Confession. Months before becoming sick, Elizabeth saw a family member kneeling in prayer. Entering the room, she knelt and prayed reverently. Rising from prayer, she said softly, “I want to pray like you.” Soon after, she asked for a copy of Handbook of Prayers. She was given the book only a week before her crippling headaches began and a brain tumor was discovered. During that week, she carefully marked St. Ignatius Loyola’s prayer, “Self-Dedication to Jesus Christ.” Lord, take all my freedom. Accept my memory, my understanding, and my will. You have given me all that I have or hold dear. I return it to you, that it may be governed by your will. Give me only your grace and the gift of loving you, and I will be rich enough; I will ask for nothing more. Amen. Following surgery, she memorized and prayed it nearly every day until she died.
With heroic self-sacrifice, prayer and gratitude, Elizabeth offered herself to others even at the moments of her own greatest need. She surprised the nurses thanking them immediately upon waking from brain surgery. Still suffering pain and headaches, she made a get-well card for her hospital roommate. One time, after her mother had helped her, although she was still weak and nauseous, she whispered to her father, “Mommy takes such good care of me.” While riding in the car one day she began to cry because she could no longer run. Then, seeing a runner along the road, she gathered her strength and said, “I’m just glad other people can still enjoy running.” To her elderly grandmother, she wrote, “Tomorrow I am going in for treatment. I am going to offer up every moment for you.”
Just before Holy Week, Elizabeth spoke with her mother and father about dying. They comforted her with their trust that if she died, she would gain life in Heaven. On Monday of Holy Week, she cried and said, “I need someone to give me hope.” On Wednesday, while returning from a radiation treatment, her father asked her about needing hope. Only days before Easter, Elizabeth said, “But now I have hope!” He asked, “What is your hope?” Abandoning herself to God’s will with unwavering faith, she declared, “That Jesus will take care of me. Not that he will cure me - that he will take care of me.”
In the summer, uniting her suffering with Jesus on the cross, she wrote, “Jesus, you suffered on the cross. Help me to accept my cross with joy.” She adored Our Lord with tender love. Once, while walking with a leg brace and a cane to the Adoration Chapel to pray, she said to her father who held her arm, “Don’t hold me – I want to impress Jesus!” Docile in her faith, she cared ardently for the Church. Months before her death, she defended the Church’s understanding of virtue and the consequences of original sin in a school paper, writing, “…we were created with Original Sin. My goal is to reach Paradise. To do so, I will fall and then get back up. These statements are part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and I refuse to change my views.”
Our Lady gently watched over Elizabeth as the circle of her life began to close. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, with blindness beginning to darken her eyes and strength leaving her legs, she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. After leaving the Adoration Chapel and starting toward home, she sang the Hail, Holy Queen. With smiling cheerfulness and radiant joy and peace, Elizabeth embodied the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30) On the morning of February 12, 2014, Elizabeth was at home embraced in the love of her mother, father, sisters, brother, nurse, and the devoted priest who anointed her. Our Lord called his good and faithful servant to his side only a moment after they prayed the Memorare to our Blessed Mother.
Family, friends, and even strangers, saw the magnitude of her trust and love of God and neighbor. Many have been inspired to grow in prayer and closeness to God. Her mortal remains now rest in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Natick, MA. You can read her full obituary here.