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Tragedy leaves huge Thanksgiving void in Northville Township family, neighborhood

Manal Kadry had already set a festive Thanksgiving table with gold-trimmed china and cutlery and soft pastel colors to blend with her dining room wallpaper when the unthinkable happened.

She and her husband, Omar Salamen, 46, were killed in a single-car crash in their own neighborhood on Nov. 12, leaving four children behind.  The deaths of Manal, an interior designer and the owner of the Manal Kadry Design Collective, and Omar, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with a practice in Dexter, were traumatic to their neighborhood in the Seven Mile and Napier area and beyond because they were beloved by many.

Setting the table well in advance was typical of Manal, who loved to bring beauty and organization to the home the couple shared with Omar’s parents. She was getting ready to host the family gathering of more than 35 relatives on Thanksgiving Day for an elaborate feast of traditional American and Middle Eastern dishes and incredible desserts, said her brother, Bassam Kadry.

Bassam Kadry said the family would still gather on Thanksgiving, but others would prepare the meal and take care of logistics so that relatives can focus on healing and reflection.

"In this situation, we might not understand the reason, but there is a genuine appreciation that what is happening is for the best — and having conviction in that, and being steadfast in that, provides the resilience required to get through it, so that someone doesn't completely fall apart," Kadry said. "And part of that is gratitude is really critical."

'Appreciate more of what you have'

According to police reports, the couple's vehicle veered off the road, rolled over and crashed into a tree just after midnight. Northville Township police did not respond to a request Wednesday for further information on their investigation into the cause of the crash.

Less than two weeks after the couple's deaths, neighbors, friends and family members said their Thanksgiving will be more mindful and meaningful following the tragedy.

"It’s very ironic that it happened right around Thanksgiving like this because it’s time for everyone to take a breath and be thankful for their lives and their families," said Sam Delli, 66, the couple's next-door neighbor. "It's a good time to reflect and appreciate more of what you have.

"I can't imagine what the family is going to be doing, other than continue to keep their hands around each other and comfort each other, which is what they've been doing."

According to Delli, who along with his wife, Sharon, quickly became friends with the young family next door, the sociable couple quickly made friends in the Steeplechase subdivision where they lived.

"Omar and Manal moved in a little over three years ago and instantly, from the time they moved in, they were just a very outgoing and friendly couple," Delli said. "As soon as they moved in, they came over and introduced themselves, and from time to time they’d come over on a Friday or a Saturday night and we’d talk and have coffee.

"They were just really easy to get along with. And the kids were so nice and respectful. Even the kids would come over and want to talk with us."

The Dellis were comforted that they could attend a memorial in the Steeplechase subdivision's clubhouse on Monday night, the evening of what would have been Manal's 41st birthday.

The clubhouse was crowded with relatives, neighbors and close friends, while nearly 300 people viewed the memorial on Facebook Live.

One final evening

Fatima Mougrabi, 34, and her husband, Hassan Mougrabi, 38, were the last to see the couple alive that Saturday night, when Manal and Omar visited their Livonia home to meet the Mougrabi family's new baby.

It was an evening of pure joy as the couples exchanged gifts and enjoyed a dessert called Meghli, traditionally made to share with people who come to visit a new baby, Mougrabi said. After the Mougrabis' 2-year-old was put to bed, they cuddled the newborn as the couples settled into deep conversation, wife-to-wife and husband-to-husband.

“It seemed like a normal night, but in reflection there was so many things to be learned from the things that she said that night,” said Mougrabi, mentioning the couples became friends because the Mougrabis' oldest child was in the same daycare class as the Northville couple's oldest toddler.

While the men talked quietly together, Manal told Fatima about her love for her parents and each of her three siblings. She spoke of how she and Omar met, and how much she loved her two stepchildren, as well as the two young children she and her husband had together.

"You just never would have expected something like that to happen on a night like that. It was just a quiet night," Fatima added. "It wasn't like this crazy night. It was just a quiet night at our house holding the baby and having desserts."

Because the Mougrabis are not relatives, the friend noted they would not have immediately learned about the couple's deaths were it not for Manal's last post on Instagram: A photo of the party favors — candied almonds and chocolates wrapped in lavender paper tied with ribbons — that Fatima and her mother had made to give visitors who arrived to greet the new baby, another Lebanese tradition.

"She took a picture of them, she thought they were so beautiful, and she posted that on Instagram," Fatima recalled. "She tagged me, and oddly enough that was the connection that had her family reach out to me — otherwise, I really wouldn't have known any of them."

Fatima said she was able to share with the couple's relatives all of the lovely things Manal had told her about them, things that brought great comfort to the family.

"It was almost as though she had outlined everything, sort of her wishes," the friend added. "I felt like there was a reason she was at our house that night, and that she wanted me to get these messages to them.

"One thing she said that night over and over, it's in the Quran, is that everything is written for you from the morning that you're born to your death, everything. It's not something you can change or have control of, and that was very peaceful to me."

Twitter: @kbouffardDN