MICHELLE Murray spent her life caring for others.

So the kind-hearted plan she came up with for her own funeral came as no surprise to the scores of people who knew her: she asked them to donate a rucksack filled with stationery for poverty-stricken children in Africa.

For almost two decades, 52-year-old Michelle was a teaching assistant at Warwick Bridge Primary School near Carlisle. Fun-loving, courageous, and caring, she was adored by those who knew her.

Her work at the school began 20 years ago when she landed a job there as a cleaner, but her caring nature prompted a switch of jobs to the role of teaching assistant, which she combined with being a mid-day supervisor.

The mum-of-two died at Eden Valley Hospice in Carlisle on September 12, nine months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Three days before she passed away, Michelle married her long-term partner Craig Lee Davidson in a emotional ceremony at Eden Valley Hospice.

“There was a warmth to her personality and she was always thinking about the needs of other people,” said her son Sam Murray, 28, describing his mum as unfailingly optimistic - even when the end was near. “She was always an easy person to be around, bubbly, and optimistic,” he said.

“The rucksacks were her idea. She’d been given weeks to live on Friday, September 6, but passed away on September 12. The wedding was the happiest time in her darkest place.”

The family have had scores of sympathy cards, and messages on social media.” One - from a former pupil - said of Michelle: “You will remember me wearing my fireman’s outfit. Now I wear my British Army uniform with pride.

“You were part of the foundation that made me what I am today. For that I am in your debt.” A parent wrote: “You held our children’s hands and made their journey into education safe, secure and fun.”

Sam, whose sister Natalie-Anne, 24, lived with Michelle in Warwick Bridge, paid tribute to the brilliant care provided by Eden Valley Hospice.

Warwick Bridge Primary’s head teacher Mark Ashton said: “She was so kind, caring, considerate, and full of life - she often felt like a mother, or auntie.

“She was always full of enthusiasm for everything that was going on in the school.”

Of the rucksacks idea, he said: “That idea was typical of Michelle - always thinking about other people who are less fortunate.”

In a letter to parents, he wrote: “Her loss will be felt in Warwick Bridge School and far beyond as her life touched so many... Michelle will always be loved and remembered by so many people whose lives she touched with her sparkling personality and devotion to everyone around her.”

Michelle’s funeral service will begin today at 12.20pm at Carlisle Crematorium. Donations if desired will go to Eden Valley Hospice.