It was one of the hardest things Khaled and Yasmine Habash have ever had to do: accept that their mother died along with more than 8,000 other people in the earthquake and aftershocks that devastated parts of Nepal.

Dawn Habash, a yoga and wellness instructor from Augusta, was trekking on the Tamang Heritage Trek in Langtang National Park when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit April 25. Langtang Village, northeast of the capital, Kathmandu, was obliterated by a massive avalanche and it now appears certain that Habash was there.

“Although she is still missing and unaccounted for, six weeks has passed since the devastating event that has broken our hearts,” Khaled and Yasmine Habash, the adult children of Dawn Habash, wrote Tuesday on a Facebook page created to aid in the search for their mother.

Khaled Habash owns The Blue Lobster gift shop and The Scenic Route Maine Tours, both on Commercial Street in Portland. His sister Yasmine lives in Juneau, Alaska. Their quest to learn about their mother’s fate – reported on national television and in international publications – generated support and empathy from friends and strangers around the globe.

Until recently, the children did not know for certain where their mother had been at the time of the quake. Even before the earthquake, the remote parts of the country had limited communications.

Yasmine Habash and her boyfriend, Reid Harris, flew to Nepal after the earthquake to search for her mother, but they were forced to abandon the search after a series of avalanches in the area made travel dangerous. Foreign governments already had stopped their search efforts and the couple were made to leave by Nepalese rangers because of the danger. They were in the capital when a  7.3 magnitude quake hit May 12.

Yasmine Habash cried Tuesday as she recounted the terrible destruction to a place that is so beautiful and spiritual.

“There was unfathomable damage, destruction and loss. There’s just nothing good to say about it. It’s very difficult to share,” she said.

More than 100 local people continued to dig through the rubble when Yasmine Habash and her boyfriend arrived in Langtang Village.

“By the time we got there, it really seemed people were resigned,” she said. “They were rummaging through the destruction, wanting to find bodies and find any material products they could use” to survive and to rebuild as best they could.

An article published in the British publication The Guardian, which had interviewed Yasmine Habash in Kathmandu, included pictures of their mother. That led to an email from a woman in the United Kingdom who had seen Dawn Habash the morning of the earthquake.

“She saw this beautiful woman walking down toward Langtang Village as they were walking up toward Kyanjing Gompa with all these kids surrounding her,” Khaled Habash said. She thought the woman was a teacher or an aid worker.

“That was really the only 100 percent confirmation we have gotten from anybody that she was walking down the hill, headed toward the village,” he said Tuesday. “It was no surprise to know she was surrounded by children. She was youthful and vibrant. She has a very special connection with my children.”

The timing of the encounter, though, was ominous. It meant that Dawn Habash was almost certainly in Langtang Village when a huge sheet of ice broke free from the surrounding peaks, triggering an avalanche a mile and half wide that buried the village of 400 local people and as many as 100 foreigners.

Dawn Habash was on her fourth trek through Nepal. She made her first trip to the Himalayan nation in 1998 and was changed by the experience.
“I think that was a monumental spiritual event for her,” her daughter said.

Dawn Habash’s latest chance came when her contract with an Augusta wellness facility was not renewed because of budget cuts. She was disappointed but decided to use that as an opportunity to travel for six months in India and Nepal, to improve herself spiritually and professionally.

The Habashes are a traveling family.

Khaled and Dawn Habash took the bus together from Portland to Boston on Nov. 4.

“Our last hug was in Logan Airport. I was headed to Mexico and she was headed to India,” he said.

Yasmine Habash and her mother made annual trips to India and she was with her mother there for five weeks this spring.

Her mother described in a Facebook post how at one point the two of them basked in the presence of the dalai lama and listened to him speak of the importance of Buddha’s teachings.

Dawn Habash then traveled to Nepal and set out on April 18 for an eight- to 10-day trek through Langtang National Park, an area about 20 miles north of Kathmandu. She was nearing the end of her trek when the earthquake hit.

The children want to channel the fondness and support for their mother into assistance for the people of Nepal, so they will maintain the GoFundMe site they created – – and direct the proceeds to support relief efforts there.
“I still want to do everything we can for Nepal and Langtang,” Yasmine Habash said.

Khaled Habash’s cover photo on his Facebook page is a picture of their mother standing in a rocky meadow, admiring the scene as clouds enveloped a Himalayan peak. It was taken by an Italian hiker the day before the earthquake.

“The last picture of our mother offers great solace and peace, as it represents our mother’s true serenity and beauty in an equally beautiful surrounding,” the children wrote in Tuesday’s Facebook post.

“We are proud of all her experiences and spiritual growth. And we made sure she knew that, with as much love as we could humanly give her,” they wrote. “We will live every moment with her inside us and her guidance showing us the way.”
Dawn Habash was due to fly back to the states on May 7. On that day, in what his mother would have appreciated as the universe at work, Khaled Habash’s wife gave birth to a baby girl.