Yesterday morning, as the sun rose, my aunt died peacefully in a hospital in Rutland, Vermont. She was 76 years old. Even though I know everything I just typed is true, it does not feel real.
We spent a lot of time with her growing up. Some of my earliest memories are of her home in Flatbush, before she moved to the house in Midwood. It had been the home of her child best friend, Emily. Emily’s father, a doctor, had used the first floor as a private medical office. The family had lived upstairs, on the second and third floors. My aunt continued that tradition, situating her private investigation business in the first-floor apartment. That’s what she did after leaving nursing, her calling in life, but a job that didn’t give her enough time with her children as a single mother.
She was a dynamo. El Al Airlines hired her to secure their cargo in New York. However, the work she was most proud of related to her advocacy for missing, abused, and exploited children. Countless lives were saved because of her.
Dan Rather interviewed her. CNN sought out her expertise. President Reagan gave a speech praising her as an entrepreneur and advocate. She even appeared on Regis and Kathie Lee.
Despite battling Multiple Sclerosis for over 40 years, she never gave up. The disease never defined her. People from all over the world heard her story and reached out to her for hope and encouragement.
What I will remember most, though, are the many happy Christmases in her home. I will remember turning to her for advice. I will remember being in her den and her looking over at my boyfriend, telling me that we make decisions about where we live based not on geography, but on the people who feel like home (Reader, I married him).
She was fierce in every sense of the word. I will miss her forever.