Allow me to introduce you to Ivy. She is spirit. In real life she was my little sister, the one I hid from when we played hide and seek, the one with whom I walked hand in hand to the store when I was six and she was three, and I could read and she couldn't. I read the traffic sign by the road side, yellow with big black letters, GO SLOW CHILDREN, meant for drivers to slow down. I took it literally, thought it was talking to us, insisted that we take baby steps all the way.

She was the first person to believe in me, a spirit behind me all my life. She died shortly after Labor Day 1997, just about the time we lost Princess Diana. She'd been diagnosed with fourth stage metastacised ovarian cancer just fifteen months before, her only symptom then a little pimple on her belly button that wouldn't go away. An exploratory operation following the adverse biopsy showed the cancer all through her body, her ovaries in complete decay. She asked her doctor when it would make most sense to schedule her daughter Courtney's wedding. Her doctor told her "soon".

We'd been close before that, but not regular. From then on we had breakfast once a week, talked every day. At our breakfasts we shared our lives, and each step of her decline. In the months she had, she gathered her family around her, and with her help, each spoke from the heart. Each came to terms with what was happening. Each let her go and said goodbye, and she in turn said goodbye to each one of us. She died at home, serene, with an intravenous morphine pump holding back her pain, clear of mind and caring about those around her to the very end. Her spirit lives in me, in her family and friends and in all who come to love her.

Ivy's story offers a universal lesson about family, love and passage from this life. How to say goodbye. Who doesn't wonder how to do it. Who doubts the need that it be done.