In 2004, my best friend Jennie and I spent a summer backpacking through Europe. We visited Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, England and France. I could tell you hundreds of stories about that trip but there is one that is sharp in my mind today.

While we were in France, I took a train to visit my Aunt Nawal in Paris, where she lived with her husband and son. Since she had lived in Paris for the last half of my life, we never really had a chance to get to know one another as adults. Beyond the childhood memories of her, the things that I always stuck out in my mind about Nawal were that she loved to laugh, she was extremely beautiful and she had voice that could bring a room to tears.

We spent the day, just the two of us, catching up on the years since we had spent time together- looking through photos, talking about relationships, debating choices we had made, and laughing at ourselves. For the first time, we learned about each other as women and as friends. Although I had planned to head back when it got dark, we ended up opening a bottle of wine and enjoying an impromptu dinner. As anyone that has ever known Nawal or myself, you can only imagine how many dirty jokes we exchanged, giggling like school girls. As the second bottle of wine opened, we started talking about our family. Through this conversation, I realized how close my Aunt was with my father, even though they have ten years between them. She helped me to understand a lot of things about him that I would have never known otherwise and for that I am very grateful. After we finished up dinner, I had to run to the station to catch the last train, feeling the warm glow of a fantastic evening. After than night, I saw my aunt three more times, but nothing that could compare to our time in Paris.

Throughout all of these years, she has been battling with cancer. When I saw her in Paris, she joked about her wig and made light of the changes chemo was causing her body but she did not dwell on the subject or pity herself. Her battle lasted so long, I started to think that she was going to win, despite what I was told by my family. Monday I received the call that she was gone.

When you lose someone that is so far away, it is hard to embrace the sense of loss. I have spent the last two days thinking a lot about her but unable to grieve, until my father shared the most beautiful recording of my aunt singing the song Memory. I cannot upload it here but I will share the lyrics because the could not be more heart-breakingly appropriate for our beloved Nawal.

She dedicated the song to my father: “To my big brother Gregory: the best pilot, the best lawyer, and the best big brother in the whole wide world.”


See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . .

Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Every streetlamp
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning
Someone mutters
And the streetlamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is

A new day has begun

May she rest in peace.

Written by Nikki