Through my life I have met a lot of people. There are only a few that have stood out and remained memorable. These are people that come into our lives for only a brief moment and stay for an eternity. Tamara Davitashvili was such a woman.

When I was a little girl my Mom used to be part of a “women’s club.” A bunch of women would get together and carouse around town, occasionally dropping by each other’s house. I remember sitting in front of the TV screen when my Mom walked in with her friends. They encircled me and I heard a distinct high-pitched voice, "Oh, my, she is so preeeciousssss!" I looked up and saw the wide smile of one of the ladies. She was tall, with starkly dark hair and chiseled features. Her tone of voice was something I’ve never heard before. Mixed with the accent of our Georgian heritage was a mirage of elongated vowels, sharp consonants and high-pitched intonations that were very foreign to me. This scene would stay with me for many years to come…

Life took its course. I grew up, married David and had a baby. It just so happened that Tamara turned out to be my husband’s aunt. All of us came to the United States from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, looking for a brighter future. Tamara and Michael Davitashvili immigrated with their 7-year-old daughter to New York in the early 80’s. Tamara was a workaholic and had the strength and energy of 10 people; she kept herself busy doing computer programming. They created a comfortable living for themselves. They were a ravishing couple. To the outside world it seemed that happiness was all around them.

As extended families often are, ours was very close. During the whirlwind of parties and gatherings there we all were – a happy family, the poster card of laughter, joy and vitality. I soon formed an unbelievable bond with Tamara’s daughter Lia and our families became even more inseparable.

One chilly day in February 2005, I was talking to Lia on Instant Messenger when she mentioned that her Mom was going to get her blood tested because the doctor found something unnerving about her lab results. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – just made a little mental note to keep her in my prayers. It wasn’t until the end of the day that the ton of bricks fell upon everyone: Multiple Myeloma. It is a rare form of blood and bone marrow cancer that afflicts roughly 50,000 Americans today. I walked home in a daze … Cancer? I’ve dealt with this beast before as I watched my grandfather slip away from leukemia but this was a healthy, vibrant 52 year old woman – she needs to live, she couldn’t have cancer! Only 29% of patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma live more than five years after diagnosis. Five years! It felt like a death sentence.

We went to see her at the hospital on Sunday – I waddled up to the room with my pregnant belly and saw her lying there with machines hooked up all over her body. “I am a fighter!” she said, with a big smile. “We are going to get over this, suuuuuurrree, don’t even think twice about it! We are survivors!”

She had not one but two bone marrow transplants to kill the cancer inside of her. Soon a year had passed and her doctors were feeling optimistic, believing that she was almost in remission. She even decided to throw and engagement party for a family member. She ran around her kitchen like not a thing was amiss. She went up and down the stairs with incredible ease, served several hot dishes along with an array of appetizers. She laughed, a lot.

“It's bad again," I heard Lia say. The cancer was back. She needed to start a new chemotherapy course and keep fighting. Nobody believed that this would beat her - after all she was a woman with immeasurable strength, nothing could cripple her, not even this.

On Feb 22nd there was a big wedding in the family. We all got gussied up in our finest and showed up at the big event ready to party. There was something in the air that night; the need to truly enjoy ourselves took over. We drank to our hearts content and laughed with great abandon. I remember flying up and down the stairs with Lia and Tamara to "powder our noses" and gossip about who is wearing what at the wedding. "These are Jimmy Choooooo shoes!" Tamara showed me, wiggling her bare toes in her fancy, spiky heels.

She loved a good bag and a nice pair of shoes and talked to me at great length about a pair of Christian Dior spikes she was dying to buy. Back on the dance floor she tried to enjoy herself as much as her body could carry her. She opened up those great, beautiful arms of hers and danced to her heart’s content. At this moment I closed my eyes and prayed to G‑d to let her dance with us for many years to come. The happiness in everyone’s hearts was overpowering. Tamara and Michael danced until the band couldn’t play anymore and the soles on their feet ached, but they were happy — for the first time in a long time they were so happy!

Exactly two days after the music stopped she was back in the hospital. She had spent the weekend hosting a slew of parties for wedding guests from Israel. She ran around buying presents, taking people to the airport, in bitter temperatures. Now she was in the hospital - feverish, sick, and coughing. Lia and I rushed to the grave of the Great Lubavitch Rabbi – to say a prayer, to help get our message across to G‑d.

Her infection spread like a rapid fire and soon she couldn’t breathe on her own. A tube had to be inserted into her throat. The family found themselves holding vigils in the waiting room of the ICU. What we were waiting for we didn’t even know – a miracle or a breath of fresh air to step in and perform a magic trick to wake her up from a forced stupor? Michael was inconsolably crying, often speaking of her in the past tense. She was a miraculous woman. She made the dreams in his life come true. She was the force that drove him to every right decision and the life they had built for themselves. This was supposed to be the start of their golden years – this wasn’t supposed to be the end of it all. It wasn’t acceptable.

A few days passed when the doctors began to see an improvement in her breathing, they began to lower her sedatives and something that nobody ever thought possible, happened. She opened her eyes. The day after that I got a jubilant text message on my cell phone from Lia, “They took the tube out!!” We couldn’t believe it! Could it be that what we had the entire world praying for was finally coming true? Are these the kinds of miracles that people are always talking about?

A day or two later she was moved to her own private room on one of the top floors of Sloan Kettering Memorial Center. This floor was posh for a hospital to say the least. “The world’s most expensive hotel,” Tamara would say with a wink. The slow recovery process began and there were many set backs, many triumphs. She could barely speak – what came out of her mouth was a jumble of vowels and consonants that one had to watch very carefully to understand. One time she dialed my husband’s phone number by accident and I once again heard the high staccato voice talking fast from the other end, but the words were incomprehensible, painful to listen to.

In a matter of one week she was able to get up on her own, walking back and forth in the hallway. The nurses were all stunned by this woman’s will to live, by her need to function. She sat by the window in her hospital room and dreamt of walking outside in Manhattan again. “I have always dreamt of living up here, but not like this.” She never once flinched and never once gave up. We learned with this disease that things can change in an instant and once again her breathing was failing her and she would need to be intubated once again. Soon she closed her eyes to the world one more time. This time was different from the last.

The arduous wait began. Each day her breathing got denser, each day her blood pressure kept dropping. As we sat around the Passover table on the first night, we held on to the hope that G‑d led the Jews out of Egypt, so he would lead her out of this mess as well. The next day David called me at work around noon. Somehow in my heart I felt a drop of pressure … “She passed away”, he told me.

I bolted out the front door of the office and headed to the hospital. I ran up to the top floor, down the polished corridors and around the bend to her room. Staring into the abyss of Michael’s eyes and Lia’s tears was torturous. The door lay open and I walked into her room. She was lying on the bed. Only it wasn’t really her. She wasn’t here, she wasn’t in that body. There was no soul there, only emptiness. All there was - emptiness.

To this day it’s hard for us and for me to accept that she isn’t here physically. I hear her voice ringing in my ears daily – her particular speech, her infectious laughter. All her life it seemed she was in a rush. She was running towards something, always wanting to get to the next step fast. Lia read a poem at her funeral that she found on Tamara’s PC shortly after she passed. The main verse seemed to be an eerie echo of her spectacular life: “You better slow down. Don't dance so fast. Time is short. The music won't last.” At least there is hope that through her life and her courage there will be other people who will fight for their right to live and never give up. For those people she will stand up in heaven and clap.

This article is in memory of Tamara who left us one year ago, the 15th of Nissan (April 3). May her memory be for an eternal blessing.