It’s no great secret that when our time has come, we all die. But nobody likes to think about it, let alone talk about it out loud.

Yet it happens to everybody.

When we hear that someone has passed away, our first reactions are those of sadness and grief, compassion for the loved ones left behind, and memories of a life once lived. When it’s someone who we may not have known personally, but who was a public figure, such as Ed Mirvish of Honest Ed’s of Toronto who died last week, we’re intrigued to perhaps learn more about who he was by reading the local papers, and watching the news.

But our lives continue on as they did before.

However, when someone passes through this life whom we once knew, it stops us in our tracks. I’m not referring to the obvious grievous loss of a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or heaven forbid, a child.

I’m talking about when we women lose a “sister” — another woman who had once been important in our life. This could refer to a friend, a mentor, even a colleague. I’m talking, in this column directed to women, about how we feel when we lose that special person. I’m not dismissing men’s grief one bit.

Currently, I’m seeing all this unfold through the recent loss my mother is experiencing in the passing of Bluma Appel, who was known nationally as an outstanding patron of the arts, a founder of CANFAR, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research, and a philanthropist for health care and many other charities.

I was a teenager when this unusual friendship developed between my mother and Bluma. She was not a relative; she did not serve as a mother figure; nor did she bake cookies for us. Rather, she was an inspiration as an older woman about what younger women could achieve even after they were already successful in their careers, as mom was.

The two shared ideas, and laughter. They travelled together, and they brainstormed how to fight for the various causes that Bluma took on. Of course, there were many other such women that Bluma inspired, and conferred with, and no doubt all of them are currently feeling her loss.

She took an interest in me and what I was doing with my life, but again, this was no indulgent grandmother role. I knew when I answered her questions that she wasn’t interested in trivial activities, but in what I thought as a young person about serious issues.

Women are lucky if they can find a friend and role model in their lives, like Bluma was to my mother. We don’t only need companions and soulmates — we also need women we admire to stimulate us to aim higher, and go further than we once thought we could.

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