My dear friend just died suddenly — and I am in total shock, lost as to why I am still here while she is not, in the wake of two freak accidents. This is all so surreal. I have long called Alisa my guardian angel. She would smile in her beautiful bashful way when I said that in front of her, but I meant it with every fiber of my being. And she is now that guardian angel forever, with outstretched arms protecting not only me, but first and foremost the five teenage children she inexplicably leaves behind, her beloved husband, adoring friends, countless lives she’s markedly improved around the world. I just went to light a candle in her memory, in her honor, in her brilliance — and through tears, I saw this random card on the same table: What’s on your bucket list? I don’t know what it is and I don’t know where it came from, but what a question, what a sign, what a message Alisa is sending me/us/all to LIVE fully. In the past week, I have been reminded with terrifying and tragic proximity that life is fleeting, moments precious and health precarious, disappearing in an instant when you least expect. Action is real. Community is real. Love is real. And nothing can ever destroy its transcendental power.
From the moment we met, Alisa had my back, understood my essence and championed me in a way that few have ever done in my life. The universe conspired to bring us together through three wholly distinct avenues within a matter of weeks, underlining the incredible alignment of our personal and professional journeys — in political engagement, international aid and development, public health, social movements, the Jewish world and oh so much more from the very start. I felt a connection even in our initial emails, knew this was a special bond during our epic first phone conversation, loved her as soon as we began texting, and was certain we’d be friends for all time from the moment we hugged in person!
And so it was.
Alisa had so much to give, an infectious spirit and humanitarian soul that appreciated every second, savored each experienced, marveled at life, exuded gratitude for all she saw, experienced, met, partook in, everything — and made her friends, new and old, feel like they mattered to her deeply, because they did. Her questions to me were always when/where are we seeing each other next? Can I join her for this? Can she invite me to that? Can she organize something for us when I’m in town? Alisa was the epitome of gracious, including me in whatever she was doing or attending, be it with presidents or diplomats or celebrities or foundations or artists or businesspeople or social entrepreneurs or activists or most importantly, her family. Her immeasurable generosity, depth of goodness and vast dedication of time, energy and resources to causes about which she cared was truly inspiring and actually world-changing, including the board on which we sat together and many events and conferences we took on side by side. She introduced me to everything and everyone, both in person and via the passionate email introductions that appeared in my inbox with great regularity and without any warning whatsoever. She sent texts out of the blue to say my ears must be ringing and mailed gifts to my home address when things made her think of me. She asked for my opinion on decisions she was weighing in her life and really did care what I had to say. She ran things by me and listened intently to both the content and tenor of my responses.
Always by Alisa’s side were her children, the lights of her life and her reason for being. We were with her second eldest in Puerto Rico to learn and to serve, her eldest where he and I spent a criminal justice event gabbing recently as she worked her magic throughout the room before returning to us joyously, and the rest of the family to make memories when we all spent an unforgettable Passover at a dear friend’s home this spring. I always remarked on the multicolored earrings she wore to honor her children; she said one day I’d do the same. Alisa was proudly and proactively on the search for my future husband — offering up brilliant social activists and gorgeous Brits and remarkable men with whom she thought I could build a strong partnership, like that which she forged and cherished with her beloved husband, and raise a close family. I was in awe of the best friend, ally, champion and role model she was to each of her five kids individually and together in every aspect of their lives – spectacular souls from Bat Mitzvah age to just entering college in whom she instilled strong sense of purpose, deep convictions, philanthropic perspective, clear values, a plethora of tools that will serve them well in the lives they will continue to boldly build, albeit tragically without a momma by their side. But with all of us showing up in the best ways we possibly know for the entire family now, on each unfathomable day ahead and in the years to come — with love, stewardship and protection.
I have no words as to why this bright, vibrant light in her mere forties — an exceptional leader and phenomenal force passionately, constantly and literally changing the world for the better — would be ripped away from us, but I pray for all whose lives she has positively impacted and grieve with all who now feel such a devastating loss. While I am brokenhearted that I cannot travel in my current state to be at the funeral on the east coast tomorrow, my energies and thoughts and spirit will be present with every ounce of strength and sincerity I can possibly harness — and I have sent messages of love through other dear friends to convey to her and the family in both mind and body.
Alisa’s last text to me was about how proud of her children she was, signed with her signature two kisses, like always. Oh is that fitting: pride in her five beautiful kids, effervescent communication and radiating love. And now, one of her sons just replied to me with that same closing xx, that same vigor, that same spirit. May Alisa's memory be a profound and everlasting blessing and may she forever be a living legacy in their beings, in our collective good word and deed, and in all of our hearts.