It's September. It was a long, hot summer, and I am welcoming the cool breezes I felt this morning when I let Marley out for his morning patrol around the back yard. Already the shad trees in the front yard are shedding their small golden leaves - the day after Labor Day and I need to rake.

I have not written very much this past summer. Shoulder surgery in December laid me low till March, then the season of romance writer conventions - RT, RAGT and RWA - plus an injured foot took up most of my time and energy. So did funerals.

I attended a lot of funerals this summer - too many. I belong to a congregation where many of my fellow congregants are in their 80's and 90's, so its not really a surprise when I learn that someone who is 90 has passed away. But this summer, death took so many who were also my friends.

Tomorrow I must attend another funeral. The woman who was like a mother to me, especially since my own passed away 8 years ago, and like a grandmother to my children, died on Monday. We called her "The Matriarch" and she was. Most of what I know about my synagogue, I learned from her. And now I must step into her shoes. It is a testament to all she did and all she knew, that it will take at least half a dozen of us to fill her shoes, and we won't, really, be able to do everything she did, just the way she did. But we will try.

Memories of her and stories about her fill my head and spill out in telephone conversations and e-mails. That is all I have been writing about for the last 24 hours. Tomorrow we will lay her to rest in the shadow of the synagogue that she called her "home." And we will carry on her traditions so that, truly, she will never be absent from services, Kiddushes, Bar and Bat Mitzvot, baby namings, Purim and Passoiver meals. And funerals.

On Thursday, I will start writing again. The final chapters of the memoir about my late husband, stories she so loved to read as I wrote that book over the past three years. And romance novels. Too racy for her, she laughed, but she was as excited as my own mother when I showed her the covers. I will miss her.

Rest in peace, Stella. May your memory be for a blessing.