It’s been nearly four months since Aretha died and it’s still hitting me so hard. Today I listened to her “Bridge Over Troubled Water” about 40 times—its slow build, her big sea of sadness and strength, that soaring everything-everything—and it didn’t make me feel any better about her being gone. But it did make me feel her, and that was so much better than I could have hoped. Once again she’s carrying me through a hard time, reminding me that being brave requires a wide-open heart. And of course, a close girlfriend called tonight to talk about much she’s been playing the Queen during her own hard time. Aretha was channeling us both, I think, because she’ll always be the patron saint of strong women who don’t stop feeling. For this I’ll say what I’ll always have cause to say: Thank you for raising me right, Mama. I love you forever.