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Natalie Cole

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The legendary singer Natalie Cole dealt with health issues for years before dying from a diagnosis of congestive heart failure on Dec. 31 in a Los Angeles hospital. She kept silent about her illnesses. Casey, one of Natalie’s sisters said that she treasured her privacy and didn’t want to generate a lot of attention.

“She was very protective of her family and her close friends, and I don’t think that she wanted people to start feeling sorry for her,” Casey said. “She really thought and prayed that she would overcome this.”

Natalie Cole won the world with her talent, winning multiple GRAMMYs in her career, but endured a drug-addled past. In 2007, she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and had a kidney transplant in 2009.

After the kidney transplant, Natalie began having complications with her heart and her siblings said that they knew this Christmas would be her last.

WATCH: Natalie Cole on Singing Duets With Late Father

“When we came to the hospital and spent Christmas Eve with her it was a godsend,” Timolin said. “We were very blessed and thankful to spend that very special day with her that she loved. It was her favorite time of year.”

Natalie is survived by her 38-year-old son, Robert Yancy, who Timolin says was “very close” to his mom. “He is having a hard time,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a process.”

Natalie’s family is keeping her spirit alive through the Nat King Cole Generation Hope organization, which provides music education to children in need.

I’m a survivor,” Natalie said at the time. “I don’t know where I really got it from, but I just don’t believe in giving up until the fat lady sings, and the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.” Read more here.