Just after 3 pm, on Thursday, January 17th, my mother, Sylvia Steinhardt, took her last breath on this earth.
In spite of her numbers "looking good," and her seeming stability, there had been a subtle shift: she was no longer truly present in the hospital room. She had been drifting all morning, not really speaking to me, but rather mumbling dream answers to questions only she could hear.
She would not open her eyes, and when she did they fluttered for a moment then clamped shut again.
After having spent nights in her room (or sofa surfing with nearby friends) when she was clearly in immanent danger, I had just begun returning home to sleep. On Thursday I had come early and was planning to leave early, too (in time to pick Ethan up from school) but some instinct, ineffable, tugged at the fringes of my mind, telling me to stay.
And thus it was that at three in the afternoon, when her heart could no longer keep up, I was there...
Oh, my mother...
Your eyes popped wide open. My face was right before you, but you were not seeing me. You felt your heart unwind.
I cried out, a sob torn from my chest, cast wildly about the room for someone to do something for just one beat of my own heart, then remembered there was nothing to be done, but bearing witness.
I turned back to you, held your hand tight as your grip went lax, eyes slammed shut, then sunk further inwards. I placed my right palm upon your forehead, but all the heat that had been there, bright your thoughts, your spirit, had already flashed away.
Your breathing slowed, caught, hitched, came as an afterthought.
You were leaving me. You were nearly gone.
I had told you it was okay to go, had whispered in your ear that I knew how tired you were, how in need of rest and cessation of pain, of peace. Had given you my permission to go.
I wanted to take it all back, to beg you to stay.
But it was too late.
The visible pulse jumping in your neck quieted, and quieted again.
Your last breath was so small, barely a breath at all.
And you were free.
from beautiful little girl...
|Mom as a five year old flower girl at an Aunt's wedding, 1928|
to beautiful old lady...
|Mom, Thanksgiving 2012|
you were always a class act, my dear darling mother, your own unique self.
Know that you live on now and forever in me and my sons.
Thank you for everything, Mom.
And rest in peace.