Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sylvia Steinhardt: September 2, 1922 - January 17, 2013

Mom & me, 1960

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.


  1. Oh, Varda.

    My beautiful Varda. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    We are so lucky, to have been there AT THAT MOMENT.

    I can't wait to see you and share stories.

    I was blessed, too, I had spent my life since 8 yrs old on, praying to be there when my grandmother passed. I prayed specifically, "Please don't let someone call me to tell me she is gone."

    And I was there. I got her last breaths.

    Of all the children that had been in her room only moments before, they all went home for a break, to catch up, make dinner. But somthing told me to say. ANd so, I was there.

    To see her leave.

    I have never been the same, and this is why I always say, "I got exactly what I wished for in my life."

    I am so happy you were there--I am so sorry for your loss--but so happy you were there.

    No phone call to tell you, the sweetness of her knowing her beloved daughter was there.

    It was as it should be.

    We are the lucky ones, to be there as they transition, and I am happy for you.

  2. Your mother was indeed beautiful, and so blessed to have you for a daughter.

  3. She was beautiful , even as an old lady as you say. Lots of love xxx.

  4. I'm sorry for you loss. I hope you and your family can take comfort in the fact that your mom is now at peace.

  5. thank you for another moment of sharing. A beautiful, wrenching piece. Sending love and hugs.

  6. Vaya con Dios, beautiful Sylvia.

    Varda, love. Peace. Grief is such a strange way to find love fulfilled. Ride it like waves. She was so amazing, and your love carried her peacefully all the way to her transition. Few people can do that without a fight. It was a great gift you gave her

  7. Love you, Varda. I'm glad you find peace, as you grief, in her beautiful life.

  8. Varda only you can articulate death and make it stirring to the soul...oh bless...may you always have that beautiful smiling last Thanksgiving image in your heart and your mind and know that you were there...always...and that she knew it too.

  9. oh Varda, I wish you could have seen when I read your previous post and how I hit my knees, in my bedroom and rocked myself in sobs for you. Only you can bring words to the passing of a woman who brought you into this world.
    I thanked her, thanked her for YOU and I prayed that you would have comfort and peace in your VILLAGES..that you would know how much you were loved and "TAKEN CARE OF" especially now.

    I am so truly, deeply sorry. I am heartbroken for you and I am continuing to pray for your comfort, for her peace and for the strength to keep your heart taken care of as you grieve.

    much love my friend, much love.

  10. Such beauty, tenderness, sorrow, love.

  11. My sweet friend...
    I really have no words. Your writing, even in your time of pain, is so elegant and beautiful.
    Just like your mom.
    I was with my dad when he passed too. The only one. That moment will be with me forever. Your mother knew your love and devotion and I just know she knew you were with her.
    My heart is with you.

  12. I don't really know how life just goes on after such an enormous loss. I've come to know you and your boys and your mom and dad through your blog, and I know just how deep your love for your parents was and continues to be. I'm beyond words for your loss, Varda. Sending you continued love and thoughts.

  13. Varda: Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I know that even though we know death is coming it can still hit us like a ton of bricks. I really admired how much you cared for your mom and learned this through your updates and blog postings. My heart goes out to you and your family. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  14. What a tribute. She sounds amazing. As amazing as you. Now we all know where your kind, gentle soul came from.

  15. So glad you were there as she went. So very sorry she had to go. xo

  16. The photos -- your words -- are glorious and heart-breaking. I send you love and peace and healing thoughts, with gratitude for how you've shared your beloved mother with all of us.

  17. Blessings to you and your family, Varda. Clearly your grief is tempered with fond memories. I hope they continue to bring you all comfort as you say goodbye.

  18. You are the living breathing soulful testimony to everything that was beautiful in your mother. Peace in the grief..

  19. Varda, I am so sorry for your loss. Love and light.

  20. Oh, Varda - i am soooo sorry to hear this.
    It is so sad when we hear about loved ones dying.
    And - at the moment - a little spooky - my Uncle died on the 16th.
    He too was born in 1923.

    As i told my cousins today at the funeral - you will laugh again. You will find something that reminds you and the children will always be able to tell you stories about him.
    You will laugh again - i promise you. My mum died in 2001 and my dad in 2004. We have some great memories and i hope you do to
    Take carexx

  21. I'm so sorry. I read your blog but am often too lazy to click over from the reader and comment but now, of course. Your Mom was absolutely beautiful, as was your sharing of her passing. Peace to you, to her, and to your family.

  22. Varda, this is the most beautiful and selfless writing. Just like you, and just like your mom. Love you.

  23. This is such a beautiful testament. Wishing you peace.

  24. I love this picture, not only because your mother is, indeed, beautiful, but because over her shoulder is one of your children (Ethan?) running, enjoying the autumn day. the balance of life, the cycle, the wheel.
    beautiful, Varda, and heart-rending.

  25. Oh Varda, So grateful you were there for her. I love you. xo

  26. It's so hard to capture a love this big--not to mention a life--in words. Thinking of you and sending love. I'm so glad I got to meet her and see you together--it was truly a beautiful relationship to behold.

  27. oh my word. :( i'm so incredibly and deeply sorry for your loss. i'm so glad you were there with her in the end, but... just so very sorry.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!