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April 2013

Celebrating Life and Love

by Donna Steinhorn on April 5, 2013

I was writing a blog on perfectionism, and then my mother died.

It’s not like it was unexpected. She’d been ailing and deteriorating since she broke her first hip in October. But mom was a miracle woman by her own declaration. She had survived so much: the Nazi’s and concentration camp, losing all her family, the communists, starting all over yet again in the US with no family of her own. Caring for dad through his heart attacks and Alzheimer’s. And so many bouts with illness of her own. But through it all she maintained her sense of humor.

As we sat in her living room after the funeral, the parts of her I did not know — those that belonged to other people — unfolded for me. I heard story after story about her kindness. How she always gave advice and how they learned to take it unquestioningly in the face of both her determination and it’s impact on their lives. How kind she was. And most of all how wise she was.

I learned how she’d seen patterns in concentration camp that allowed her time after time to miraculously escape “selection.” How she gave and gave, and refused to take. How she didn’t judge people. And how much she loved me, and the rest of her family. And story after story. Funny ones, inspiring ones. A view of her that I had not had. As we went through her photo albums, there were photos I had not seen in decades. I regret not having asked her more stories about them. I regret not writing down more stories. And the names of people. But of course, I thought we had more time. We always think that. But other than those regrets, I have none. We always said what we needed to say in the moment. And in the last few months in particular, I always let her know how much I loved her, even when I was exasperated with her.

Mom died in my arms.

I had been told by a few friends who had been down this path, that to have your parent die in your arms was an amazing experience. One described it as “radiant.” I admit I was skeptical, yet in the last hours of her life I didn’t want to leave her side. So I held her. And it was incredible and beautiful…the true meaning of Awesome. I will carry that with me all the rest of the days of my life.

She’s only been gone a few days. But already I find myself channeling her. Finding words come out of my mouth that were her words. Hearing her in my head. She was a remarkable woman; I am learning that more and more.

My son gave her eulogy and his message to the mourners, and to all of us really, was to love each other. To really know each other. To be grateful for the people we have in our lives.

This morning as I prepare to go back to her house for another day of mourning, I am really celebrating life. Celebrating my mom. And celebrating love. I welcome you to join me.