Mom's 20th Yahrzeit

Category_bug_timeline Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother's death, her “yahrzeit” in Yiddish.

I am not religious. Not at all. In fact, I don't believe there is a god. But I like this ritual of lighting a 24-hour yahrzeit candle each year in remembrance of the people I have loved and still love.

Soon after the new year in 1992, my mother was told that her cancer was untreatable; she had three or four months to live, said the doctor. I was lucky. I was able to take my job with me to her home in Sacramento where I cared for her around the clock until this date in April when she died quietly in the early afternoon.

Those four months remain the most profound period of my life and unlike so many other events from my past, are as clear and fresh and immediate today as if it all happened last month instead of two decades ago.

It would be redundant to say much more. I wrote about the whole experience in a series of posts during the first couple of months after launching Time Goes By. You can read it here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Grandpop's Eye


Your ability to care for your mother in that profound period of transition was a gift. I could not be with my mother around the clock in her last month due to the stroke
i had experienced months earlier. But I was able to be there several days a week and I was with her the two days before she died and the day she died, due to the help of dear friends and relatives.

The annual 24-hour candle seems like such a wonderful and intimate memorial.

Thank you, Ronni, for sharing with us your mother's yahrzeit (Yiddish yortsayt, equivalent to yor [year] + tsayt [time]), and the link to the last four months of her life. When I discovered TGB, following that link, "A Mother's Last Best Lesson," and reading the series s-l-o-w-l-y was profoundly moving and helpful though my mother was alive then.

May your day be filled with life-affirming remembering.

We have a dearly loved person in our life--and then gone from our life forever. The loved one becomes a memory we carry with us for the remainder of our life.

Old persons commonly carry an ever-increasing number of these remembered loved ones in our memory. Sometimes the pain of loss remains hard to bear. We walk around silently with the pain, just as we walk with the aching hip or the sore back.

My mother died at age 94 in a nursing home eight years ago on a Monday afternoon while I was having lunch with a friend from work.

I got the call and rushed over to the home before anyone there had an opportunity to make any changes as she lay dead.

I believe I saw the face of death that I’ll not describe here, but will remain in my memory.

I reread your writings about your mother recently, and they pay a wonderful tribute to her. Thanks.

I was privileged to hold each of my parents' hands as they died. My father struggled from liver cancer for 6 months and my mothers heart failure was a quick 2 weeks. These were profound events in my life. I realized that in the end nothing matters in the life of a person other than their deeds and interactions with others, a lesson lost on the seekers of power and money today.

A few hours ago I clicked on Time Goes By and read it and admired the idea and the photo and was about to post something your column reminded me of when I saw the link to your series of posts about your mother's death. I have just finished reading them and it was quite an experience. There is so much I'd like to say about each and every one of those posts if we were in a room talking, but for now all I can say is thank you for sharing your emotions, the reality of 24/7 care and your beautiful writing. I shall light a candle to your mother today, too; it is a wonderful tradition.

Here is what I initially intended to write in response to today's post:

When I think of loved ones now elsewhere, I always remember a scene from a movie I saw on tv one day while I was ironing. I've never seen the whole movie but I've never forgotten that scene. Recently, thanks to Internet, I discovered what movie it was: "The Blue Bird" with Shirley Temple. Here's part of the dialogue from the scene I saw, where the little girl and her brother travel to The Land of the Past and find their dead grandparents:

Granny Tyl: Somebody must be thinking of us. I feel quite strong. I think we're going to have visitors. They seem to be coming near.
Grandpa Tyl: Maybe now I can finish my carving. I've been at this one for nearly a whole year.
Granny Tyl: That's because we're so seldom awake.
Mytyl, Tyltyl: Granny! Grandpa!
Granny Tyl: It's the children! Give us a hug, dears, a big one this time.
Grandpa Tyl: It's been months and months since you last remembered us.
Granny Tyl: The last time was Easter morning. The church bells were ringing.
Mytyl: Easter? Oh, we didn't go out that day. We both had very bad colds.
Granny Tyl: But you thought of us.
Mytyl: Yes, we missed you.
Granny Tyl: Every time you think of us, we wake up and see you again.
Mytyl: But we thought you were dead.
Granny Tyl: No, dear. Only when we're forgotten.

Silly perhaps, but it has stayed with me and gives me comfort when I think of the ones I love who are no longer around for me to hug.

A wonderful ceremony and a way to honor and remember and express thankfulness.

Not silly at all. I'm pretty sure I've never seen that movie, but I like knowing about it now - especially that scene. Thank you for posting it here.

Lighting candles in memory of your mother is such a wonderful and beautiful way of honoring her. I wish the Christians had adopted some of the beautiful traditions like this one. I think I may honor my own mother with my version of Yahzeit.

Thank you so much for sharing everything about your time with your mother during her last days. I was not fortunate enough to say goodbye to my mother. I lived in a different state and her death was sudden an unexpected. Lighting candles may help me with that loss.

Oops - I misspelled Yahrzeit. My apologies. I do a lot of that these days. Sigh!

Is that your Mother's goblet in the picture? Thank you for this post, I'm sharing it with my sisters, it will be 20 years next year that our Mom died. The candle is a lovely remembrance.

The ruby goblet is one of only two (my brother has the other) remaining from a set of eight that belonged to my mother.

I don't remember life without them.


I was very touched by your sharing of the experience of being with your Mother during her last days.

It was a time to remember and you very skillfully wove us into the picture. Thank you for trusting us with all that emotion.

I learned to love Joe and became very sad when he announced that he was HIV Positive. Those were tragic years for Gay men and I am happy that Aids is not the fatal disease it once was.

My brother, Bob, was also a collector of Krugerrands and loved to throw them on the bed and count them. For that reason, he refused to take them to the bank.

He bought a bag of Hanukkah Gelt which, as you know, looks like gold coins and mixed the Krugerrands in with the candy and put them in his freezer.

He said that was his Safety Deposit box in the Kelvinator
National Bank.

Today is my Mother's birthday. She was born on April 27,1900. She passed away in October 1984.

So, we both have a strong connection to this day in time. I will think of your Mother, along with mine, and will mentally light a Yahrzeit candle for both of them.

Dear god, Nancy, that's so funny, your brother mixing chocolate Hannukah gelt with Krugerrands in the freezer. I'm laughing and laughing. The Bank of Kelvinator, indeed.

Zichrona l'bracha! What a lovely idea to put the Yahrzeit candle in her red goblet! My mother died just over 32 years ago. I am now older than she was when she died! {{{Hugs}}}

Your thoughtful compassionate posts about your mother remain with me, Ronni. I was profoundly moved.
My mother died 41 years ago. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her.
Candles of remembrance, yes.

Ronni, I read your posts and they showed your compassion and love. Once loved ones have passed on, rituals of remembrance serve so well to comfort us.
I had never heard of Yahrzeit candles. What a wonderful tradition.

Thank you, Ronni, for sharing this intimate rememberance with us. Your writings about your caregiving experience with your mother was the reason that I joined in to TGB. I will re-read it again. I just had one year yahrzeit for my precious husband last week. Let's remember them with Love.
Thank you so much for sharing.

Yahrzeit. What a beautiful tradition.

What a beautiful way to remember loved ones. My mother's yahrzeit is coming soon. I'm not Jewish, but I will remember her with a burning candle that day.

The story of your mother's death brought tears to my eyes when I first read it a year or so ago. I was not there for either my mother or my father when they drew their last breaths. It is one of my regrets.

What a lovely tradition to light a candle to keep your loved ones' memories alive. Good for you for taking the time with your Mom that etched those memories.

Ronni, I've read your story of how you cared for your mother several times in the past couple of years. It never fails to move me. Thank you for your open-hearted honesty. As we age we say goodbye to those we love again and again. Yahrzeit is a beautiful way of honouring the memory of a loved one. I'm going to tuck it away for the next anniversary of my own parent's deaths.

My dear brother and I were privileged to share our mother's care for the last 3 years of her 94 yrs. We were there with her, holding her hands, murmuring words of love as she breathed her last. Unforgettable. Thank you so much for sharing this loving tradition of lighting a Yahrzeit candle on the anniversary of a loved one's death. I'll mention it to my Bro. I know he and his wife will love the idea.

I discovered this blog while I was caring for my mother during the last two weeks of her life. I can not describe how warm and embracing it was for me to read your story of your mother's death. I needed it at that time and it was so helpful and I am so grateful to you.
You really are doing wonderful things with this blog!

Your care was a wonderful final gift for your mother -- barbara

Mom and I are about to go for our regular Saturday morning breakfast, just as we've done forever.

I live five minutes away by car. When I pull into her driveway, first thing, I look through the front window to see if she's in her reading chair.

I dread the day I don't see her there.

We talk about everything. The news, weather, family stuff.

And we laugh so hard, we cry.

Sometimes we take two bag chairs and sit by the lake just watching the water.

Mom might say "the lake is in a bad mood today."

Mom is cool with any topic. We both share a passion for reading and gardening.

Mom doesn't flinch at the odd swear word. We brought her over to see the movie "The Hangover," and she had fun.

Mom is such a great cook, she could own a restaurant.

I picture her as a young mother showing me some new flower that just blossomed.

I see her building a stone fence along the side of our house.

She's no wimp, my mom.

I even gave her my mini trampoline!

It worked for her!

Mom is a healthy 89, living in our family home. I cherish every minute with her.

She likes to wear low cowboy boots.

Ronni, I love the way you described your relationship with your mom.

Strong and proud.

My mom died at the age of 77,following hip surgery.She was brave and proud with no hint of self-pity.She taught us a lot even as she was going downhill with so much pain and suffering.I miss her very much.Thanks ,Ronnie for sharing.

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