Remembering Mom

February 12, 2011

Meditation has a funny way of gently prodding all our buried emotions and bringing them to the surface. This morning during my daily meditation my thoughts kept drifting to my mother, now deceased for 10 years. It’s no coincidence that today is her birthday. I have “successfully” buried the pain of my mother’s death for 10 years but this morning it came pouring out. It’s taken me this long to feel like I can process the grief and look with joy at who my mother was, not just to me, but to those around her.

Bernie Sinclair (born Bernadine Matyniak) would have been 96 years old today, and what a 96-year-old she would have been! Forget Betty White, my mom was sharp as a tack and equally witty. That’s her on the right in the photo above with her partner-in-crime, Edna. They were a couple of fun-loving Polish gals growing up in Detroit, in spite of the many hardships they both faced. My mother was one of 11 (or 12?) children who lost both of her parents early on and most of her siblings, as well. As I reflect on this now, her resilience amazes me. Bernie never lost her sense of humor. Just ask her 9 grandchildren – especially Scott, the oldest, who had the good fortune to be born on April Fool’s Day. Not a birthday went by that Bernie didn’t play a trick on her grandson. She was always game for a good time and never let her age get in the way. Here she is at 77 years old with my dad at the wheel getting ready for her very first jet ski ride.

Matt and Bernie. They had been married for 57 years when my dad passed on in 1998. He was gentle and laid back. She was the go-getter. They were two of the lucky ones who managed to reach that milestone together in spite of (or maybe because of) their differences. I think that their greatest achievement together was in their role as grandparents. They loved each of their grandchildren equally, in good times and bad, and never played favorites. They were active participants in shaping the lives of each and every one of them: Scott, Sara, Tracy, Andrew, Kristen, Jennifer, Kevin, Brian and Amy.

Now comes the hard part. Of their four children, my brother Denny, and my sisters Carol and Sue, I was the youngest and without a doubt, the one that caused my mother the most grief. I was the “emotional one”, the bratty adolescent and teen, always writing letters of apology for making her life so miserable. My mother and I were always at odds and yet, the older I got, the closer I became to her. Funny thing, as I was looking through old photos, there were so many of her with her nose in a good book. There is nothing I love to do more than read and one of my first and fondest memories of my mother is going to the public library with her and picking out Madeline for the 100th time. “Don’t you want to try something new?” I remember her saying. I can still recite the entire book, line by line.

Who doesn’t wish they could have one last opportunity to say the things that went unsaid, to ask the questions. As difficult as it was, I consider it one of life’s greatest gifts that I was with my mother, holding her hand, when she took her last breath. She had been in a coma for a few days and the last words she spoke to me were “Go home, Barbara, you’ve been here all day.”

If I had to choose three words to describe my mom, they would be young at heart. I’m pretty certain everyone that knew her would agree. Happy birthday, Mom.


  1. Barbara- What a wonderful tribute to Bernie! I still remember her spirt, and I love your ability to put it into words. I also love that you delved back into her past, something that children seldom do with their parents. She maintained such a great attitude in the face of hardship. I’m sure that she saw a lot of herself (the spunk, emotion and love of reading) in you. I especially loved the part about your “letters of apology”! I hope that you saved some of those.

    Happy Birthday, Bernie!!!

    • Ahh, Rachel. Of course you get this. You are so much a part of our family and my mom loved watching you grow as much as her own grandchildren. Thank you for the kind words and for seeing “the big picture”. Yes, I have one of the infamous letters! xoxo

  2. What a touching tribute to your mother, Barbara. I got very emotional reading this. I wish I would have had the opportunity to meet this amazing woman! I loved these pictures. I think my favorite line of the blog was how you are now able to feel the grief of her passing but also look with joy at the wonderful woman that she was. Thinking of you today, Barbara. xoxoxo

  3. This is such a beautiful and beautifully written tribute to one of the great loves of my life – Grandma. I carry her with me always and admire her in many ways. Thank you for sending this to me 🙂 I love you! Amy 🙂 xoxo

  4. Barbara – Young at heart fits perfectly. After all, how many 80 year old women would go skinny dipping with her daughter, grand-daughter/friend! She sure was a go getter, the perfect match for your dad. I am thinking about your mom today, she was an inspiration to many. Happy Birthday Bernie! Love- Mary

  5. Dear Barbara,

    I just read the article that you wrote about your mother and it touches my heart! It certainly uplifts the spirit when one cherishes the loving memories of your loved ones.

    I know it’s a fact that only through meditation can one reaches the core of our being. I consider myself to be very blessed to be able to do so. May more people be blessed with such a divine gift!


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