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Rest in Peace, Dr. Barbara Yablon Maida

Rest Well, Doctor Barbara Yablon Maida

Doctor Barbara Yablon Maida, 1956-2012. Rest in Peace

I lost my sister this week.

I have no Jeff-like snark or pith to lean back on. My sister was the best, kindest, nicest, smartest, and most insightful person I’ve ever known. I’m a little bit shocked that I’m posting this here, but the world has changed.

I know I still think that tweeting from the altar is ridiculous, period. I worry about a world where family fun on video is so fraught with peril. But as I’ve been putting together a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t imagine having to contend with just a couple of days ago I’ve also thought a bunch about how things have changed.

REAL change.

Not very long ago, when someone passed on you placed an advertisement in your local newspaper and primarily you relied on your friends and family to get the word out. Now, we do it on Facebook.

As often as I complain about Facebook, the darned thing is where I’m connecting with an awful lot of people this week. So here’s a placeholder, Facebook. And here’s another, for those of you who remember my sister as the amazing educator she was:

If you’re reading this, I wish you could have known my sister. And I don’t even know how to tell you how sad I am this week.

And to everyone except the esteemed Dr. Yablon Maida:  apologies for the software here doing those stupid “related posts” underneath this. My sister would be cheering for her life helping with my business, even though I wasn’t shooting for that.

Bye, Baba. I miss you more than I have words for.


  1. Jeff, I am reading this and feeling so sad for you and your family. I am obviously one of the people who had the great great pleasure of being able to call Barb one of my best friends all thru junior high and high school. And yes, as silly as FB can be sometimes, if it wasn’t for it, Barb and I wouldn’t have reconnected and had a real-life visit a few years ago.

    And I think Barb kind of hated FB really and everything it stood for. It sort of went against her grain. But yes, things change. And sometimes not for the better. Barb working so hard toward her goal, accomplishing it and then leaving is so, so unfair. Again my deepest sympathies. Janice

  2. My Dear Jeff,
    Your right, we cannot imagine the shock, pain and sorrow you are suffering right now. I know your loss is devastating as the bond you had with Barbara was extremley strong. You were eachothers support, comfort and rock through the years going through the tragedys and circumstances you both experienced in childhood and well into adulthood. Please believe that rock is still alive and strong in the memories you two shared and know she is smiling down and looking out for you right now with the rest of our motley Yablon crew that has endured so much and recovered to go on and accomplish great things and events that will add to our family trilogy and legacy. Please know all of us California Yablons thoughts and prayers are with you during this horribly difficult unbelievable time. God bless you Jeff, with love and sincere heartfelt sympathy
    Always, Belle

    • Belle … thank you. Thank you, thank you. This has really and truly been the saddest few days of my life, and your words are more meaningful than you can know.

  3. And because this is how it works, my comments today at BYM’s funeral:

    My dear friends, family, people who have come from so deep in the past I wouldn’t believe it possible if we weren’t here to celebrate such an absolutely amazing soul, and yes, even a bunch of people I hadn’t heard of until this week:

    Thank you for coming to what I really hope we can all find a way to remember as a celebration.

    I’ve had a week to think about what I’d be saying today, and I can tell you this: coming up with the perfect words to sum up my sister Barbara is . . . impossible.

    I tried doing a short version. And welcome to 2012; I blogged it. Much to my initial surprise, over a hundred people found what I wrote about “the esteemed Doctor Barbara Yablon Maida” in the first few hours that those not-nearly-adequate words were out in public.

    Of course, that shouldn’t really have surprised me at all. And at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but then one of the colleges where Barbara taught saw my words and asked me to do an interview so they can write more in their newspaper. And that felt great.

    That said, it wasn’t good enough. Lucky for me, on Friday morning, at pretty much the same moment I started trying to put better words together, Carl was busy sending me some Barbara-isms. These weren’t words Carl had come up with on his own; Barbara herself will be contributing today.

    Again, I shouldn’t be surprised. I needed help, so my sister sent it.

    None of us should be surprised. Of COURSE Barbara BEING Barbara would surpass anything her husband, brother, or anyone else could say to “sum her up”.

    I also shouldn’t be surprised about how close Carl and I have been, and how closely our thoughts have run moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day over the last week.

    Because, Holy cow, did my brother in law love my sister.

    And she deserved that love. From Carl, from me, from my Aunt Phyllis, whose pain at my mother’s passing I’ve acquired a new understanding of that I would have been very happy to have never acquired, and from every one of us.

    Barbara returned that love. I find myself almost embarrassed to say that I could forget that while moving through space every day, because really, you didn’t have to look too hard to see just how much Barbara loved everyone she came in contact with. Everyone.

    Barbara and I spoke once or twice each week, and one of the subjects that came up repeatedly was, despite her leaving us so young, somewhere along the line she and I had become almost stereotypical middle-aged Jews—at least in one regard: “these kids today don’t know what they’re doing”.

    Sometimes we were talking about specific young people—offspring, nieces and nephews—but other times we were talking more globally, often about her students. They frustrated her tremendously, and she could have looked at them as merely the clay she was trying to mold, but she didn’t. Barbara loved her students. She loved teaching. She loved everything.

    You might know that Barbara isn’t the first loss my family has suffered this week. I had just left services for our Aunt Naomi when Carl reached me on Tuesday morning and delivered what felt—and feels—like the worst, saddest news I’ve ever received. And in the many retellings of the events at the end of Barbara’s life what I’ve heard and held onto is that even as she slipped further and further away in her last hours, Barbara’s demeanor remained that of the calm, steadying influence she was every day.

    Even at the very end when this amazing soul somehow shed a tear hours after she had lost the ability to communicate, as if to tell Carl, and her friend Sue, that she had heard them tell her how much they, and I, and everyone loved her.

    This doesn’t actually help that much, by the way.

    Barbara was in her early thirties when, finally secure in the relationship with Carl that sustained her in so many ways for the rest of her life, she decided to become an officially-educated person so she could one day be the educator of others she was destined to be.

    This would be an impressive enough accomplishment for anyone, but it was all the more amazing for Barbara. We lost our mother when we were young children, and a lot of complicated circumstances left Barbara feeling like a nurturer for me, and later for our little sister Tami, rather than a child herself. It took her until she was with Carl before she felt as though she had the strength and support to do for herself what I wish she could have felt from the rest of her world much earlier.

    So Barbara reinvented herself in the image she saw for herself. Bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree. Ph.D. Professor.

    And still, she kept baking cookies. And some of them actually tasted good! And her rainbow cookies ROCKED.

    Barbara would send local candy to me and to my sons from everywhere she traveled. Some of those tasted good, too. Not too many, actually.

    Barbara’s child-like exuberance for life, love, and everything she did more than made up for those little cow pies from Idaho. I’m happy to report that those tasted like chocolate covered marshmallows, despite what they looked like.

    Barbara would just keep going. And going. And going.

    Now,she’s resting. And I’m just not ready.

    I don’t know who I’ll talk to when I don’t know what to do next.
    I don’t know who I’ll talk to on the way to visit my kids.
    I just don’t know how I’m going to live my life without my big sister . . . who somehow this week has felt like my little sister as I’ve been taking care of things that I know she would have preferred to take care of for us so we wouldn’t have to.

    Fair warning to my three sons, my two not-exactly daughters, and my amazing partner Cathy, who somehow has found the strength to be even more amazing this week than she is every day of our amazing life together.

    Let me finish with those words from Barbara that I promised a few minutes ago:

    1. I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

    2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

    3. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

    4. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

    5. How are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

    6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

    7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

    8. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.

    9. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.

    10. Bad decisions make good stories.

    I’ve never known anyone like my sister Barbara. I’m sure I never will.

    And I suppose I knew this, too, but after all the conversations I’ve had this week, with so many people all saying the same wonderful things about her, I’m pretty sure that . . . neither have, and neither will you.

  4. thank you for Sharing your heartfelt words with us today. You did your sister proud and always remember you have a family here is California that holds you near and dear to our hearts.

    • Thank you, Belle. An unbelievably difficult week that I’m just now trying to figure out how to recover from

  5. Barbara and I were classmates at CSUN and managed to stay in touch over these past years – this is a huge shock and all us in the CSUN community are deeply saddened

    • Thank you, Jim. Thank you.

  6. Best blessings to you and your family. What a gift to be able to witness your love for your sister and the grace in these times that tear our kishkes and open our hearts wide to all the love there is.

    • Thank you, Riva. Truly. It’s the wishes of friends that make this just the tiniest bit more bearable . . .

  7. This is your sister’s long-lost friend from the early Jersey days when we all worked at Plains Pharmacy — my brother Jim, Scott Russell, me, and “Barbie.” I still have albums packed full of crazy photos of all of us frozen in time as teenagers. I have all the letters and postcards Barbie sent me over the years, each one a work of art. Eating turkey clubs at the Par-Troy diner, traveling through London together, the sleepover wedding at the farm, all the inside jokes and dark humor. I am beyond saddened to hear that she is no longer with us. She was such a loyal, loving friend, and an important person in my life. There was no one like her. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Hi, Paula. I certainly remember all of you guys. Heard from Scott in the last few hours, too.

      Barbara was special, for sure. Like, really. We’re almost a month in and I still can’t quite believe she’s not here. It’s “surreal”, which I put in quotes because I don’t have a better way to put words to how I feel.

      Thank you for saying hi. I hope you’re well . . .

      • Jeff: I just today heard about your sister Barbara. I knew her in High School, and, although have not been in touch with her since that time, I wanted to extend my condolences to you and your family for your loss. I remember her as a sweet, funny person, and I am very sad to hear of her passing.

        • Thanks, Cindy. I think “icky” is the best way I can describe what this has been like, and I really appreciate hearing from you; it mitigates the ick factor, for sure!

  8. Jeff: I just heard today about your sister’s passing, and wanted to convey my condolences to you and your family. I knew her in high school at PHS, and, even though I have not been in touch with her since that time, I was so saddened to hear about it. I remember her as a sweet and funny individual, and I’m sure she will be missed by all. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Jeff, Good that Barbara’s friends from Jersey have heard the news and are getting back with you, and with one another. Through the years and across the miles, Barbara kept in touch with many of these friends, and cherished the memories of those Jersey years.

      • Agree. Weird how we can SOMEHOW make good even from awful . . .

  9. Jeff, I came across your post when googling Barbara’s name after I received an email from Carl inviting me for the memorial service. I was shocked, I had no idea. So I googled to try to find more. I am still very shocked and I wanted to leave you a note to say how Barbara touched our lives. I met Barbara some years ago when she came asking for help with her dissertation. I think the word I would use to describe her when we first met would be “intense”. She was so excited about her dissertation work and all the history behind it. It was a breath of fresh air! Once in a while she would come back to Northern California for more research materials. She was ALWAYS so nice and caring. She remembered to bring little gifts for my kids (whom she never met) and remembered to send us thank-you cards every time. She also mailed us candy and other little gifts. She seemed to be someone who was always thinking about other people, even though we barely knew each other. I am very sorry for your loss. The world lost an amazing person.

    • Hi, Paula.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to say hi and describe Barbara as you knew her. It sounds to me as though she was exactly the same with you as she was with me, and everyone else; “Genuine”.

      I can’t even describe the hole on me that Barbara being gone has left. But it really is great to hear from others. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. And just in case you know anyone who needs to be pointed at it, here’s the information for the Barbara Yablon Maida West Coast Memorial:

  10. I just hear about Barbara and am shocked and deeply saddened. I worked with her on the Ventura Campus and always looked forward to seeing her and see what she brought. She was always bringing in something. She had so much energy. She will be greatly missed.


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