Monday, August 30, 2004

Coming Home

August 27, 1999
Sorry this is going out so late, but the reason will soon be apparent. This week could have been better, as they say. Timmi spent Sunday night as planned in the hospital getting the final dose of this course of chemo, and we left the hospital late Monday. Tuesday Don left with the other kids for camping in the Galil (they had a very good time), and Timmi and I had planned to do fun things in Jerusalem for the rest of the week. Well, we got to one movie ("Waking Ned Divine", highly recommended), and by the end of the movie she felt so weak she could hardly walk. At home we discovered she had a fever, so it was off to the hospital at 2:30 AM; we hardly slept that night. We ended up staying till this afternoon (I'm writing this on Friday PM).

Going to the hospital due to a fever following a course of chemo is quite routine, as the treatment lowers blood counts. We had hoped to avoid it this time because of the naturalistic stuff she was taking, but that didn't happen. Her fever went down as soon as she started getting IV antibiotics, however, the cultures they took were negative, and her blood counts were up today, so they released her after only three days; normally it takes longer. So we got off relatively cheap.

She was feeling quite low, both physically and emotionally, while in the hospital, but as soon as we came home she did Reiki to herself for an hour and a quarter, and now feels significantly better.

Shabbat Shalom to all; see you in Shul.

Love, S.

August 29, 2004
Coming home from the hospital was often a mixed blessing for Timmi. On the one hand, the hospital was stressful, uncomfortable and boring. On the other hand, while in the hospital she would fantasize about coming home, and then become disappointed at the reality of returning to the problems and bickering that characterize every family, no matter how close. The underlying love was sometimes camouflaged by the conflicts, and she had trouble getting used to that.

Last week, we had a very different kind of homecoming. Our 19-year-old daughter Elaine returned from Denver, wearing a T-shirt that boldly proclaimed: “Hate is Not a Strategy.” She had spent three weeks as a counselor and Israeli delegation head in Building Bridges for Peace, a program that brings Jewish and Israeli Arab and Palestinian teenage girls together for a two-week intensive dialogue camp. There, the girls learn to express themselves honestly, deeply listen to others, and build relationships across the chasm that separates them, all on the basis of empathy and compassion. This year, she'll direct a follow-up program in which the girls will continue to discuss hard, life-and-death issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and initiate joint projects promoting peaceful coexistence.

Timmi would have been proud of Elaine. Timmi herself had profound compassion for all God’s creatures. She could not even bring herself to harm insects – no matter how small, and even when they frightened or disgusted her - and always took the trouble to shoo annoying flying or creeping creatures out of the house rather than kill them. She always used to say that we cannot possibly know another creature’s inner life – whether or not it has thoughts or emotions of its own – and that we must therefore always behave on the assumption that it has feelings and experiences pain. For other people, her compassion went even deeper, and she respected every human being who was created in God’s image - including those with whom we are locked in a seemingly endless conflict.

And Timmi always stood up very firmly for what she believed, even in the most difficult circumstances. After she died, during the shiva week of intense mourning, one of Timmi's classmates related that for some weeks, on her way to school, she had passed by a wall on which someone had written “Death to the Arabs.” She told us that she debated with herself for a long time whether to do anything about it – being seen erasing the inscription could cause her to be attacked by the radicals who had written it. Then she thought to herself, “What would Timmi have done?” That night after dark, she went out and painted over the slogan. She told us that she had no doubt that Timmi would have done the same – except that she would have done it in broad daylight. It means a great deal to me that although Timmi herself can no longer act directly on her principles, there are others who are willing to take action on the basis of the ideals she left behind.

Timmi died at the beginning of 2001, just as the most recent outbreak of severe violence between Jews and Arabs was starting. Each of the two events has sharpened my feelings about the other. Having lost a child, I feel very keenly the loss of every child killed in the conflict – whether Israeli or Palestinian – and every child’s death brings home yet again my own unfathomable loss. A child killed or gravely wounded can no longer be a mere statistic. Every such child is an entire world, and means the world to her parents. I can no longer relate to questions of blame – only to the tragedy of a life destroyed and of a family bereaved. I believe that Timmi also saw things that way, and would have been very happy to see her sister acting on that world-view, which she also shares.

While Timmi was in the hospital, she held on to an ideal of family love, which helped her to get through. In the midst of the hatred and turmoil currently infecting our region, Elaine holds on to her own vision of a different world. Like Timmi, Elaine is returning to a difficult and conflicted reality. But unlike Timmi, Elaine will continue to have the opportunity to contribute, if only in a small way, to making her vision a reality. She’ll have the chance to learn that while coming home is sometimes very hard, in the end home is what you make of it.

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