September 26, 1999
Well, there goes Sukkot.* At midnight on Shabbat, Don had to take Timmi to the hospital because she developed a post-chemo fever. To remind you, these fevers are routine but no fun nonetheless. Don slept with her in the hospital Shabbat and last night, and we expect her to stay in the hospital for several days at least, because of her low blood counts. She will be released when her white blood count returns to a certain minimal level.
It was certainly no fun having to hospitalize her on Shabbat, but it was good that we didn't have to bring her on Thursday night, because then she would have missed the three (!) birthday parties that people gave for her, two of which were surprises - in the morning her Reiki** teacher gave her some beautiful presents and later some friends from school, led by A., brought her a cake that A. had baked. Then in the evening we had a family celebration in the Sukka. So at least she had a really great day before having to go off to the hospital.
Mo'adim l’Simcha!*** S.
*Sukkot - The seven-day holiday of Tabernacles
**Reiki - A kind of energy healing
***Mo’adim l’Simcha – Happy Holiday
October 3, 2004
Today would have been Timmi’s twenty-second birthday. Birthdays give us a chance to let those we love know how glad we are that they came into our world. I wish so hard that today I could know and love a 22-year-old Timmi, and to let her know in every way I can how much she means to me. I want so much to mark the day, to celebrate her life. But how can I celebrate when - although I'm thankful beyond words to have had the privilege of bearing, birthing and raising an incredible human being - she’s died and left behind an unfathomable void?
Timmi was born on the second day of Sukkot. On this holiday, Jews are commanded to build a Sukka, a temporary outdoor dwelling with only foliage for a roof, and live as much of our lives there as possible (for example, eating and (if safe) sleeping there) during the seven festive days. One of the ways of understanding this commandment is that a week of exposing ourselves to the mercy of the elements serves to remind us that there’s nothing in this world that is truly permanent, or absolutely to be depended on. The strongest house may be destroyed by war or natural disaster. The greatest riches may melt away overnight. No matter how hard we try to insure ourselves against loss, in the end we must face the fact of our ultimate vulnerability, our lack of true control. This realization humbles us, and we once again remember that ultimately it’s God – and not only ourselves - we must look to to provide for us and to thank for what we have.
Paradoxically (or so it seems), the holiday during which we’re most vulnerable is also our happiest; Sukkot is defined in our prayers as “the time of our joy.” For me, Timmi’s birthday reflects that paradox. All day long, I’m painfully aware of her absence. Where would she have been in her life on this birthday? Studying at University? Traveling or working in another country? Would she have met the love of her life by now? I can feel a gaping, almost physical hole in myself when I ask myself these things. But at the same time, I’m grateful. Yes, if I hadn’t brought Timmi into the world, I wouldn’t be haunted by her absence. If she’d never lived, she’d never have left me aching for her. But not for a moment would I give up having had her for those eighteen years.
Because I love, I’m vulnerable to the pain of loss. But if I had avoided family and children in order not to be exposed to the possibility of bereavement, my life would be far emptier than the void that Timmi left behind her. And so Timmi’s birthday is a time not only for me to wish desperately that she could be with me now, but also to celebrate the joy I had when she was with me in this temporary, unreliable world we call home.
May God continue to grant us children to love, the strength to take the risk of loving them, and – even if it's mixed with the pain of loss – thankfulness for the privilege of having had them in our lives.