Saturday, February 19, 2005

Making Things

February 3, 2000
This week was relatively "normal" for Timmi. She has been drinking enough, so her kidneys are back to functioning normally. Her blood counts and other bloodwork are also normal. She has been feeling relatively well, with some pains and weakness but nothing extreme. Her mood could be better, but in her situation some irritability is not in the least surprising.

We still have not seen any real signs of GVH which fact, though comfortable for the short term, is not so comforting for the long term, as we need some GVH to combat the cancer. She has been steadily reducing her dose of Cyclosporin (the anti-GVH medicine) and may go off it altogether next week. At least then her kidneys won't be in any further danger.

She spends a lot of time watching her video, and also reads and writes in her diary. This week she drew again with Judith Margolis, which she also enjoys. I hope that pretty soon she will be able to start attending some school, in a limited way.

There isn't really anything more to write, so Shabbat Shalom to all.


February 18, 2005
At this time in the yearly cycle of the Torah reading, we're reading the chapters of the Book of Exodus that set out detailed instructions for making the all of the material objects necessary for the priestly service. Last Shabbat, we read how to make the Holy Ark, in which God dwelt after giving the Torah to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai, its altar, the tent that housed it, and its implements and coverings, as well as the Menorah, the seven-branched lamp that burned before God at all times. Tomorrow, we will read about the garments and breastplate of the High Priest, as well as the garments of the ordinary priests. The Torah goes into loving detail when describing these objects, which were to be made of the finest materials and at the highest level of craftsmanship.

One of the things to be learned, I believe, from the meticulous attention that the Torah lavishes on these descriptions is that making things can be a way of serving God. God made us in His image, and because God is first and foremost a Creator, we are also creative beings. By producing physical objects with the proper intention and with care, we may fulfill the commandment to strive to imitate God – “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

At a recent meeting of my bereavement group, all of us brought pictures of our departed loved ones, or objects that reminded us of them. “David” brought a pendant that his mother, who died when he was eleven, used to wear when she put him to sleep. When she leaned over to kiss him, the pendent would fall over and brush his face. “Ari” brought a tape of a Spanish folk song called “The Song of the Birds”, that he and his wife of 42 years used to listen to, holding each other, every day for years. He hasn’t been able to listen to the song even once since his wife died. Others brought things their loved ones had used, or played with, or cared about, and many brought pictures.

I was the only person who brought something my loved one – Timmi – had made. (I also brought a picture of her smiling triumphantly, holding a pigeon that she'd spent half an hour rescuing from our neighbor’s balcony, where it had gotten stuck in some wire meshing. The picture captured Timmi's lovingkindness, and her intense desire to prevent suffering in the world.) It was one of many mementos she made for the girls in her group when she was a counselor in the Religious Scouts youth movement. I found it in a file she kept that contains, in chronological order, records of all her sessions with the girls. For each session, she carefully wrote down that day’s activities, the values or lessons the activities were meant to emphasize, how many girls came and whether the meeting was successful. Almost all of these descriptions were accompanied by a sample of the small presents (mementos) related to that meeting’s theme, which she'd made for the girls.

The memento I brought to show my group is a key ring, attached to a piece of foam rubber cut into an exact replica of the shape – the boot – of Italy, for an “Around the World” evening that Timmi planned and lead. She and the girls put on Indian makeup, cooked French food, saw a Spanish movie, and did all kinds of other things connected to various countries in the world. And for each of the fifteen or so girls in her group, she made a key ring with a different “country” attached. I can’t even calculate the amount of time she must have spent preparing this evening and making the girls’ gifts.

I brought the key ring to the group because Timmi loved making things. Her self-portrait hangs over the piano in our living room. Directly underneath, on top of the piano, sit two ostrich eggs that we bought on a family trip to the Golan Heights (yes, there is an ostrich farm in the Golan Heights). On one egg is a picture Timmi drew of a huge ostrich bending its neck down to a tiny egg she's just laid; on the other egg, a baby ostrich sits proudly next to the huge egg she's just produced, which is bigger than the bird. Many of Timmi’s friends have kept the presents that she spent hours making for their birthdays – a typical gift was a miniature scroll containing a story or a poem she had written, carefully folded into a matchbox.

Timmi’s name is derived from Ezekiel’s vision of the future Temple. “Timorim” are carvings in the shape of date-palm trees (“Tamar” means “date” in Hebrew), which Ezekiel envisioned as adorning the Temple’s walls and door. Like the Holy Ark and the other sacred objects described in this and last week’s Torah portions, these carvings are the product of exquisite physical craftsmanship harnessed to the ultimate spiritual end – to serve God.

We didn’t know it when we named her, but we truly got it right when we gave Timmi a name associated with a beautiful material object created to serve the highest spiritual Being. Timmi's name recalls not only her amazing creativity, and the meticulous care she invested in the things she made, but also the ends toward which she directed her creativity. True to her name, Timmi made physical objects in order to express her spiritual and emotional self – especially her love and concern for others – just as she did by writing stories and poems. And I’m extraordinarily grateful for this, because although she has left this world in body, the wealth of her creations keep her bright, loving spirit close to those of us who have remained behind.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Beautiful as always.

I wish I could have known her while she was alive. She seems so real from your blog.