Friday, February 11, 2005

Playing in the Snow

January 30, 2000
Timmi was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, after receiving five and a half days of hydration intravenously. Her kidney functions are now normal, after a fairly serious kidney failure caused by the dehydration and the very high level of the anti-rejection drug Cyclosporin in her blood. She is no longer sleepy or hallucinating, so we know that these symptoms were caused by the dehydration and not by the painkillers she is receiving, as we had originally feared. She still has some pain but it no longer wakes her up at night.

We are now waiting for clear signs of GVH; she has a couple of symptoms that might be it but we're not yet sure. It should be happening around now, though, so we are hoping (a) that it will come and (b) that it will not be too uncomfortable when it does.

Generally Timmi has been feeling fairly well the last few days, and even came outside with us for over an hour this morning to play in the snow. Her mood is also generally good, though she is somewhat impatient, which is of course totally understandable.

This last hospital stay was not as hard as hospital stays can be, as Timmi had a private room in the Pediatrics Department, but it was very tiring for me and I am feeling pretty much drained. Thank God for Shabbat!


February 8, 2005
It snowed in Jerusalem for a short time this afternoon. Wet snow that melted as soon as it hit the ground, but snow nonetheless. Jerusalem children love snow, which falls here every other year or so, and falls seriously (that is, “sticks”) only once every few years. Actually, although I grew up with snowy winters, I myself find it exciting when a real snowstorm hits – probably because I know that there’s almost no chance that it will last more than a day or so. It’s just a welcome break in the routine. I could use a break like that right now.

Five years ago, we had one of those big snowstorms that come to Jerusalem at most once every ten or fifteen years. Big, fat, dry flakes fell for hours and piled up in the garden and playground next to our apartment complex. We drove that evening to look at one of the most beautiful sights I know – the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City peacefully blanketed in soft, white powder. The next day, the sun came out but it stayed cold enough so the snow didn’t melt, and the streets filled with families playing, having snowball fights, and – almost a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Jerusalem! – building snowmen.

Like the other families, we went outside and built our snowman. Timmi absolutely insisted on joining us, even though she was still in some pain from the transplant. She took charge, dispatching her younger sisters and brother to roll the big snowballs, stacking them, adding snow to the sculpture and shaping it into the classic snowman, the one you see in films and comic strips. Scarf, carrot for the nose, the whole kit and caboodle. We have many pictures of her standing proudly next to the finished product, her face ruddy with cold and radiant with fun and happiness.

For that short time, Timmi was again the carefree, joyful girl that we had had the privilege of raising from babyhood; her shadows were banished, if only for that hour. I love looking at the photos from that day, and remembering those moments of joy. But at the same time, they remind me that there won’t be any more pictures of Timmi in the snow. Because, of course, that hour had to come to an end, and we had to take Timmi back inside. The snow melted soon after, leaving behind the sad and rather comic sight of sidewalks littered with dozens of carrots. Timmi returned to the struggle against her illness, her pain and her occasional despair. When the next winter came around, she had already left this world. She really did get to make that snowman only once in her lifetime.

Since translating Timmi’s poem in my last post (“Pain and Poetry”), I’ve been feeling sad much of the time. Recalling Timmi’s pain was, and remains, harder than I expected it to be when I wrote about it last week. When I’m not specifically busy with something else (work, cooking, trying to get the kids out of bed for school) I hear the words of her poem going through my head again and again. I could use some fine, powdery snow to go out and play with just now. I would love to be out there with my children, building and throwing snow and just being inside my body – together with these amazing beings that I once carried inside me – and giving my thoughts a rest.

February 11, 2005
I’m finishing this post on Friday. Real snow is now predicted, perhaps for tonight and more likely for tomorrow, Shabbat. So maybe my kids and I will get to play a little in the snow this year after all.

Since the time I started this post, I’ve undergone a condensed version – a kind of repetition in micro – of my larger mourning process. From being haunted by Timmi’s pain, and by her absence, I’ve returned to dwelling on the joy we had together, and her continuing presence in my life. If I go out and build a snowman tomorrow, it won’t be merely to distract myself from my pain at the memory of Timmi’s suffering, but to enjoy a happy time with my children. And my happiness will be tempered, but also enriched, by my memories of the good times we all had together when our family was whole.

Like that last snowfall, our time with Timmi ended too soon. But I feel deeply grateful that I had her to love, to play with and to cry with for eighteen amazing years. Each moment of those years came only once in my lifetime, and while I may not have fully appreciated them at the time, now I cherish them and will do my utmost to keep them from melting away.


torontopearl said...

"When the next winter came around, she had already left this world. She really did get to make that snowman only once in her lifetime."

Sara, my tears certainly blended with yours when I read those two sentences.
My heartfelt thoughts continue to be with you and your family...

Yael K said...

Reading your blog is very difficult, even for a complete stranger. I cry nearly everytime I come by and I think I cried the most reading this post. But I also feel gifted, tremendously honoured, to get to know Timmi through your words and memories and of her. And honoured that you allow us, complete strangers, to be touched by this bright little spark named Timmi.