My daughter, Timora, was diagnosed with leukemia just after her twelfth birthday, and left this world shortly after her eighteenth. Those years took her on a remarkable spiritual journey, which I’d like to share with you today.
Timora’s spirituality combined a relationship with the God she’d been brought up to believe in with a more universal connection to the divine cosmic energy that sustains all life. The memoir I’ve written, And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, tells how she came to me one day with a thoughtful look:
“‘You know, Eema,’ she said, ‘I used to be really angry with God. I couldn’t understand why He seemed to be ignoring my prayers.’
I put down the book I’d been reading, and moved a little closer.
‘Last year, on [the Jewish holiday of] Shavuot, I got so mad that I started screaming at Him. I said that He was stingy and mean, that He wasn’t helping me even though He could.’
I remembered that time well. She’d been weak and depressed, hurting all over. Sores burned her mouth every time she tried to eat, and made every bite taste revolting. She was sleeping even worse than usual, and was haunted by bizarre, obsessive dreams.
I put my hand on hers. What could I say?
‘... You know what happened then?’
I shook my head, still mute.
‘I lay down, and suddenly I started to feel a wave of new strength filling me, flowing into my blood. I told God I’d make a deal with Him. He’d go easier on me, and I’d stop being so angry at Him. That night I was able to get out of bed and say to myself, I won’t sink into this cesspool. I can be strong, I do have someone to give me the strength to live like a person. And I will, and that’s that.’”
Timora later discovered Reiki, a Japanese healing art that teaches its practitioners to become vessels through which spiritual energy flows into people who are suffering. It helped her so much that she eventually became a practitioner herself, laying hands both on herself and on other people, whose discomfort she delighted in alleviating.
Timora departed this world much as she had dwelled in it, in deep connection with the spiritual forces that animate it. As I relate in my memoir, her Reiki teacher visited her in the hospital a few days before she died.
“As Edna touched Timora and the energy flowed between them, Edna felt, through her fingertips and deep inside herself, that part of Timora’s soul was already on the way to the next world. Another part of her spirit was lingering behind – hesitating to leave us because she was worried about us, not wanting to cause us pain – but at the same time longing to be released.
As the energy between them intensified, Edna experienced herself as being together with Timora, in a corridor suffused with light unlike any she’d ever seen or sensed. The corridor led toward an even stronger, more beautiful light, which could not then – and cannot now – be depicted in words, but seemed to be the source, expression and richness of everything that is Good.
When Edna removed her hands and said her last farewell to Timora’s earthly form, she was left with a feeling she can only describe as a kind of completeness, a fullness. This feeling, she says, has not entirely left her to this day. Timora gave her an incomparable gift: Having experienced those few minutes of light together with Timora’s spirit, Edna now knows in the deepest sense possible that she has nothing to fear from the other side.
After her release (Edna tells me) Timora’s spirit did not stay away for long, and soon returned to become a kind of spiritual guide and teacher. Every so often, she comes to Edna during Reiki sessions, and Edna sometimes asks her for help and guidance. When she comes, she adds her own spiritual energy to the currents of Reiki moving through Edna’s hands, making them that much more powerful as agents of healing.”
I believe that God provides us with a well of strength that we can draw upon to go on, even to help others, despite life’s – and death’s – trials and tragedies. We may draw from this well through prayer, or receive it in the form of the energy that Reiki teaches us to harness or, doubtless, in other ways I don’t know of. This strength, this continually replenished energy, is none other than God’s healing presence in our hearts.