There was a daily calendar on the wall emblazed with the words: “Today is” but there were no pages left.
Tamara looked at it, saying over and over again, “Today is…”
“What is today?” I asked my sister.
With her eyes wide open she uttered, “no tzures,” a Yiddish expression meaning “no problems,” then licked her lips and savored the absence of suffering. It was a good day.
I sat with Tamara in silence.
I was reminded of Emily Dickinson’s words- Saying nothing sometimes says the most.
She lay in a hospital bed. I sat in a chair. Timed passed.
Tamara broke the silence.
“I’ve shown great courage and strength. I’ve shown enough anger and gratitude.
I’ve shown passion…I like passion,” she said, once again licking her lips.
“Did you write that down?” she asked.
“I did. Anything else?”
“Yes, please pray for the “wonder factor of tender mercies’ and send me a draft,” she said.
I had Bernie write her prayer on the whiteboard, in her line of sight.
I was hesitating to say that it was now time for me to go. There was a plane to catch.
“I’ll be waiting for you in Vermont,” I said.
“Do I have to pack much?” she asked
“No.” I answered. “You’ll come with everything you need.”
“Good,” she said.
“I want you to know that in your dying you have taught me how to live,” I said.
“I couldn’t have done this without you,” she responded.
“Now, go out and teach the world.”
Tamara taught by her own example. She was a teacher and psychotherapist.
With tears in my eyes I asked, “Do you remember Mary Oliver’s poem
When Death Comes?”
“Remind me,” she said.
I reached into my carry-on bag. The book of Oliver’s poems was waiting for me.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of life something
particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument
I don’t want to end up simply having
visited this world.
When it was over my beloved sister Tamara moved from the physical to the spiritual world not sighing, frightened or full of argument.
A few weeks later, she arrived in Vermont to settle into her final resting place.