Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gifts Come in Many Wrappers

When I was ten years old the doctors thought I may have childhood leukemia, still quickly lethal back then. I was hospitalized for ten days and so many tests, that I wiped the needles out of my memory.

I do remember other things about that event in my life. Such as the snow that blanketed Jerusalem and paralyzed the city mid-way through my hospital stay.
The roads were impassable for all but emergency vehicles, and my mother could not visit me for three days. I thought about my friends who were likely throwing snowballs and making snow men.
During my childhood that was one of only two times it snowed, a huge event of almost mythical proportions. 

 I was the “left-out-of-the-fun person” par excellence. I carried that sense forward, and it appears in my stories.

 I also remember the Hassidic boy whose large and loving family was ever present. We were roommates in a large room, more like a ward, with six others. When he saw me with colored pencils and paper one Saturday, he explained to me why I should not draw or write on the Sabbath. I complied as to not upset him.
But what I got from him was a profound gift that lasts me to this day.

“When you draw or write you create something new, “  he said. “ When you create, you become like G-d, or G-d’s assistant on this earth. G-d rested on Sabbath, and asks us to do the same.”
He used the Jewish HASHEM (“the name”) instead of G-d. I still omit a letter as to not use The Name in vain.
 To this day I feel this bit of mystical stream when I bake, draw, or write. G-d’s assistant on this earth.

My suspected a-typical leukemia turned out to be a very severe case of Mononucleosis with every complication ever mentioned in medical books. After I returned home, I still couldn't go to school for two more months. I had a deep and ever-present fatigue for a time, even after my return.

 In addition to these gifts, I also took with me a glimpse into the world of the children’s ward, and a new window to empathy for those who are in it.

I remind myself in times of sadness that all is a gift if I can open to receive it, like a ten-year-old child.
I also give myself permission to ask G-d to be less generous with gifts of pain and sorrow. I’m human.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a lot for a ten-year-old to go through. How wonderful that the ordeal brought you gifts to cherish throughout your entire life.

Barbara Etlin said...

Joni Mitchell felt inspired to write and paint because of her childhood polio. Because she couldn't run and play like other kids, she developed a love for art and music and poetry.

Each of us will go through tough times and meet difficult people. Only writers are lucky enough to be able to use these things as story material.

Johnell said...

Oh this was lovely. Thank you.

Kelly Hashway said...

Every experience becomes part of a writer's inner material for future work. I love that about this profession.

Leandra Wallace said...

Children in the hospital are one of those horrible things I wish never happened. If only the young were exempt from sickness. :(

Carol Federoff said...

I've never really thought about writing about my hospital stays as a child. It's worth pondering and considering.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, what a lovely gifts you share. Thank you.

Anna Staniszewski said...

I was recently listening to an interview with an author who said that the first thing every writer needs is a childhood illness so they have something to write about when they're older.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

This is a beautiful story. It gives the mama in me a lot to think about and a lot to be grateful for.

Becky Shillington said...

I love the idea that when we create, we become like the Creator. This is such a beautiful post, Mirka.

Marcia said...

Anne Tyler said that to be a writer, it was good to have some sort of setting-apart experience in childhood. You definitely had that! I still remember being in the hospital as a 5yo, in a ward with 2 boys ages 5 and 3. I was on IV for dehydration and stayed about three days, which would no doubt be laughable now. One of the boys had surgery and had a big bandage on his side. The other was severely diabetic, and apparently not doing well. I've wondered from time to time whatever happened. One of my kids was in a pediatric ward overnight, and it would take a very stone-hearted person not to develop immediate empathy for all the sadness there.

Anonymous said...

Really nice thoughts. My setting-apart experience, I guess, was having an infant sister die when I was seven - one of my novels has that experience at its core.