Letters for Tami
A gift for my friend Tami, from myself.
Letters with quotes and mainly poems that I sent Tami every Tuesday and Friday. They were sent to her during the period of her illness until the day she died.
When Tami became ill I searched for something to support me so I could support her. I found comfort in poems and hoped that Tami would feel the same. So, every Tuesday and Friday I sent her anonymously – a poem or a text. Tami told me she didn’t know who sent her the poems but she looked forward to finding them in her mailbox.
First letter – Visiting Hours
In the first letter I sent to Tami called “visiting hours,” I quoted a passage from the book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
“The next day the little prince came back. ‘It would have been better to come back at the same time of the day’, said the fox. ‘For instance, if you come at four in the afternoon, when three o’clock strikes I shall begin to feel happy. The closer our time approaches, the happier I shall feel. By four o’clock I shall already be getting agitated and worried; I shall be discovering that happiness has its price! But if you show up at any time, I’ll never know when to start dressing my heart for you… We all need rituals’ “.
I did not know what to do; I was afraid to make a mistake and so chose to act in anonymity. I felt that everything I did, good as it may be, will not really make it easier for Tami who was on a mysterious and lonely journey – a routine of treatments, tests, pain and nausea.
Letters, so I wanted to believe, were something that Tami could look forward to, something she could wonder about and be curious to find out the identity of the one sending them. I was hoping she would see them as something permanent and stable that you can count on, something encouraging and comforting. I tried to incorporate in them something intriguing and mysterious, exciting in its anonymity, something that she can attach to countless names, wishes and longings … open possibilities, nostalgia, old loves and new love awakening.
When I visited Tami she revealed to me her speculations about the sender: “Maybe it’s an ex-boyfriend contacting me? … On second thought, it’s probably not a man sending them; they have that kind of sensitivity which is more suitable to a woman. Or maybe it is not a person but rather an organization which cares for the sick and sends them letters with poems…”
At first I wanted her to be intrigued, to give her something to think about and after a while I would tell her it was me sending the letters. But at some point I felt that the “game” became something of a white lie, a necessary secret, and that I could not tell her the truth. I felt Tami was expecting someone new to enter her life and I wanted to believe I was right in not revealing myself. This secret that I kept served as an anonymous being that wrapped and accompanied her on her journey.
Tami was an architect and interior designer. “Home” was the theme of a group of poems I collected from Helicon’s poetry journal and sent to her. One of the poems, for example, was an untitled poem by Andre Lafond:
“I dream of a house, a short house with windows
tall, and three worn steps of green stone.
a poor house, secret, like an old engraving.
a house that resides in me, to which I wish to approach
and sit in to forget the rain and gray day.”
From that same journal I sent poems on a body as a home and poems on poem stanzas (in Hebrew the same word, BAYIT, means stanza, house and home). Sometimes I added a wish:
“Draw yourself a home.”
“Write yourself a home (stanza).”
I guess I could not encourage Tami or help her with these poems; they just increased her longing for a new home and her frustration since she could not make the move herself, and her disappointment of all those who couldn’t helped her with this.
As she became ill, Tami did not like her apartment anymore because there was no elevator in the building. Severe pain plagued her when she climbed up and down the stairs to the hospital for treatments or in the few times she found the strength to go for a walk in the neighborhood. It would have been great if we, her family and friends, had been able to find her a new apartment on the ground floor or one with an elevator. Some of her pains would have been spared and she could have enjoyed more walks and maybe even have brought herself closer to a medical miracle.
“Gifts” after her death
At Tami’s funeral, held on July 18, 2006, I revealed my identity to the guests and I read aloud to Tami and all those present the last poem I sent her – “As a tool” by Chaya Esther, that I edited for Tami. I removed the names but maintained its general ambience.
A stanza from the poem:
My heart went out to me and I could not do nothing nothing
I was all emotion, white love came out of me
I was a resonance nursing on poetry
such perfection I never knew
a voice born from me
and a day breathing with rich colors and smells breathed out of me.”
On one of Tami’s memorials I passed around the crowd a piece of tree bark wrapped in embroidery threads and asked each one to unravel a colorful thread. While they were unraveling, I read last lines of the poem “My mother’s room was lit” by Zelda:
“when I die –
God will unravel my embroidery
and throw my colors to sea
to his storerooms in abyss.
and maybe turn them to a flower and maybe turn them to a butterfly
dark – night like – soft, dark – night like – alive.”