Death of Tamara Brooks, 70, Robs Theodore Bikel of Treasured Companion

Appreciation

A Companion Lost: Tamara Brooks was a treasured companion of Theodore Bikel, center, and friend of columnist Leonard Fein, left.
courtesy of Leonard Fein
A Companion Lost: Tamara Brooks was a treasured companion of Theodore Bikel, center, and friend of columnist Leonard Fein, left.

By Leonard Fein

Published May 22, 2012, issue of June 01, 2012.
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It is odd, but perhaps instructive, to scan through the myriad of memories and come to one that rises above all the rest. Six years ago, I wrote of an evening I spent with Theo in Kibbutz Geva in the Jezreel Valley, where we sat together with the members of Geva’s popular folk choir, the Gevatron, and sang, mainly the old songs, songs of love and innocence, songs mostly of a time gone by. No performance; just a bunch of people who started singing at nine in the evening and finished some time around one in the morning. Songs, some of them long unsung, dredged from dusty memories and greeted like long-lost friends.

And suddenly without warning, someone started and all joined in the haunting, yearning melody of Psalm 34, “Mi haish?” “Who is the person who treasures life, who loves each day to see the good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully; turn away from bad, and do good, love peace, and seek it out.”

The detail I omitted in that telling goes to our walk to the somewhat ramshackle room where the singing happened. I was having a bad back day, and was walking – hobbling, more accurately – very slowly towards our destination, Theo at my side. And suddenly, he began to rub my back with his hand, ever so soothingly.

End of story, except to note that there was such wondrous gentleness in his action that I can recall the sensation of it even now, years later.

And now my friend is once more alone. On the one hand, he is 88 years old. On the other hand, he has kept to an intimidatingly hectic schedule of performance.

On the one hand, he is, as one may imagine, devastated by his loss. On the other hand, his energy at 88 is legendary, his life force extending well beyond all the movies, the plays, the concerts, the 40 or so recordings.

On the one hand, the one that caressed my back … no, there is no other hand. Tamara, in her absence, will remain an enduring presence. And Theo, God willing, will do exactly what she so certainly would have wanted: continue to do good; love peace and seek it out; fight the good fight; sing the good song.


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