For 28 years, Tilda Shalof worked as a nurse in Toronto General Hospital’s ICU. During that time she collected tiny ‘souvenirs’ of the patients she treated, the stories of which she was a part: caps from medicine bottles, plastice syringe covers, equipment connectors… Shalof collected these for years, not knowing what to do with them but knowing they were important somehow, transitory reminders of something greater, disposable bits of trash that together served as a testimony to a career and memories of life and death.
Eventually all this waste was upcycled into a 9ft mural that now hangs in Toronto General Hospital. Created with artist Vanessa Herman-Landau, the mural is a vibrant, colourful piece that uses the detritus of a hospital to express something of the hope and healing that takes place there. Shalof can point to any of the 10,000 bits of plastic embedded in resin and explain what it was used for, how it helped her patents. Through that, she also remembers those she helped, those who recovered, those she lost.
I’ve written before about how healing and art are more closely linked than we imagine. This mural reminds us of the science that makes the work of hospitals and their staff possible: the medicine, the equipment, the fluids, the drips, the needles. Bezalel’s legacy stretches across disciplines, it informs science and engineering and with them creates something beautiful.
We may be thinking of the miraculous when we pray for healing, but we’re also praying for nurses and researchers, doctors and paramedics, cleaners and receptionists. Our prayers for healing are also a blessing of medicine and MRI scanners, blood pressure machines and prosthetics. These are creativity in action; the Spirit works through science as well. And we can be reminded of that by 10,000 bottle tops and all those that use them.