Archive for February, 2013

Shane Koyczan’s Stunning Anti-Bullying Video: “To This Day”

February 22, 2013

shane-koyczanI love this animated, seven-minute anti-bullying video by British Columbia poet and spoken-word artist Shane Koyczan. It’s an emotionally charged testament to the power of positive self-esteem and the indescribable beauty of every individual soul. The video relates Koyczan’s own experience of being bullied in school, and featuress the stories of two other victims: a girl with a birthmark on her face and a boy suffering from depression.

I was especially moved by the stunning poetry and visuals in this passage:

So we grew up believing that no one would ever fall in love with us, that we’d be lonely forever, that we’d never meet someone to make us feel like the sun was something they (more…)

Michiko and Kimiko: A Love Story

February 17, 2013

Not long ago, I was reading a free weekly newspaper at Swami’s Cafe in Encinitas, California, when a photo jumped off the page and into my heart. The photo, which is at once both beautiful and heartbreaking, showed Michiko Lindsey cradling her cancer-stricken child, Kimiko. The accompanying story told of Kimiko’s battle with cancer and of Michiko’s battle to stay sane and strong in the midst of her fear and grief. Deeply touched by what I read, I contacted Michiko and asked her to tell me her story from the beginning. So here, in Michiko’s own words, interspersed with actual journal entries from her CaringBridge journal, is her love letter to her precious daughter.


Michiko Lindsey and Kimiko Lindsey-Schroder


I named my daughter Kimiko because in Japanese, “ki” means precious, “mi” means beautiful, and “ko” means child. She may be only one-quarter Japanese but she is a full-blooded precious, beautiful child. I’ve loved her ever since I first dreamed of her when I was fifteen years old, twenty-five years before she was born.

Kimi’s nurse practitioner had pronounced her perfectly healthy at her annual physical on July 29, 2010, a week after her fourth birthday. Six weeks later, on September 10, her daycare provider called me to say that Kimi was crying because her back hurt. I picked her up and took her to Urgent Care, where I was told that she probably had caught a flu bug. Since we were leaving for Japan later that month, I made an appointment with her pediatrician for September 17, just to make sure. On the 15th, I was thrilled when Kimi called from her dad’s to say that her back pain was gone. But later that day, after going to the movies with her Aunt Dee and Uncle Chris, her leg hurt so much that she couldn’t walk. When Chris called me, I said, “I’ll meet you at Urgent Care.”

Thank God that Chris had e-mailed me the night before. After doing some online research and talking to a doctor friend of his, he had recommended that I ask her pediatrician for a CBC (complete blood count) and MRI. He may have saved Kimi’s life because if (more…)

Eight Magic Words That Will Open Your Heart

February 13, 2013

woman-being-kind-to-elderly-womanSo many people resolve to be kinder and more loving, but consistently fall short of that goal. The busier life gets, the further their mind drifts from such lofty intentions. Later, in quieter moments, they chastise themselves for not living up to the promise they made to themselves.

The solution? What works for me is looking at every individual as if they were my own son or daughter. Then it doesn’t matter what they look like or act like. I see nothing but the indescribable beauty of their soul.

However, as you’ve surely already discovered for yourself, setting a general intention is not enough. The missing link that moves me from intending to be more loving to actually following through is the (more…)

The Pure, Loving Spirit of Gulab Singh

February 10, 2013
he irreplaceable Gulab Singh

The irreplaceable Gulab Singh

Today, I attended a memorial service for a most remarkable man. Gulab Singh, a fellow usher at the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple in Encinitas, California, had been felled by a heart attack on Saturday, January 26, at the age of fifty-nine. I loved serving with Gulab. He was a model of sincerity and devotion, and I’m very glad I told him all that in an e-mail just five days before his passing.

Gulab’s memorial service was heartfelt, moving and poignant. I teared up a number of times, and I know I was not alone in doing so. Gulab was the magnetic center of a large, extended family of more than two dozen people, and was dearly loved, respected and admired by all.

To know Gulab was to be uplifted, for he had undergone a wondrous transformation in the last six months of his life. As his loved ones explained in their eulogies, he had become a pure vessel of divine love, offering love and kindness to all who crossed his path. At the end of the service, a friend of Gulab’s came to the podium to share a story. He had had lunch with Gulab three weeks before Gulab passed away. The friend, who  had been out of town for a number of months, told Gulab that he had heard of his spiritual transformation and asked him what the source of it was. He said Gulab got very quiet; he tried to speak but got choked up and needed a few moments to compose himself. Finally, he said, very simply, “I realized that (more…)

Brad and Heidi Stokes—Love, Lupus and Liver Transplants

February 5, 2013
Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes
are alive and well, and that in itself is a miracle given all they’ve been through. Heidi and Brad are friends of mine, and I interviewed Heidi about their epic journey from death’s door back to health and happiness. Here, in Heidi’s own words, interspersed with actual journal entries from their CaringBridge journal, is their incredible, inspiring story.

by Heidi Stokes

When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with lupus and told I wouldn’t make it past twenty-one. At twenty-six, my husband, Brad, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a fatal and untreatable liver disease. Doctors said there was no hope for either of us.

Brad and I are now fifty-two years old, with a son, Christian, who has an auto-immune disease of his own, type 1 diabetes. People often can’t get past the illnesses to see how rich and beautiful our lives are. Not long ago, when we were all very sick and lying around in our PJs, Brad mentioned how comforting and wonderful it was just to be home with each other. Our bodies are completely dysfunctional but our family isn’t.

The three of us have defied death more times than I care to remember, but we’re still here, loving life and each other. There’s just something about staring into the maw of death that makes you appreciate the miracle of life. And when it comes to our health, we don’t just believe in miracles, we depend on them.

Brad had his first liver transplant at thirty-five, soon after transplantation for his condition had become viable. At forty-three, his blood work told us that the PSC was reasserting itself; but it’s a slow-progressing disease and we didn’t panic. Four years later, he had surgery for kidney cancer, but it wasn’t virulent and didn’t require chemo. Still, it was a painful, difficult surgery. He lost a lot of weight and muscle tone, and never got any of it back because his weakened liver couldn’t process food well enough to nourish him.

Brad’s decline picked up speed over the next three years, most of which he has no memory of. He was perpetually fatigued, couldn’t keep any food down, and exhibited signs of dementia because of excess ammonia in his brain. Worst of all was the merciless nonstop itching over his entire body. Brad told me that his fantasy was to get run over by a street sweeper; he didn’t want to cure the disease, he just wanted to be scratched! So Christian and I went to the mall and got him a little Lego street sweeper, which he kept on the table by the side of his bed.

As the months flew by, Brad grew weaker, and Christian and I felt powerless to help. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, Brad was beyond the reach of comfort. His only hope was a second liver transplant, but he had deteriorated so much—he was six feet tall and 116 pounds—that I doubted he had the strength to withstand another surgery, much less a demanding and painful recovery process.

By August of 2009, Brad was barely alive. I sensed it was the beginning of the end when he started hemorrhaging in the middle of the night, throwing up blood. PSC can smolder for years, but when it hits a tipping point you can be in big trouble very quickly. I helped Brad into the car and headed for Abbott Northwestern Hospital in downtown Minneapolis. But Brad being Brad, he refused to throw up in the bucket I had brought for him. Instead, I kept on having to pull over on the side of the road. There’s a fine line between preserving your dignity and “Get your butt in the car, we’re going!”

The efforts to control Brad’s internal bleeding have so far been unsuccessful. He has been given numerous units of blood in order to raise his hemoglobin and to all around make him feel better. The doctors are prepping him for surgery to finally stop the bleeding. This procedure is quite risky, but the doctors are confident.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/08/09

Surgery the next morning stopped the bleeding, but rerouting the blood away from Brad’s liver put his kidneys in duress, raised the ammonia levels in his blood, and caused him to spike a fever. All his doctors advised against transporting him to the Mayo Clinic ninety minutes away, but I (more…)