I'm friends with an 84-year-old woman named Ruth who has been blind for
about 30 years. She lives alone. She teaches first level Braille to two
other blind people, conducting daily classes with them by phone. She walks
briskly four days a week, 1.5 miles each one of the days. She brings her
tools to schools to demonstrate to children how she manages independent
living. She "Brailles" their names with her Braille label maker; she lets
them listen to and play with her speaking watch and calculator. She explains
how her cane helps her. She patiently answers all their questions and she
welcomes each hug that she invariably receives at the end of her session.
Her hope is to help children accept people who are different from them and
to break down the walls of prejudice. She plays the organ and has a social
calendar that makes my head spin. She gives abundantly and graciously
accepts help from friends and strangers alike. I'm grateful for this blind
friend who helps me see.
Ruth introduced me to one of her pupils, Louise. Louise is a year older than
Ruth, she's blind and she's in a wheel chair because both legs have been
amputated due to complications with diabetes. When there was a local concert
to which I had invited Ruth, she asked if I'd mind picking up Louise and
taking her as well because Louise seldom gets out. I hesitated, trying to
picture how I would lead Ruth and push Louise but knew if Ruth requested it,
it would likely all work out so I agreed. As I wheeled Louise out of her
house she gasped, throwing her hand to her chest and saying with a passion I
've seldom heard, "Oh! How good the air feels on my skin!" I'm grateful for
the breeze that brushes my face, my arms, my hair.
The other day as I was driving to or from somewhere, I noticed a
particularly lovely sunset. The sky was colored with those wintry red kinds
of clouds and the shades of crimson, pink, red, purple, and gray were
breathtaking! I'm grateful that I notice sunsets.
I'm mother to two wonderful people, Laurie and Christopher. Both are
irreverently funny. Both are exceptionally creative. They are very close, in
spite of a five year age difference. They are sensitive, caring people and I
'm happy they are in my life. Christopher is married to Cynthia and Laurie's
sweetie is Sean. These two seem to be perfect mates for my children and fit
right into the rather offbeat nature of our family. I love them both as I
love my children.
Christopher and Cynthia became vegan about a year ago after having been
vegetarian for awhile. Due in part to Christopher's research, I began
following a vegan diet early this year. In February of this year, doctors
found a mass in Laurie's left lung. Her brother was sure a vegan diet would
help her and she agreed. She began following a vegan diet in February.
Finally, after months of agonizing, she was diagnosed with small cell lung
cancer in July. Small cell lung cancer is the most aggressive of cancers and
yet in six months, from discovery to diagnosis, the mass in Laurie's lung
didn't grow. Six months without bovine growth hormones. Six months of
healthy eating. Tomorrow, she's having what we believe will be her last
chemo session. The mass no longer shows on x-ray, and we don't expect it to
show on CT scan four weeks from now.
In addition to diet, Laurie has been the recipient of amazing support. Her
sister-in-law has been her sister and has helped care for her when she was
sick; her man has been with her through her midnight terrors, her emotional
ups and downs, and her baldness. He and her brother have shared chemo duty
with me, accompanying her and sharing the day with her as she receives her
medicine over a six hour period. People at church have visited her,
encouraged her, and offered whatever it takes to help her through this
health challenge. Prayer or positive thoughts have come to her from people
at church, friends, and complete strangers. I'm grateful for my daughters
and for my sons; I'm grateful for the discovery of a vegan lifestyle; I'm
grateful for all the people who have come together to lift Laurie
spiritually and emotionally. I'm grateful to Laurie for showing me what
courage looks like. I'm grateful to Christopher for his quiet persistence,
and I'm grateful to my children for showing me the way in so many aspects of
Through wonderful twists of fate, Laurie ended up receiving all her
treatment as an outpatient at St. Paul Medical Center in Dallas. Nowhere is
there a group of more positive, compassionate, committed individuals than
the healthcare professionals at St. Paul. I'm grateful for the path that led
us there, and I'm grateful when it's my turn to do chemo duty because St.
Paul is near one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurants.
Christopher adopted a turkey for me from Farm Sanctuary this Thanksgiving,
and I'm looking at a picture of my bird, Smoochie Goochie, as I type this. I'm grateful for Christopher's kindness and for Smoochie Goochie.
It's cold and rainy outside tonight. I'm sitting in a warm house; I'm
comfortably full from dinner. In front of me, my keyboard and computer
monitor; behind me, my warm bed. I'm anticipating a holiday season with
people I love, including my brother who lives in Albuquerque and who didn't
understand how "this could happen in our family" when we told him we are
vegan, but who also began experimenting with no-animal-product dishes so he
can cook for us when he visits.
I have conveniences and freedoms that others can only imagine, and I have
amazing people in my life. I'm grateful for all of this, and so much more.
e x t e s s a y -
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by Jo Stepaniak All rights reserved.
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