On and about the time of the accident that left me paralyzed in 1995:
I remember fields of flowers in the north of Israel where the poppies of a
brilliant red dripped their pleasure upon the land and blues and whites and
golden-lit lips of petals mingled in ecstatic celebration. I used to love to lie on
my belly looking “up” at the forest of color above me and race through the fields
feeling the brush of the stems on my legs as I leapt into an infinity of hues. The
rainbow had no stopping place.
Now I have hurt my spine and my legs do not walk like they used to. Still
I have flowers. There are some flowers beside me now. I was sitting down
to write and feeling very sad and I glanced over at the flowers of yellow,
white, purple and pink which someone had brought me. Suddenly, the stem of
pink flowers caught my eye. A soft blush went through me. the pink color
lit up my heart with a tenderness and I felt tears of release, a comfort so
old, a beauty so sun-baked and rare.
And sometimes there are not flowers in my house, but I still have flowers.
My friend Renee’ has painted flowers on canvas and I felt compelled to put
the canvas up on my altar next to my picture of Baba. These flowers are a
wild and flagrant burst of oils on canvas creating a joyous song. Looking
at the painting, I have felt fed and whispered to, as if the Beloved
Himself was rolling with me on the grasslands and teasing me while we
So it is not the flowers, is it? It must be the one who sees the flowers.
It is not even the one rolling on the field or feeling the stems on her
legs. It is the one who perceives it. And who is that one? It is
changing daily in me. That One is growing and establishing new names and
colors of itself every day. Until one day I will realize it is the Divine
Beloved Himself who sees through my eyes and then all perception will
I will be His flower then.
I’ve had to learn to give up perfectionism. And I struggle against it
every day like a bird in a trap, shaking and fluttering with the effort.
I’ve always liked to clean things up as I go along, to keep a neat house,
for my altars to be arranged just so, so that the spaces within the
physical dimension can be most welcoming to the spiritual. Now I realize,
God will have to enter without my always being able to sweep the way ahead
of Him. It’s why that dream I had with Baba in it touched me so much
because I could anticipate His every move and was at the door to open it
for Him. Now I have to trust that God will find His way to me…my flowers
may have wilted, the food may not be perfectly seasoned, there may be a
stain on the rug…..God will have to love me enough to make His way to me.
For I cannot do it all. I cannot do it at all.
I hold to grief like a tow-line, for it is the last hold-out of the old
life. Embedded in it like precious gems are the memories of natural life.
My greatest pain is that I have become unnatural. To have to live in metal
and plastic as I do is like adding robot to my identity card. I ache for
soft grass under my body and know only a rugged wheelchair, a dubiously
Today Donna put my feet in the sand they had brought from Myrtle Beach. I
experienced the energy of the sand through my being, and tears flowed like
the ocean meeting the shore of the self same beach. Looking off over my
patch of trees outside, somehow I could remember the infinity of ocean and
the tread of the land under my feet. Now the land comes to meet me, rather
than I to the land. So Beloved comforts me with the excesses of love and
kindnesses and thoughtfulness of dear friends.
I am treated like a princess as Donna puts shells about my toes and moved
my feet like walking on the softness. The hard-softness of beach. The
ancient quality of that well-worn fabric- how I have known it. Did I have
any idea the last time I let the waves whisper to me that I might not be
dancing with Mother Ocean for some long while.
Del says to me, remember, it all will end one day. Oh dear heart, must we
long for death? Looking forward to death. Looking backward to grief. In
between is the present moment, the only reality, kindness of human souls.
It is my own soul that is starving for the food it once ate – solitude,
nature, quietude, independence, a walk through the woods. A walk through
In normal consciousness and time, God protects us to the level we need. We
expect to be warm and have food and not be hurt and for the most part He
will watch over us in that way. The things we fear then are physical – we
need to feel safe physically for our bodies.
In extreme circumstances, when I was hurt so badly, the fear for the body
goes away. And then other fears come in – like the fears I had in my mind
when I couldn’t sleep. Subtle fears that we don’t have words for. We’ve
gone beyond the brink, into another place where we don’t fear for the body
anymore, but the spirit needs protection. And at those times – like when
we are under general anesthesia – God protects our spirit.
He never abandons us. It is just He meets us at the level we need. In
our normal body-consciousness, we can’t realize that we could go beyond
fear for our physical form. But when we are beyond that, because that form
has lost integrity, or been crashed through or destroyed in some way, the
other form – of our soul becomes the source of focus, the place we live
from. And then God extends His cloak of protection over our soul. He meets
us where we are.
God never abandons us. At the time we are beyond the body we don’t need
His protection in a body. He stays with us where we need. He is always
Writing about the hospital and even now, sometimes I hold back because the
facts sound like complaints. I want to share the reality, but I hesitate,
thinking I will sound ungrateful.
The care I got moved me so much. I remember kindness after kindness. The
woman who did the cleaning in my room each day and took the trash — her
deep faith in Christ and the way she prayed for me as we spoke about
things. She was thin and wiry – some 62 years old or so.
It kind of baffles me now how people stay healthy for so long now. It kind
of appears as some kind of lucky fluke. But before this, I felt invincible
health wise. It never occurred to me to go to the doctor. I had an
excellent diet, I moved my limbs and back to keep the energy going in them.
When in deep need, a massage or bodywork or a therapy session would put me
all back together after perhaps a healing crisis…
Now I view health as a miracle where then it was a commonplace.
Anyways, so many millions of kindnesses…and funny moments. I remember
one of the nurses once knocked over a mirror they’d given me and it broke.
I was consoling her, trying to let her know I wasn’t upset, it was no big
“That’s easy for you to say!” she groaned. “It’s not you who’s going to
have seven years of bad luck!”
There was a night-person named Kathy during the hospital – kind of a
stodgy, simple woman. Not especially bright, nor especially kind that I
thought of. Little light shining through — she was often the one there at
night for awhile – during the time when I could not sleep for anything. I
would stay up at night and watch T.V. sometimes and in the movies all I
could see was peoples’ legs. Everyone had legs and their legs worked! The
ads were all legs as far as I could see. It was hard to watch T.V.
Then one night I watched this movie about the resistance during World War
II. These people were dragging themselves up mountains and carrying their
companions, against incredible physical odds, with incredible courage and
integrity and incredible horror of the times — I was glued to this movie
(I wish I knew the name) until about 3:00 A.M. when I finally called my
mother in Israel. I was distraught —
Sometimes when I was awake at night, I would get calm and realize that was
my time to regroup. I suppose it was prayer in a sense. Just time for me.
I would read cards people sent me, try to make sense of what had happened.
Every morning was such a shock to wake and find I was paralyzed. I
couldn’t move! I had to undergo the realization from scratch each day.
The grief would overcome me. Because when I would finally sleep, of course
I didn’t feel paralyzed in the deep sleep state!
So Kathy would come in to check on me and I’d never be asleep. She became
convinced I didn’t need that much sleep then. That was actually pretty
smart. I mean the body does take care of itself even in dire
She suggested various remedies. Like the other woman, Joy, who suggested
ginger ale mixed with cranberry juice. I actually liked it!
One night Kathy came in and I was in a bad shape. I would have these
dreams that threw me into other dimensions and I would think I would never
be found — like I was stuck in a dimension forever. I was awake
wishing I could find my glasses and not able to find them, feeling so much
pain, not able to find the nurse’s call button and feeling utterly trapped
in a feeling of forever.
After that night I would ask her to stay and just talk to me. It didn’t
matter what we’d talk about – homely ordinary things. And she’d talk to
me. Once I asked her to stroke my back or something and that was more than
she was able. But she’d do what she could.
I appreciated her. Not because she did anything stupendous, but because
she was there at a particular point in my road. She didn’t judge me. That
was the best thing about it. She didn’t freak out when I couldn’t sleep or
would wake up with terrible stomach pain or throw up all over every thing.
She just did her job and was present.
That meant a hell of a lot at that point. In the middle of the
night-terrors, seeing another soul was a gift from God – they didn’t have
to do or be anything special. I learned another lesson in presence.
Humans needing other humans. Especially when trapped in the terrors of our
One day Baba lifted the night terrors and they were just gone. Since then
I sleep like a baby – and I get by on 7 or so hours of sleep a night –
though it’s been broken every 3 hours for 4 months now. And I get deeply
rested for the most part.
It’s been harder on my care givers to get rested – having to get up so
often. I worry about that —
Water has always been an essential part of me and my life. I am a double
Pisces – a fish swimming in a fish swimming… And I was swimming 4 times
a week when I went into the hospital. Like so many things, during this 4
month period, the intense longing to be immersed in water has faded. Like
the gut-gripping need I felt to be in the woods far from society and near a
quiet stream somewhere. I have let a lot go. Or it’s under anesthesia so
that I can carry on for now.
I didn’t get a bath for 3 months except for sponge baths in bed. And they
didn’t wash my hair for 4 weeks. It bothered me so much. I’d ask someone
to do it, but it took an extra effort and no one had time. I’d keep asking
but then I’d give up for another week until it began to disgust me even
Finally I got so grossed out that I called my friend who was a hair dresser
and she came and cut off all my hair into a very short cut. That was a
But that was during the time that nothing material or cosmetic meant
ANYTHING to me. I knew that only God mattered. And I didn’t even need to
look in the mirror after the cut because I was just so glad to get the
dirty locks into the dust bin and leave that behind.
Like the time my friend brought me this piece of rock for protection and I
thought we needed a pouch for it so I gave her the bottom to these
beautiful silk pajamas and asked her to make a pouch from it because it had
a good drawstring. She was uncertain if she should do it, but I said, “I
can’t think of a better use for it than that!” and so it was. I saw no
particular virtue in anything material at that point. And I didn’t imagine
that I as a sexual being would ever need to think about attractiveness or
silk pajamas anymore. It wasn’t anything that bothered me, just a
Later we laughed a lot about the silk pajamas. I still have them with a
big patch cut out of them! But it’s also very beautiful how close to the
truth I was then –
I missed water deeply. I wanted to start a fire in the room just so that
the little sprinklers would go off and drench me in bed! But there wasn’t
much to do for that. Just to dream. I still dream of it. Maybe by
summertime I’ll be strong enough to get out of my chair and into the pool.
That’s easier said than done. I can’t get into a real bath where you are
immersed, but I do love love love to have my showers on the shower chair.
Even in the brace that I have to wear, water is just something special.
I figured out in the hospital what it is in people which I can see in their
eyes which is the real wisdom. It has to do with joy and sorrow. Wise
people never stay in one or the other too long. They cannot stay long in
joy, because there is such suffering in the world and they are a part and
parcel of that and have deep compassion for it. And they cannot stay in
sorrow too long because there is too much joy to experience and it must be
lived for life is ecstasy.
So there is a flipping back and forth between the two which you can see in
wise peoples’ eyes. The lights gleam and shift within and the heart rides
its way into the misty holes of sight. You can see reality there.
Joy must live. I learned that long ago. No matter what is going on, there
comes a point where it comes riding through your heart like a star. There
is no avoiding it. It is natural to be at joy. But it is unnatural to not
feel the sorrow of compassion for the aching body of this anxious and
Pain has patches. It is not simply as we walk through and into pain, it
gets deeper and therefore more intense. There are spaces in pain which are
totally pain-free. The key is to find those spots and love them and rest
in them. They are like the sunlight through the tree branches, a spot of
pine straw softened by weather to rest on in the woods, a breath where
there is suffocation, a sweet wash of wind on clothes out to dry which
catches you and breathes you into itself, into the scent of clean.
Cameron works with me and sometimes his thumbs feel like iron, other times
like mashed potatoes. Some of that is his intention; some is my awareness.
We go through these patches and places together and that builds a
closeness, like traveling underground in a war-zone, like desperate lovers
clutching a moment to them like their last horizon, like their child
Cameron laughs with me and tells me jokes and we talk about it all and the
intention is so strong to help me – we become one in that and I love him
fiercely for that. For his ferociousness he lends to the process. He can
not come with me to live the pain, he can be by my side very very close
though and as though through the stained glass of sympathy and compassion,
he gets the view only slightly varied in color, the feel still in
I have come to similarly revel in my friends and helpers’ vitality. I can
be that close to them, side by side to feel the dance in Sivan’s legs, to
reap the beauty and bounty of Don’s Swiss alp climbing, to glide into the
bliss of Janis’ Tai Chi. Vicarious living is almost the same as doing
something. It is so close. I have come to learn that. It is like riding
under the wing of the mother bird, feeling her heart beat and feeling the
heat of her body as she wings through the sky.
Steve said I may become “used to living in the wheelchair” in order to
illustrate that I may need and come to love the stillness – like a monk in
a cave. I don’t know. I know that this morning getting into the shower, I
remembered the night before the accident, before I went to Michael’s house
and I was looking out my front door into the beautiful night. Aliza,
concerned for my mental state was asleep in my bed. I had the
hallucinatory thought that if I left the house, the world would somehow
shake and change. How true that was. It was like Baba was trying to let
me know not to leave the house. I had to use all my will to get Aliza to
rise and drive me to Michael’s where I became so agitated with him that I
hyped into a manic state to hurt myself. Baba permeated my house and even
with all my doubts at the time, my deep confusions, He was there trying to
tell me. It was such an act of my unconscious will for this accident to
And thinking about that, huge grief engulfed me, as if for the first time
and as the tears took me over, I was conscious of the feelings and
simultaneously with how drained I would be energetically to have to feel
this grief again, what a bummer it was, how much I want a nice day and how
many things I want to do. It’s like when the pain gets too much and I have
to give up a simple activity in the house which would give me a sense of
satisfaction. But I could not argue with the grief. I did not indulge it
and wallow. But it would have its way and like a gentle but urging lover,
it used me and washed me out and filled me and hurt me.
So will I get used to this wheelchair? I don’t know. I know that this
grief comes new and old to me, new and old.
February 15, 1997
I haven’t dated the work for a long time. Time passes and often I don’t
document, even great changes that happen, like the plates in the earth
shifting, I only write at quakes or as geysers pour forth. But when
underwater pools shift direction or destiny, or when the deep rocks make a
turn of a great angle changing everything, sometimes I don’t even notice.
I have thoughts as the days go by that I want to write down. When I am
peeling an onion, or stirring soup. The thoughts are profound to me, my
new understandings. Then when I sit to write them, they rarely appear.
Like little frogs, they stay beneath the surface of the puddle. I only
remember them by their bubbles.
Today working on Beth, the music was heavenly, the birds outside were
chirping and many of them had come to the feeder. I always like when there
are 5 birds. And so often there are. All flavors and colors of birds.
Grape, orange, mango, apple and cherry. Singing their lights out as the
sun went down. A great sense of well-being came over me, I was the wave, I
watched the tree outside in the gentle wind and I was that same wave as the
tree. We knew the same wave and therefore we waved to each other. There
were smiles all around. The squirrels had given up for the night. The
evening had called her children home and they gathered as crystal stars.
These are the moments no one can steal from you for they are not for sale.
They are not asked for, nor expected. There is nothing remarkable about
the moment except that between the seams of the sky, it is sewn like some
golden silk star of time.
One of my whimsical thoughts — as the angels they say long for a body, I
know that somewhat. It is like I don’t have a half a body. And I know
some of the grief of those angels. Quadriplegics must feel it more
completely. They are total angels. I am a half-angel. Hanging around out
here on the edges of the earth in some way. Indeed for our body is our
earth and we hover around and among ourselves but not quite fitting in the
lines, like paper-dolls badly cut or mismatched to their clothing.
Baba has given me something exquisite within. It is a national geographic
camera. I don’t know when or how but at certain moments, I close my eyes
and I AM the leaf. It is as though since I cannot get to the woods, He
brings the woods to me. It shows me that we indeed have the universe
within ourselves. I see the leaf in such utter totality, with colors more
brilliant than art or “reality”, an utter closeup – microscopic, telephoto
— but then more so, I am within that very leaf, feeling the jelly of its
pulp and the feather of its hairs and the glunk glunk of its absorbing the
mist into itself.
Like a dream now. I have been home 6 weeks. A Doctor I knew little of
went into the very core of my body, more intimate than any lover’s caress
or brother’s deep knowing. To the spinal cord itself where the river runs
from the ocean to the stream. Where life pulses and nerves send fiery
messages of knowledge, of direction, of sensitivity.
Rabia came with me – a companion par excellence. She knew how to take care
of herself – and she was there for me again and again. Lugging bags,
carrying urinals, reading Baba’s or Bhau’s writing to us in the night,
putting oils of healing ways on my body, telling me of the sights and
sounds of Argentina she discovered outside hospital walls, looking words
up in the dictionary so we could speak to the staff (“Wait – wait Gaby —
I’m still looking up the last word!)
Going under into anesthesia – a peak experience. I am with a beautiful
Argentinean anesthesiologist and we dance our eyes and hearts into one
another in those dim evening moments between wake and sleep. I start to
sing Baba’s name in utter peace. the next morning in intensive care he
came to see me. He had wanted to see me because “he never had a patient
sing to him as they went under.” I felt later it had been Baba Himself
there at that moment. It was also the time when so many were praying for
me around the world. The heart-beat of love was strong that morning.
Laughter the strongest memory of the staff at the hospital. Jolly, jovial
, fun, friendly, prayerful. We sang a lot and pantomimed and drew when we
could not talk in Spanish or English and the love current ran strong and
healing. Like a fish, I soaked and slipped in the fast water of love and
healed quickly and fine.
Many memories of that Argentinean chapter: Dr. Kao such a character. With
a will of fire and grit, someone you don’t want to cross, but to have on
your side — oh my! If it wasn’t for my firm connection with Baba, I would
not have had the power to question his authority, but the Divine authority
kept me whole to where I spoke up as needed. For example, when they were
putting a cast on me towards the end, and Dr. Kao pressed on my spine where
it hurt to the bone and tears jumped out of my eyes and dribbled onto the
sheets and the hands of the helpers, I needed to cry and I just kept
crying. “Does it hurt now?” he said, “Dolor?” (A Chinese doctor asking a
Jewish- American woman if she had pain in Spanish!)
“No – no dolor”, I answered through my tears.
“So stop crying!” he said adamantly.
I’ll cry if I need to!” I said, the emotional pain ruling me at that
moment, not much finesse, not much tact.
Dr. Kao said, “It scares me when you cry.”
Rabia, at my head said, “Gaby, you cry as much as you want. We’ll help Dr.
Kao deal with it.”
We all laughed then. In those few sentences, a lot had been said.
Another time, Dr. Kao came in and asked where my satin sheets were. I had
brought my satin sheets from home because they were slippery and easy to
slide across. Since in the end, I wasn’t using my own mobility much, they
hadn’t been needed, and white cotton sheets had been put on the bed.
“They are around here somewhere.” said one of the nurses.
“You should put them on,” says Kao. “Style is important!”
I was very modest, as I’ve found Baba has made me. In an odd way, since
I’ve been with Baba, I’ve recognized the body to be totally ephemeral; yet
since being with him, I really prefer men not to have to see me unclothed
unless totally necessary. When they were putting on the cast, Dr. Kao
had all of his immediate team – his nurse Dyanna, Rabia and Ilene, an
Argentinean nurse with us. Ilene wanted to get some men to hold me as I
was to be sprawled between two beds and she was worried it would be too
difficult for the group in there. I felt so terribly vulnerable at that
moment, hating the idea of the cast, full of pain and that modesty issue
coming up — “Do we have to bring men in here?” I said.
“No.” Kao said quickly. “We can do it with the group here.”
“Who’s going to do surgery on Dr. Kao later when he gets a hernia?!” joked
Feeling a little apologetic, I said, “I guess when I’m knocked out, I don’t
care — its –“
Dr. Kao interrupted me, “That’s when I protect you.” he says. He
completely understood me.
Again, I heard Baba in that.
The surgery went smoothly with no hitch. When they opened me up, they saw
what no test could show — that there was a piece of disk the size of a
quarter and shards of bone pressing against my spinal cord, most important
in that if they remained there, several years from now, they could cut
through the cord or cause numbness and loss of upper body function. I
had known “something was wrong inside” and had gone from Doctor to Doctor
to no avail. Later when I found out that I had indeed felt my body’s
messages accurately, and had found a way, with Baba’s help – to
get it dealt with, it was very empowering.
After removing the fragments, Dr. Kao did the nerve transplant. The whole
surgery was eleven hours. When I opened my eyes, I thought it had been
four hours. “Is it over?” I said. “Isn’t there more to do?”
“It’s all done.” said someone. Then Rabia came over to me and said “Meher
Baba Meher Baba” and I was back.
Only one night in intensive care. The people were so incredibly present.
I would simply whisper “agua” and they’d be there with water for me.
“Posicion” would get me turned over to a more comfortable angle. I felt
guarded by angels. I am not sure if it was accurate but it felt like
there was a glass wall through which the nurses watched me all night.
Rabia had brought one thing to Intensive Care – a picture of Baba blessed
at the tomb and carried to me after my accident by a dear friend. The
next morning, Dr. Kao and his Physical Therapist. Barbara came to get me to
go to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Dr. Kao saw Baba’s picture. “A very
distinguished looking man.” he said.
That night, 24 hours after surgery, a knock comes to our door. Rabia
answers it. It is a woman bearing a package. “This is from Dr. Kao” she
says. “He wants Gabriella to eat it for her red blood cells.” We open the
package to find a big steak from the restaurant across the street. (The
hospital was Seventh Day Adventist and vegetarian). I don’t usually want
too much red meat. But it was Doctors Orders. In the Jewish law, they
say you can break any of the mitzvot ( required acts) if it is to save a
life or for serious health reasons. That steak was delicious.
It amazed me that 24 hours after surgery, I could eat steak. My original
surgery after the accident, it had taken me 3 weeks to stomach solid food
at all. Clearly, the level of trauma that this surgery had incurred was
The reason — Rabia told me later about what she saw when Dr. Kao
worked: “He would be very calm. At one point, he didn’t like one of
the assistant’s work, and he simply said, “Dyanna will scrub up now”
instructing someone new to get aboard.” Another point, a nurse was cutting
strips of something and was slow and he said, “I don’t like to have to wait
for —-” No judgment. Just firm, clear, and clearly, firmly, the
“He would stitch on the exhale, wait on the inhale.” said Rabia.
He stands for a 12 hour surgery and goes through 3 shifts of nurses. He’s
62 years old, short of stature, but built like a body-builder. Great
They played my and Mark’s new Rumi tape, Bob and Jane Brown’s music, Gary
Edelman’s music, and songs of the humpback whales. I hadn’t thought
about music, but Rabia brought in these particular tapes. I love the
thought of the whales mingling with Rumi in my deepest unconscious and Bob
Brown and his soft deep eyes looking down at me and singing with Jane
between the dimensions.
So that’s why it wasn’t traumatic. Because this surgery was done with
consciousness, with respect and with love.
Stories go on and on. I’ll stop for today. Home now, 6 weeks later. Dr.
Kao comes on Friday to bring me the boots and to get me up with a walker
for the first time. There’s been a lot of improvement in movement and
sensation — and lots of pain. The pain may be more because the sensation
is more. I have struggled with the pain. I continue to. Breathing Baba’s
name in and out each breath as Bill Stephens reminded me helps. Helps a
His journey goes on. I watch the boat sailing. Sometimes I forget and try
to sail the boat to my own design. Most of the time, I’m learning to turn
the sail to His wind and let Him guide me. I struggle against the wind,
the wind bites my eyes and I cry salt tears to blend with the sharp air.
And He laughs with me. He is the spice of the air and the bite of the
pain. He is the space within pain. And He alone knows why this is my
life and I can only grieve it to Him and celebrate it to Him.