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The Bell Curve:

Recovery inspires thanks

November 22, 2007|By Joseph N. Bell

Writing a column you know is going to appear in this newspaper on Thanksgiving Day poses a special set of problems.

Ignoring the holiday and taking off on some unrelated topic seems cavalier to me. And offering a laundry list of things for which I am thankful — and it is long and satisfying — has an air of confining blessings to an institutionalized day that should be offered year-round.

I was in this quandary two nights before Thanksgiving when I was enjoying a splendid dinner at the home of my daughter, Patt, who was going to be out of town on the holiday and wanted to share it early with family and friends. And quite suddenly, I found my answer sitting across the dining table from me. Thanksgiving embodied.

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If you read this column regularly, you know about Uma — but you won’t mind if I introduce her to those who don’t.

She is a native Sri Lankan who became a friend of my stepson, Erik, during the four years they shared at Occidental College. When she got deeply involved with a Los Angeles musician named John Ballinger, Uma, John and Erik formed a tightly-bound triumvirate of friends.

That’s the way they were when John had a playing gig in New York City almost a year ago, and Uma flew out to meet with him there, not knowing that he planned to give her an engagement ring when she arrived.

She reached their hotel late at night when John was working, and they didn’t connect and fall asleep until the early morning. It was the last peaceful sleep they would enjoy for many months.

Before the morning light, Uma suffered a brain aneurysm. Several hours passed before John could get her to a hospital where she could be treated. While he waited for a diagnosis, he called Erik, who was on his way to New York a few hours later.

They were united in a waiting room when a doctor emerged to tell them Uma had only a 20% chance to survive.

That’s when these two young men decided she was not only going to survive, but she would regain her life fully.

While John set up a constant vigil at her bedside, Erik initiated a blog in which he sent out daily reports of Uma’s condition — read by a handful of Uma’s friends at first, then over the months by hundreds of others who became her friends and joined in the prayers sought in the blogs. And John, in a life-affirming ceremony in her hospital room, put her engagement ring on the proper finger.

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