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Dharma Journal | March 2018 | Sharing the Fruits of Practice

Recorded at Steiner House in Ann Arbor Michigan in March 2018 during the Spring Vipassana Retreat.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

March 10, 2018 Saturday, Steiner Retreat, Ann Arbor
Part 1: Being Present with Pain, Fear, and Grief in Our Lives

Barbara: Good morning to you all. For those who have not met me, I’m Barbara Brodsky, the guiding teacher of Deep Spring Center. It’s wonderful to be here with you. D and I were to be leading the retreat, and then, as you may have heard, my husband had a major stroke 2 weeks ago. I got up in the morning. It was a beautiful day, like today. We had planned a wonderful day. We were getting an early start, going to the gym and then out for breakfast, to do some errands, go for a walk in the park. Come home for dinner and see a movie. Such a lovely day. I walked into the kitchen to see if he wanted to get ready to go, and he was unconscious on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood and vomit.

I called 911. An ambulance came. A little funny piece of this. I came in before I dressed, asking, “Hal, are you getting dressed? Are you getting ready to go?” I was naked! I ran to my phone and called 911; they said, “Stay on the line.” “But, but…!” I had my bathing suit there because we were going to the gym., so I pulled it on.

He was moved yesterday from the ICU at UM to an acute care, longer term rehab facility that’s housed in St. Joe’s. We have no idea what the future will hold.

Obviously, this is a major trauma in his life, in my life, in my sons’ lives. My 3 sons all came in that day, exactly two weeks ago yesterday, and they’ve been with me, putting their lives, their families, their work on hold. I could not have done it without them. But still, this is my husband and my life. We’ve been married 50 years; how am I going to live my life without him?

There’s a lot of fear, grief, and confusion. There is financial uncertainty: if he needs long-term nursing care, it’s pretty much going to eat up all of our savings. Eventually he’ll get on Medicaid, but not until I’m literally poor; this is how they do it. So, he has to use up all of our savings before he can go on Medicaid. Then what do I live on? So, fear. Fear about the future, fear about a lot of things.

For those who may be watching this as a video, the reason I’m pausing and turning my head sometimes is that we have a student here who is completely deaf, just as I am, and someone is signing to him. I’m going too fast! I need to remember to slow down. Mindfulness. I’m speaking here to whoever will be watching this on the video.

I’m talking about this mostly to share the fruits of practice. Why are you here to learn vipassana? In what way can it support you through this kind of major change and trauma in your lives? These things will happen to us.

Everything changes in a second. A friend wrote me an email two days ago— when it was snowing. She was getting off the freeway exit to her home, skidded on a patch of black ice, and her car spun around in front of the next lane of traffic. A car swerved around her, and she continued to spin and went off the side of the road. It didn’t turn over, fortunately; just slipped off into a ditch. She said that 15 seconds seemed like an eternity. Each second slowed down; she was not hurt but she could have been killed or badly injured. Everything changes in a moment.

Our practice is not to stop emotions, or pain, or fear; that’s simply denial. It’s not living; it’s shutting down, armoring. Of course, even at our best we’re going to armor ourselves when things are very painful. But, when the stories come up— not just, “What will happen?” but noting the anxiety, fear, “They’ll take all my money! I’m going to have to set up a tent somewhere and live there”. Then, “Well, I have a minus-zero sleeping bag, I’ll be okay!” Where does it stop? So many stories.

Letting go of the stories doesn’t mean I cut off the story, with, “No, I won’t allow this story!” but that I note that movement into the story before it starts to roll too far. So first, I’m breathing and I’m peaceful. Or I’m lying in bed at 4am and the thought comes up: what will happen to Hal? What will happen to me? Mind clenches into that question. One of the things that mind does, next, is to run into stories, such as trying to picture myself safe, living in my tent. “Poor me! Well I’d rather live in a tent than a really ugly, horrible dorm room with 3 other women in some cheap old age home….” Can you feel the stories and the energy and the negativity?

As an aside from the video, I am reviewing this transcript at 3AM; I woke after an hour’s sleep, intense grief and fear entering my dreams. I sat up and meditated for a while, but mind would not settle down at all. So, I came into my office to review the transcript. Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves an escape if the emotion is too strong. When I finish this, I’ll go out to my hot tub and soak a while, meditate there, and then go back to bed.

At this point, with stories wanting to pour out, we note “fear, fear”, or just “contraction”. I may not even be aware that I’m afraid. Contracting, contracting. Breathing in, I am aware of the contraction. Breathing out, I hold space for the contraction. When I open to whatever has come up and is causing so much discomfort, there’s space for it. We have enormous capacity for the fear, grief, pain, anger, if we will allow ourselves to experience these. I’ve been visualizing the grief or the fear as a small, compact ball, fiery hot, and holding it in a large, cool space, maybe with water pouring through. But mostly we don’t want to experience such painful objects. If we don’t allow ourselves to experience them then we shut ourselves off.

Probably 25 years ago, I was on a long retreat in Canada. It was cold, snow up to my thighs. II woke in the middle of the night and could feel the contraction in myself, that there was something I had been avoiding and needed to let myself see. My teacher, Aaron, said, “Go out and walk in the snow.” It was 2AM. “Go out and walk in the snow.” So, I dressed warmly, went out and walked in the snow with my walking sticks for balance. Along with my deafness, my middle ear semicircular canal is non-functional, so I don’t have normal ear balance. Aaron said, “Now let go of the walking sticks.” “But I’ll fall!” “Yes!”

I put the walking sticks aside, stood, and fell. Of course, the snow was deep. It wasn’t a painful fall; it was like landing in a soft cloud. I was warmly dressed. I got up. “Do it again: stand, fall.” I must have fallen over 15 times, sitting on the ground for a minute or two after each fall. The landing wasn’t hard. Letting myself fall was hard.

I began to see how I lived my life trying to be upright. I lost my hearing just after my first son was born 45 years ago. It was traumatic, and I was determined, “I will survive this. There’s nothing I will not do but hear.” Can you feel the tension in that statement? “I will do it!” It did take courage to learn to live deaf and without balance, but instead of opening with love to that part of me that was strong and courageous, and moving from there, I pushed away fear and pain and became armored and stoic. I WILL do it! I didn’t honor my strength but was determined to push away any weakness. I could see how I’d been living my life all that time trying to be upright, the strong one who could handle everything. It allowed a major shift for me, 20 years into being deaf.

Well, I felt I had long passed that old pattern, that I had learned what I needed to. Yesterday during a bodywork session, lying on the table, I could feel how hard and painful my back was, and how much energy I was holding in the clenched back,. Lying on a table, I was meditating, and as I felt that clenching in my back and brought kind attention to it, and the practitioner saw the hardness too and touched my back gently, there was a feeling almost like someone like someone had opened a valve in my back and tons of garbage and sludge were pouring out, all the accumulation of these two weeks, and probably of a lifetime!.

So it was very powerful to feel how I had been locking that energy in. Obviously, this has been immensely traumatic. I love my husband dearly. We were— are to celebrate— I will not use the past tense, our 50th anniversary in May. I could feel how I was storing this grief, the fear, in my body and especially in my back.

So, we do what is skillful. Here is an example. We have a practice called clear comprehension of purpose. I asked myself, as I was lying there, what is my highest purpose? Is it to armor myself in that way and push the feelings away? Or is it to allow myself to open, to be present with the pain? Because only when I’m present with pain can I be fully present with love. Is what I am doing in this moment consistent with my highest purpose? If not, what options do I have that I have not yet considered?

We’re here to live our lives fully. Trauma is going to happen to every one of you in some way or another. You may fall off your bike and break your wrist. A loved one may die. You may get sick or in a car accident. You may lose your job. A tree may be struck by lightning and fall on your house. This is life; we can’t escape this. In order to live our lives with joy and love, we need to be willing to be present with the pain, the fear, the grief. We begin to understand, this has arisen out of conditions and it does not have to rule the rest of my life.

There is another part. Right here with fear is that which is not afraid. Right here with grief is the one who is joyful. It doesn’t mean I shut out the grief, or the fear, or the anger, but rather, I learn how to hold both anger and the one who is not angry.

Last night, sitting in my husband’s room meditating, maybe because of my experience of opening earlier in the day, I was finally able to allow myself to feel how angry I was at him. Now, how can you be angry at someone who’s had a stroke? It’s not his fault. Basically, he took good care of himself. We went to the gym every day. He was in good physical shape. But the anger is there. “Look what you did to our lives! How could you have a stroke?” And the resentment. I depended on him, because he was a financial analyst in his working days, to take care of all the paperwork. “Why didn’t you set it up somehow, so we would have money for this?” Well, this is not his fault. This is the system we live in, and it’s a bad system. Nursing home insurance is exorbitantly expensive, and we made a conscious decision, years ago, not to buy it. This is the result of our decision. But, anger came up. So, I sat there, first allowing myself to feel the anger. Breathing in, I am aware of the anger. Just breathing and holding space for the anger. Aware of the intermingling of anger and fear.

I began to do a compassion meditation. First, starting with myself and offering compassion to myself. Can I truly love myself and the pain I am feeling? Hold myself in my heart and not condemn myself for being angry, for feeling fear, resentment, confusion? And then, turning to Hal, just: I love you unconditionally. I love you. And there’s still anger and fear. That doesn’t negate the love. So, this is part of what I mean when I say, “that which is aware of angry is not angry.” We can find the one who genuinely loves, is openhearted and tender, is not angry, right there with the anger.

I needed to find a way to hold space for our entire experience, pain and love. I could not have lived these last two weeks without my meditation practice. I would have been totally overwhelmed. I would have spent my days curled up in a fetal ball, sobbing. I couldn’t have done it. The practice allowed me to know the experience of the moment, and, just as important, to know how I was relating to that experience. Obviously I was not able to do this completely or I wouldn’t have been storing all the tension in my back. So, it took me 2 weeks to get in touch with the tension, but that’s better than 2 months or 2 years. It’s really pretty much released now. I’m slumping, I no longer have to be tall! I don’t have to be upright. I give myself permission to cry and be afraid.

With some time alone in the room with Hal, I did something I didn’t think I could do. I was standing next to his bed, and I bent over and put my head on his chest. I’ve done this a couple of times the past 2 days. He can move his left arm and hand. His right side is completely paralyzed. I took his left hand and put it on my face. It felt good to feel his hand touching me. And I just let myself cry there, with my head on his chest. He’s beginning to become a little more responsive. He’s opening his eyes and looking at people, but I had no idea if he recognized it’s me.

But last night as I was there, not sobbing but crying softly, I felt his fingers begin to move in my hair. That little bit of comfort, little bit of contact, saying, “I am here. Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.” And what okay means… (pausing for a tissue)— some things are hard to talk about without crying… Current events are always harder than the past ones…

I felt myself melt into his being for about 10 minutes. He could die tomorrow, or today. Who knows. They told us the first week there’s only a 5% chance he’ll survive the first week. They told us the second week there’s only a 5% chance he’ll ever get off the ventilator. But he’s alive and off the ventilator. They told us when he left the ICU there’s only a 10%, 20% chance he’s going to survive the rest of the month. He will, or he won’t; I can’t hold onto him. But I can be present with my fear with kindness for myself and for him, can allow myself that connection with him. It may be the last really human connection I’ll ever have with him. In a sense I was saying goodbye to him last night, and also hello to him. Hello to the new Hal, however he is, and the promise, “I love you. I’ll stick with you and we’ll see what happens.” And I think he could feel that from me, too, at some level. My tears were for both of us.

We don’t know how much he can understand. The stroke destroyed the neural channels that allow the brain to send messages to the speech center, and to the right side of body. But the brain intelligence is intact. There’s no way of knowing whether he understands speech. Several times it seems that he has. Several times we’ve said, “Can you raise your hand?” and he’s raised his hand. So, it may be that he’s understanding. The brain can form new channels and is doing so.

Coming back to my talk. Can you see how important it is to allow ourselves to be present with things as they are and not shut ourselves down? This is the only way we can live our lives fully and with love. And I assume that’s what we all want to do, or you all wouldn’t be here. For each of you it’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, to find the places where you habitually shut down and to recognize: maybe I don’t have to do that anymore. Maybe I can open my heart and just be present in this moment with the grief, fear, pain, anger, or confusion of this moment. This is how the practice really changes us.

Rudolph Steiner House, Ann Arbor, MI

DSC teacher Dorothyann shares her thoughts about the 2018 March retreat

Deep Spring Center’s annual March Retreat with basic instruction in Vipassana Meditation was held at the Steiner House in Ann Arbor this year.

The event drew seventeen folks from all directions. Responding to our online promotion, they came from Traverse City, Cadillac, Alpena, Midland, Grand Blanc, Sterling Heights, Pinckney, Westland, Toledo, Dayton to join local Ann Arbor retreatants in a weekend exploring the four foundations of mindfulness as well as the four noble truths of Buddhist teaching.

Most of the retreatants for the weekend were new to the practice. But as the group settled in, it became apparent to the teachers that these students of the dharma were serious and hungry to learn the practice. They entered into the noble silence as if they had been doing it all their lives.

As comments were shared at the closing, it was plain that Barbara Brodsky’s teaching from her own personal situation with her husband’s health had left a very strong impression. We can forget how lucky we are in Ann Arbor to have such an inspiring guiding teacher and opportunities to sit with fellow meditators regularly.

As people talked during the final hour of the last day, Dorothyann Coyne and Amy Koch, who were both teaching with Barbara, could hear the very heart-felt desire for more opportunities to learn and practice meditation in towns around us. It is wonderful that Deep Spring Center can address this very real spiritual hunger not only with our annual March Retreat but also with the many classes and special events that are carried out into the world through our internet offerings.

Dharma Journal | February 2018 | Opening the Loving Heart to the Pain of the World

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s office. Aaron discusses impermanence.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. When you are watching this, it will be Febru-ary, the month of your celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, a festival of love. I hope that you ex-tend love to yourself and to others all year round. But let’s just focus on this one day, the day of the heart, the day of love.

Last month i spoke about impermanence, and that while on the relative level everything is im-permanent – that it arises out of conditions, and then passes away – on the ultimate level nothing ever passes away. The affairs of the moment— the itch, the worry, the planning mind, all of these things come and are gone. What remains is the loving heart; presence and loving kind-ness. When you move into the place where you and everything are not separate, then you can begin truly to love.

I spoke last month about the tree that grows out of the conditions of rich soil, sunshine, rain, and a seed, and grows into a tree. The tree is cut down. The sculptor shapes the tree. I used this (holding a wood Buddha) last month as an example, and we’ll use it again, a heavy piece of wood. This is a tree you’re looking at. This is clouds and sunshine, rivers and oceans, and the rich earth. You are like this piece of wood. Even more like it, as you are also a Buddha, an awakened one. But you are part of everything.

However, the human has the habitual tendency to close itself in and separate from everything else. It’s really part of the reflex of being a mammal. You understand that the body can be harmed, and so you armor yourself. The more armored you are, the less you can interconnect. It is only when you open the armor that you can truly mesh with everything and be everything.

A lot of you have been worrying about political affairs in the past few months, concerned be-cause there are certain policies of the governing bodies that you do not like, and that leads you to anger at them and closing your heart to them. As soon as you create that separation, whether it’s with your president or your Congress, your local officials, or your neighbors, people who create discomfort for you because they have different views, as soon as you separate yourself the en-ergy can no longer flow. This person has this stance, and that person has that stance, and they clash. When you begin to know yourself as energy and light, as the essence of pure awareness and the loving heart, you begin to recognize that everything else has the same essence. Two trees don’t fight with each other; the branches and roots grow through each other. They may even come to support each other. Does a tree have more wisdom than you do?

Last month I spoke about impermanence, the impermanence of the mundane aspects of your being. It’s so helpful when you begin to contemplate that which continues within you— not the mundane aspects but awareness, love, presence, wisdom. Not to create a new self-identity but to let go of “self-identity”, and to truly know, I am “That”. I am connected with everything. If noth-ing is separate, then I do not have to be afraid of anything. Then I can truly move into a space of unconditional love. Love and compassion come together, and they are strong.

The wisdom arises that knows how to balance the ultimate level of unconditional love and the relative level that knows how to say no to something that’s abusive, that’s dangerous, that’s harmful.

You probably realize I’m recording this not now in February but it’s actually December, and we’ve been watching the forest fires sweeping through California. People have come to me, say-ing, “Aaron, I hate these forest fires!” Well, I understand you dislike the destruction. I understand that you feel grief about the loss of life, human and animal and natural forest. But as soon as you say, “I hate this!” you create separation.

You are beings of energy, and fire is an elemental energy. You interrelate to everything. The same elements are in you and in the world out there. Hate is a contractive emotion. It’s a fiery emotion, ungrounded and devoid of water element, hard with a thick crust. Do you think hate helps to extinguish fires?

Of course I’m talking about the actual forest fire, but let’s look at the fire of anger; the fire of strong antithetical feelings toward another human being. Does hate help to shift them? You do not have to hate something to say no to it. I would guess that many of those who are out there on the front lines with huge equipment, trying to put out the forest fires, have much more a respect than hatred of the fire. There is the intention to control the fire so as not to allow it to do harm. But this is not hate.

What happens when you know the fire in yourself, as you’re fighting the figurative or literal forest fire? Since most of you are not out there with hoses fighting the literal forest fire, let’s go to the figurative. Here is a neighbor or a spouse or parent or child who’s angry. They’re always pushing you. It’s very uncomfortable, and the thought starts to come, “I hate this person.” Hate. Is that going to put out the fire? Let’s look at what you think of as the other alternative. “Oh, push me around! Do whatever you want.” And they’ll keep pushing and pushing. Is that going to put out the fire?

The option takes going into your heart and knowing that hate, as emotion, has arisen out of con-ditions and is impermanent. You can begin to uncover that within yourself which is connected, which has compassion for the pain of the other, and still is able to say, “No, you may not do harm because of your pain.” You begin a shift that says it is not your pain, it is our pain. And I am able to stay connected to our pain with my heart open. I say no, you may not do harm. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a forest fire or an internal forest fire of heavy feelings between yourself and others. Or nations threatening each other with nuclear arms. Or “hate-mongering” amongst polit-ical figures. You have the power to say no to all this because of the essence of what you are, which is loving, pure awareness that can hold it all when you release the armoring and allow yourself to be touched by the pain that is creating this world of emotions, this hatred, this anger, this confusion. Whenever you armor yourself it creates separation.

What is asked of you is the courage to allow yourself to be touched by the pain of this moment, and right there with the pain, to find the love in this moment, the spaciousness in this moment, the possibilities for growth in this moment. For communication, for learning.

I’m coming back to my initial thought: everything in the conditioned realm is impermanent. For some of you, that is a ground for fear. “I want something to hold onto.” You have something to hold onto, but it is not what you think. It does not belong to you. It simply is, and therefore it can never be lost. It is love, it is light, spaciousness and presence. When you know yourself as this, everything becomes possible.

So this month as you celebrate love and St. Valentine flying up there with his bow and arrow, let his arrow touch your heart. Let it awaken you to the truth of unconditional love that is your es-sence. Let it allow you to open yourself to the pain of the world, the enormous suffering of the world, because only as that hard shell of armor falls away can you begin to be the love of the world and invite others to be that with you. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to talk out disagree-ments, but there is no longer merely conflict but merging, understanding, and love.

I am coming back here as I close to a very favorite Buddhist sutra. “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” And it goes on, then, to, “Cultivate the whole-some. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” You do not abandon the unwholesome by armoring yourself but by opening yourself so that you can release that tension of separation, of fear, of hatred, and find your true being. In that true being, you cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

Thank you.

Davy Rothbart – Facebook entry about his dad Hal Rothbart

Davy Rothbart from his facebook page about his dad’s major stroke. Hal Rothbart is at the Neuro ICU University of Michigan Hospital. Posted: Mon., Feb. 26, 2018.

Hi friends and loved ones: As you may know, my Dad Hal Rothbart had a major stroke early Friday morning and is in the Neuro ICU at University of Michigan Hospital. I’ve been here with my family and some close family friends the past 3 days. While even small degrees of recovery from a stroke of this magnitude are very rare, my Dad has a uniquely vital spirit and has always been one to live life outside the box, and we are remaining hopeful and optimistic. He has shown some small but meaningful signs of progress, and while he can’t really communicate, he has occasional moments of semi-awareness, where he seems to understand our presence and be able to absorb some of our words. So, here’s where you all come in — whether you know my Dad or not… Two options below!

So many of you have met my Dad or know him well, and I know it means a lot to him to have so many people thinking about him. I would love for you to share a story about my Dad with me — and with him. I will read as many of these to him as I can. Could be a sentence, a paragraph, or a page — a small moment, a great memory, general good wishes, anything at all. Leave it in the comments below so that others can also appreciate your words, or feel free to email or FB message it to me privately. His condition, while severe, is stable for now, so feel free to share a quick message now or something longer in the next few days if you’d like to gather your thoughts first. Or both! CRUCIAL: Please address any reminiscences in the 2nd person, directly to my dad. Like: “I remember that time when you…” Imagine you are in the room with him and talking to him yourself. The idea is that I’ll tell him who’s writing to him and then read your message/story for him.

For the other portion of you who have maybe never met my Dad, I am seeking personal stories of people overcoming great odds and triumphing in some way. Maybe you, your friend, or someone you heard about who was told that something was next-to-impossible, highly unlikely, but they found a way to do it anyway. Could be a health battle, a creative pursuit, a social justice campaign, something from sports, politics, or anything at all, no matter how large or small the challenge. These stories are motivating, encouraging, and inspiring, and I plan to share some of these with my Dad as well… whatever you’d like to share here.

Thank you so much for participating, it really means a lot. And we are all so grateful for all of the loving texts, FB messages, emails, and calls these past couple days — and all of the generous local support as well, including the elite and empathetic doctors, nurses, and staff at U. of M. Hospital.

You can see much more detailed updates about my Dad’s evolving condition on my brother Mike Forster Rothbart‘s Facebook page, so if you’re interested please send him a friend request or stay tuned to his feed.

I’ll post again in the coming days, I’m sure. Love to all of you, and especially to my Dad, a true O.G. and an amazing father.

Hal Rothbart – Barbara Brodsky’s husband suffering from a brain hemorrage

Please visit this site for continuing updates:
This blog will no longer be updated, Sun., March 11, 2018.
Created Sunday, February 25, 2018; updated Thursday, March 8 at 10 am eastern
Hal Rothbart, Barbara Brodsky’s husband suffered from a stroke (brain hemorrage) Thursday (Feb. 22, 2018) night and is now in intensive care at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. Following is the information available. I will be sending out the link to this blog post and update here for people to read. Inviting healing and calming energy to Hal Rothbart, his family and all those caring for and about him.
Tana Dean, Managing Director, DSC

From Mike Forster Rothbart – My mom and Aaron makes these specific requests about what to do now:
Dear friends, remember that while the stroke and bleeding did cause damage, further inflammation can be  temporary, caused by the stroke and bleeding. We release this inflammation and invite the clear tissue to return. The most important gift you can give is to offer a very gentle calming energy. Always inviting, healing, never grasping at it. Picture his brain like a small baby that was deeply frightened by a loud noise. Picture how you would hold and quiet that baby, inviting it to release its fear and find its calm center. In this way picture his brain releasing the inflammation and returning to its natural state. 

We know that cells can regenerate. The time for that has not come yet. The first step is to invite the brain to release the trauma it has experienced by calming and loving it. When that is done, in a few days, we’ll look at the next step.


March 8 am
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 14 morning

It’s hard to keep an even keel while bouncing on a trampoline. My dad is back in the ICU.

Last night about 9 pm, I was washing a stack of dishes, Peter was watching Jumanji and mom was getting into bed when Davy called from the hospital.

See, yesterday afternoon Dr. Morgan replaced dad’s trach tube in preparation for his departure. He explained to me that—oddly—it is a supply issue: the trach tubes that the hospital prefers are hard to find, so they swap them out for another more common brand when patients are leaving.

Around 8 pm, dad started having trouble breathing. A medical technician noticed him inhaling through his mouth, which should not be possible with a cuffed trach. They discovered that the new trach tube was not positioned correctly. As Davy watched, 3 doctors and 2 nurses soon crowded around the bed as they yanked the tube out of the small hole in his esophagus and urgently tried to replace it.

Afterwards, one of the doctors debriefed Davy and reassured him. “It probably looked worse than it was,” he said, but then admitted he could not remember a time when they had replaced a trach tube out on the ward rather than in an ICU sterile room.

The first days in the hospital we were riding every high and low like this. Oh no, I would think, he is not responding to our voices, is he dying? Then eventually I’d realize that he was just sleepy. Over the weeks I’ve got more inured to the ups and downs. “Alarm fatigue,” one nurse told me, “when alarms start going off and you don’t even notice them anymore.”

Nevertheless, tonight feels like a step back. I cried a bit when I got off the phone with Davy.

He’s back in the ICU ®

You don’t know how lucky you are boy.

As far as we know, he’ll be staying there all day.

Michael Forster Rothbart


March 7, 8 pm

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 13 evening

Here is a video of my mom and dad together yesterday. I was crying while I watched them together.

SO! The hospital is kicking my dad out. They believe he has recovered enough to move to a Long-Term Acute Care facility. If all goes well, tomorrow at 10 am he will hail an ambulance and roll across town to Select Specialty Hospital, a private for-profit ICU located inside St. Joseph’s hospital.

There is a fascinating story behind why he is moving, involving managed care, Medicare and miscommunication between departments in the hospital. I’ll share this all if and when I get a chance. However, we toured the Select ward today and it looks adequate. Not as wonderful as the U of M Neurology ICU, but it will do. We can expect my dad to be there for about 4 weeks.

For those who want to visit: Follow signs to St. Jo’s Main Entrance (Lot B). From the cental lobby take the elevator to 7th floor North. You’ll see signs for Select, and walk down the hall to the nurses’ station.

Look for new volunteer information tomorrow.  Thanks.



Written by Davy March 6

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 12 morning

Last night Davy was at the hospital at midnight. Here is his report.

Hi all,

Good news — My dad “graduated” from the Neuro ICU tonight and moved down the hall to Unit 4A. Thank you so much to all who have helped him survive the most dangerous moments of this past week and reach a new point in his healing. Your generous presence has made a huge difference to him — and to us. I’m deeply grateful.

Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up since I know some of you have visits planned this week. Although he’s off the ICU, continuing to have guests, loving energy, and interactivity is the best way for him to continue his recovery, especially as he will have less company of nurses and doctors on this new wing. Let’s keep giving him love!

You can just drop by or you can sign up for a time to visit here:

His new room is #A-4111. It’s not far from the ICU, and if you end up in the ICU, they’ll point you here. Instead of taking Elevator 2, you now take Elevator 3, UH-East elevator. Still on floor 4. Emerge from elevator, take a right and continue onto the wing. At first main cross-hall, take a right, and go down maybe 100 feet, you will see #4111 on the right. He has his own room with a view, and even his own bathroom.

It’s good for him to have auditory, visual and physical stimuli. You may want to talk to him, read to him, or sing to him yourself. I’ve also brought some of my Dad’s favorite CDs and a little boombox on his bedside table. No pressure to have music running nonstop, but feel free to play some of the Broadway soundtracks or other fun CDs for sing-alongs, if he’s awake, or something quieter and more restful if he’s asleep. When I leave, I usually put on something soothing at a low volume, to run for a while after I’m gone…

Feel free to hold his hand or give him some light massage. He’s also had some swelling in his right hand, so elevating it slightly and rubbing it to encourage circulation is great, especially if he’s already awake. As always, be sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer when entering (there’s plenty of it in the room), and if you’ve got a cold or flu, best to stay away ’til you’re feeling better.

Let us know if anyone has any questions — and thanks again so much for all of the incredible generosity all of you have shown these past 12 days to my Dad and our whole family!

Love, Davy


March 5, 11 pm

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 11 evening

Here’s my dad’s to-do list from the week before his stroke: He was working on a second print run of my mom’s book, “deposit Casa book money,” doing things for all three of his sons “do mailings, write up projects” and wanted to go to the gym every day. He worked on a play about Flint. He planned a classic movie night for his new neighbors and deliberated about what movie to show. West Side Story? Terms of Endearment?

The movie night was cancelled. It was scheduled for Saturday night, the day after he had his stroke. He’s been in the ICU for 11 days now, but he’ll be moving any time to the general care neurology ward. During morning rounds, the head doctor told me today that there is not much more they can do for him in the ICU. Now we just need to wait and see how he recovers.

We were in the hospital for 5 hours this morning and early afternoon. Dad slept almost the whole time—he even slept through his occupational therapy. Laura the OT taught me how to move his arms up and down and rotate his wrists and elbows while he snored away. He has settled into a schedule of being more wakeful from 5 am to 9 am and then again from 3 pm to 10 pm or even later. Meanwhile, the rest of us have settled into our own wacky schedules, sleeping from 1 or 2 am until 7 am. Last night mom couldn’t sleep because of stress and a chattering monkey mind and she got up to do more email at 3 in the morning.

In the ICU, dad had a steady stream of visitors, though he generally slept through them. The doc, the physical therapist, the occupational therapist, the Medicaid expert, the med tech, the respiratory nurse, the rabbi and the janitor all came to call. It sounds like the beginning of a joke…. We learned a lot. Then three friends came to sit with him for a couple hours each.

It was actually Ken, the janitor, who tipped me off about how soon they may move dad. I befriended Ken as he came in and out of the room, because that is something my dad would do were he not laying inert. “See how his nametag got pulled over to the side [on the board]??” Ken asked. That means he may move down the hall as soon as a bed opens up. The “G/C” written up alongside his name means that he won’t get moved to the stroke unit, he’ll go to general 4a ward instead.

Mike Forster Rothbart

Evening, Sunday, March 4 

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 10 evening 

Every piece of good news is also bad, and I can’t tell up from down anymore. It turns out that my mom and Davy are the family optimists, while Peter and I are more skeptical that any behavior we see dad attempt has any real significance. The big question is: how much is he still in there? Do any of the motions he makes demonstrate conscious thought or are they just autonomic? Is he responding to our stimuli or is he just moving?

This morning he was quite alert. Mom talked to him awhile and when she stepped away, he lifted his head and turned. I’d like to say he turned his head to keep watching her, but all I can say for sure is that he lifted his head for a few seconds.

This afternoon he mostly slept. During one awake period, he was scratching at his nose. I held up a tissue and encouraged him to blow his nose. He took the tissue in his hand but just held it. Mom took a second tissue and mimed blowing her nose, asking him to try it. He lifted the tissue up as high as his throat then let it drop. I wish I believed he was thinking “For god’s sake, Barbara, I don’t feel like blowing my damn nose. Stop babying me!” But realistically at best, he’s thinking “face—voice—woman. Who?,” if he’s even thinking at all.

Today dad’s lungs improved, and he mostly stopped coughing up blood. Tomorrow the doctors will consider moving him off the ICU to the Neurology unit. Tomorrow the physical therapist wants to try sitting him up. Tomorrow the hospital billing office wants to meet with us to discuss options after discharge. Depending on his recovery rate, he might move to an LTAC facility — longterm acute care — for two to three weeks, or go directly to sub-acute rehab (a medical facility inside a nursing home) for six to ten weeks. After that we can only guess what he’ll need, probably a nursing home. The going rate in Michigan for the kind of medical facility he’ll need is $100,000 per year or more. It scares my mom to think about what will happen.

One problem is that my parents’ finances are a mess. Any system of organizing it was mostly in my dad’s head. This feels like when your hard drive gets corrupted and you lose the document you were working on that you were sure you’d saved. Except the document in question here is my parents’ retirement plan.


Sun., March 4, 2018
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 9 evening

Dad spent more time asleep today than awake, but he seemed to sleep soundly, an hour or two at a time, and when he awoke he was often alert for a few minutes.

Brock (dad’s nurse today), Davy and I tried to get dad to respond to directions. (See video).

 [NOTE to email list: you should be able to follow this link even if you don’t use Facebook].

We tried a lot of different commands — wiggle your foot, raise your thumb, close your eyes, open your eyes, turn your head. Dad looked like he was listening to us. Brock showed us how to mime a gesture, touch the relevant body part and speak to dad, so that he would get related stimuli from three different senses. And sometimes he did respond — on average, once per five times. A 20% response rate is higher than he’s had since Day 2, though it is not always clear if he is following a request or just moving. Dad tires easily, so after a few minutes of Simon Says we play music or sing or talk to him.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that dad continues to cough up lots of blood and mucus. There’s a lot of fluid in his lungs, and this pneumonia is the main factor keeping him in the ICU at this point. Originally they hoped to move him down the hall today, but the staff still need to suction his esophagus every 30 to 60 minutes. They feed a foot-long skinny rubber tube through the hole in his trachae and down his throat. Dad’s face turns red as he gags and coughs up blood. It looks almost as unpleasant to me as a standard catheter.

But I am so impressed with the ICU staff. Today I watched Brock wipe dad’s butt, change his soiled sheets, rotate him, suction his throat, and still have energy left to engage him in conversation. They are dedicated and it’s clear they really care. This makes me nervous about what will happen to dad when he leaves here.


March 2, 11 pm
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 8

This morning, dad was the most awake and active I’ve seen him since the stroke. For three hours he had his eyes more open than closed (perhaps 60/40), moving his left arm and leg frequently. For the first time, the movement looked purposeful. He’d lift his arm to stroke his beard, or grab his hospital gown. He reclined in bed and looked around at sounds. I played Broadway show tunes for him and he appeared to be listening.

  This video clip gives a sense of how he looks and moves. [NOTE to email list: you should be able to follow this link even if you don’t use Facebook].

  As we sat with dad, I talked with Brock—his nurse for today—about levels of consciousness. “At the basic level,” Brock told me, “a person just has vague unfocused movements,” like withdrawing from physical pain. At the next level, someone will respond to stimuli such as sounds or light or touch, but there are still no signs of conscious thought. “You can hold someone’s hand and say ‘squeeze my hand,’ but are they actually following your command or just responding to the sensation of touch?,” Brock asked. What the doctors really look for are ways to determine comprehension and conscious response, such as telling a patient to hold two fingers in the air. “If you say that and they lift two fingers, you know they are listening—that won’t happen by accident.”

  While we talked, we watched dad lift his arm over his head and stare at the IV lines attached to his wrist, as if trying to figure out what they were. Like a baby staring at toys dangling over the crib.

  Progess? Definitely. Part of an upward trend? It’s too soon to tell.

  So I’m celebrating the small things. It is tragically less than the vigorous man I talked to 10 days ago, but such an improvement over the passive patient I saw last Friday. When he first arrived at the ICU, the doctors gave him a low chance for survival, and now they are talking to us about planning for nursing homes.

  After 9 hours at the hospital, mom and I headed home. Davy and Peter came after lunch and stayed into the evening.

  Davy just now told me that dad has been “super awake with me the past 90 minutes. We listened and I sang to all of Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack and half of West Side story. Both his eyes are tracking together and he even seemed to follow some commands with wiggling his thumb, although it’s always hard to tell. Definitely the most alert I’ve seen him though, after a sluggish afternoon and early evening.”

And tomorrow is another day.

From Mike Rothbart, March 1; 5:10 pm:

CALL for Volunteers to help my Dad and Mom:

Since my dad @Hal Rothbart had a major stroke last week, we’ve received so many offers to help. We’re so grateful! Now we’re getting organized enough to plan what we need. Here are our 4 major requests:

  1. Sitting with Hal:

We created a schedule for people to keep Hal company while he’s in the ICU. Please sign up for a two-hour block. (You’re also welcome to drop by for a bit, but planned visits are more useful).

Sign up for times through March 9 here:

Those with bodywork training have been coming to do work on him. If you have questions or none of the listed times work, contact visitor coordinator Beth Mulder at

2. Supporting Barbara and her family.

Barbara and her family will need emotional, physical and practical support. This will include meals, massages, some errands and brief physical tasks at Barbara’s house, and helping Barbara organize living in her home without Hal there.

Soon we will start a volunteer sign-up using www.caringbridge.orgWe will notify you when this is available can also contact volunteer coordinator Ann Thomas at with offers. (Note if you offered to help before, it may have gotten lost in the chaos, so please let us know again.)

3. Collecting stories of inspiration.

Davy has been gathering stories and reading them to Hal. See more details here: . You can send stories to Davy at

4. Sending your prayers and healing energy our way. We have two scheduled times each day for focused meditation for healing, in person and from afar, at 10 am and 8 pm EST. (And obviously your prayers are welcome anytime!) Look for more specific instructions at

We are posting updates daily at and If you don’t use Facebook and would like to get updates by email, send a request to

  Thanks all!

Mike Forster Rothbart

March 1, 11 pm
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 7 evening

This morning dad was alert around 5 am, according to today’s nurse, Charlotte, and neurosurgeon Larry Morgan. They used the ceiling-mounted lift to raise him out of bed and transfer him to a giant hospital barcalounger by the window. He sat there until it was time to leave for surgery. It’s good for his body to get propped in different positions, Charlotte said.

It was a quiet afternoon in the hospital. Dad mostly slept while he recovered from this morning’s PEG tube operation. He woke up for 40 minutes and was looking around while I held his hand and talked to him. I discussed the weather (wet sleet, blowing horizontally), the names of the nurses and the bagel I had for lunch. Every few minutes I reminded him where he was and why.

It’s hard for me to talk for a long time to someone who is unresponsive, so I gave myself breaks by playing 80s rock on the radio. He looked briefly interested each time a new song came on. Michael Jackson: “I’m talking bout the man in the mirror. I’m askin him to change his way-ay-ays.” Air Supply: “Here I am, the one that you love. Askin’ for another day.”

When I say he woke up, I want to make sure you understand: the difference is subtle. Like the distinction between being half-awake and half-asleep. He groggily looks around a minute and sometimes his left eye focuses. Then he drifts. His left arm moves up as he idly tries to grasp his air tube. But often it looks less intentional than like someone turning in his sleep.

Until today, his left wrist was frequently tied down to prevent him from yanking out his feeding tube whenever he gagged on it. Now his hand is free, since there is nothing critical he can pull. The hose just has humidified air with extra oxyen, blowing gently past his new breathing hole. Anyway, Dr. Morgan doubts he has the dexterity to really pull it yet.

Davy and Peter came to watch the Michigan game with him. The two of them kept jumping out of their seats as Michigan blew shot after shot and the refs made bad calls. Dad looked, at best, mildly puzzled as his eye passed over the screen. Other times he appeared oblivious or asleep. Michigan won in OT but dad was unaware.

Even though it is not clear how much is getting through, it will be important for the next six weeks to give him as much stimulation as possible. The neurons will be re-establishing broken connections around the damaged area. The period of most likely recovery begins now.

Unfortunately, there’s only one thing right now to which he consistently gives a clear response: physical pain. Gagging and grimacing when a nurse siphons out his throat with a long tube. Pulling his hand away when a nurse squeezes a pressure point.

He does sometimes respond to other stimula but it is inconsistent. Davy is there now, and just reported that Jim, the night nurse, got dad to lift his left foot on command this evening. If we can get him to start following such commands, we’ll really be able to make progress. But it’s hard to track: every hour is different.

We’re still looking for volunteers to come sit with Hal. Sign up here:


February 28, 2018 | Mike Forster Rothbart
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 6 morning.

Today dad is getting a tracheostomy, minor surgery creating a small hole in his windpipe, to provide an alternative airway for breathing. Until now he’s had a breathing tube. Although he has been breathing mostly on his own for 48 hours, they can’t extubate him (Word of the Day: extubate: to take the tube out. Opposite of intubate!) unless he becomes more alert. Otherwise there is a danger of swallowing fluids or his tongue and choking.

We hoped to see him more awake and responsive yesterday so that the surgery would not be necessary. However, he instead seemed sleepy most of the day. In earlier days, he would move his foot or squeeze a hand when asked to do so. Yesterday he rarely did, and often closed his eyes to drift back to sleep in the middle of our talking to him.

It feels counterintuitive to me, but this surgery is actually less invasive than the breathing tube he has stuck in there now. It looks extremely unpleasant every time he gags and coughs from it. Worse, the tube opens him up to infection. He already has minor pneumonia in his lungs and was running a fever up to 102. The “trache” will give him more time to recover at his own pace. Choosing this operation was the first major decision point for the family. There will be others.

The surgery is scheduled for approximately 11 am to 1 pm. If possible I’ll post a quick note when it starts.

We’ve had so many offers to help, we are so grateful! But we have not had any good way to organize people. Until now. We’re very happy to introduce Hal’s ICU volunteer coordinator, Beth Mulder, @beth.kollinmulder. Look for an email or post here soon about coming to sit with Hal and helping Barbara with some small household tasks.


Davy Rothbart facebook post, Mon., Feb. 26, 2018


Update on my dad Hal Rothbart – Day 4 morning, Feb. 27, 2018

Good morning friends. Thank you. We could not do this without you. Amazing to come home after a day at the hospital and find a surprise dinner hanging from the doorknob. I always thought my dad had many acquaintances and no close friends, but I realize I was wrong. He touched people wherever he went.

Three days ago in upstate New York we had freezing rain overnight. When I woke, the trees on the ridge all glistened like a million chandeliers. I thought about going up the mountain to take photos. Maybe next time? No one knew it yet, but my dad was already laying unconscious on his kitchen floor. And so here I am in A2, learning more than I ever wanted to know about strokes.

Yesterday we had a long meeting with the head neurologist and dad’s neurosurgeon. They gave us useful background about hemorrhagic strokes. There are six common causes, and figuring out the cause will help them treat it. Two CAT scans gave them information about the size and location of the bleed, and last night’s MRI will tell them more details.

We’re just waiting for the MRI results now.

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. It can be from an aneurysm (a weak spot in the blood vessel), an AVM (arteriovenous malformation —misformed blood vessels) or CAA (cerebral amyloid angiopathy, plaque-like deposits of proteins built up in the blood vessels). They’ve ruled the first two out, but it could be the third.

Stroke can also be caused by high blood pressure (hypertension), severe trauma or a tumor. Dad’s blood pressure was fine, and any trauma to his head while falling was the result of the stroke, not the cause of it.

So that leaves a tumor or CAA. Both would be bad news in different ways: CAA has no known treatment and after it has bled once it is more likely to do so again. However, a brain tumor may need aggressive treatment to stop it.

The neurology team is making their rounds now, starting at room 4212 at the far end of the hall, and working clockwise towards us. They’ll tell us what they see on the MRI.

Meanwhile, last evening dad had a lower dose of Propofol, the sedative. Half as much as before. This is a good sign for weaning him from it.

Our present plan is to continue two healing circles a day, 10 am EST and 8 pm EST for half an hour. Join when you can!

Update on my dad: Hal Rothbart — Day 4 evening – #2, Feb. 26, 2017

The doctors warned us that day 4 would be a hump day. They were talking about stroke patients, because the swelling in the brain could peak today. However, tonight I realize it also seems to be hump day for family members. We are all exhausted after sleeping less than 4 hours per night.

Poor dad also looks exhausted. His body needs to rest to recover, but he gets woken frequently by nurses, to suck fluid from his lungs or check his pupils or draw blood or turn him. It’s a constant balance between maintaining his body and letting his brain heal. “If you or I had to come here, healthy, and spend a week living as a patient on the ICU, we’d go crazy,” one of the neurologists commented. The same doctor advised us that recovery from a stroke is a marathon not a sprint. We are trying to learn to pace ourselves.

Today we had good news throughout the day, but each step is so incremental that it is hard to stay optimistic when it is mixed in with bad news.

On the good side:
• Dad was removed from the sedative Propofol at 6 am and never had to be put back on it.
• This meant he was more alert more often, especially in the morning.
• At 8 am, his ventilator was switched from SIMV mode (Synchronized Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation) to Spontaneous mode. Basically this means he was breathing on his own instead of having forced air. Except a few brief periods, he breathed for himself all day. The next step will be to remove the breathing tube entirely, but he is not ready for that yet.
• The MRI showed less swelling than expected. Sometimes the edema (blood and fluid on the brain) can cause additional brain damage but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
• Dad’s other body parts are functioning fairly well: lungs, gastrointestinal, circulatory systems all doing what they are supposed to do. Blood pressure remained normal most of the time.
• They removed his neck brace after the MRI showed no spinal damage.

On the other hand:
• The MRI showed that the most likely cause of the stroke was CAA (cerebral amyloid angiopathy), plaque-like deposits of proteins built up in the blood vessels. Probably better than a tumor, but there is no known medical cure for CAA, and after one stroke, it is common to have additional strokes.
• Dad has developed some pneumonia in his lungs, probably from the vomit he inhaled.
• He developed a fever this afternoon, peaking about 102 degrees, although they got it back down to 99 by 8 pm.
• The doctors want to see dad consistently more alert and wakeful before they will risk removing the breathing tube. Ideally, he should be responsive when we talk to him, able to move a hand or foot on command, track movement with his left eye, and not drift back to sleep in the middle. Although he had moments of seeming engaged, he was not passing these tests this afternoon. He was less alert than in the morning.
• If the breathing tube does not come out this week, it will be time to consider a tracheostomy.
• One method to increase alertness and reduce swelling is by giving a hypersaline solution. This increases sodium and thus decreases liquids in the brain. They tried this about 1 pm but it did not have the desired effect.

Just now, at 10 pm, four of us are winding down for bed and Davy is taking the night shift at the hospital. He just texted this update:

Dad had a good exam at 9:30pm. Elevated alertness and followed commands on opening eyes, moving leg and moving hand. Justine, the new night nurse, scored him a 10 on his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Hung with him a few more minutes then he went back to sleep. Just now Vicky the respiratory nurse came in and listened to his breathing and said it’s much improved since last night, and that overall she is sensing incremental progress. Little bit at a time, she said. And Justine cautioned don’t worry if it’s two steps forward one step back. I like seeing the nurses own hopeful attitudes after seeing him. They told me they see a lot of patients and that dad is doing well in the context of others who deal with an extreme stroke like this.

Hal Rothbart and Barbara Brodsky on their wedding night from Mike Forster Rothbart



My parents dancing at their wedding, 6 people, people smiling, people standing and wedding,







Notes for tomorrow, Feb. 26, 2018:
We will continue to have two healing circles a day, 10 am EST and 8 pm EST for half an hour. Here are specific requests about what to do:

For Tuesday keep the focus the same as before: relieving inflammation and fluids on the brain, quieting, and gentle. The hemorrhage is centered in his left frontal lobe. [Previous instructions here: ]

Note 2: Local Ann Arbor friends: we will need volunteers to take shifts sitting with Hal in his ICU room, plus people to support Barbara with some logistical tasks and meals. Those of you who are on Barbara’s local mailing list will get an email with details soon. If you don’t get an email, check back here tomorrow.

Feb 25 10:25pm
Update on Hal Rothbart: Day 3 evening

We’ll have prayer circles again on Monday, from 10 to 10:30 am and 8 to 8:30 pm (Eastern). We will gather (in person or remotely) to pray and support him. Please join us when you can — if you’re busy at those times, feel free to do it when you can.

My mom and Aaron make these specific requests about what to do:

“Dear friends of Hal,

For Monday please keep the focus the same as before, on relieving inflammation on the brain, quieting, and gentle. [Previous instructions here: and above at the beginning of this post]

Depending on the results of tonight’s MRI, on Tuesday we may be ready to begin some stimulation of the cortex, helping energize the brain and body to better function. Please check in here after 9 pm Monday night for new instructions.”

I realize people from many different parts of my life are reading these updates, so a brief word about my mom for those who don’t know her. She is a spiritual channeler, and primarily channels a spirit named Aaron.

For the purposes of supporting dad, it doesn’t really matter whether you believe in this or think it’s hogwash. As Aaron says, “Some of you may feel skepticism or discomfort at the idea of being addressed by a spirit. It doesn’t matter if I’m “real.” If my words are useful, use them. If not, discard them.”

We appreciate having you quietly praying in whatever form you prefer to do it. Quakers hold people in the light. Jews say Mi Sheberakh. Catholics have their rosaries and Buddhists their mantras.

As dad would sing right now if he could, “Come on something come on in don’t be shy meet a guy pull up a chair.”


Mike Forster Rothbart


Hal Rothbart with family at UofM hospital in Ann Arbor, MI

From Barbara, Fri., Feb. 24 at 10:50 pm:

Dear ones,
It seems from the email/ fb response that we had over 50 people, maybe closer to 100, tuned in with meditation. Please join us tomorrow at 8AM, 8 PM.

Eight of us gathered in his room – me, Mike, Davy,  2 friends of mine and Hal’s, 2 friends of Davy’s and one nurse. Meditating. The nurse stopped the sedation drug at 7:58pm and left it off for nearly an hour. (Previously they had taken him off for 5 minutes at a time but his blood pressure started to rise and he grimaced as if in pain. This time they gave him tylenol before they stopped the sedative).

We gathered around Hal and began to talk to him, then sing some of his favorite songs, play music, tell jokes. His eyes opened occasionally. At first they were unfocused but later his eyes moved around to different places although not always tracking together. He seemed to look at one or another face for a few  moments, and at times we all felt he smiled. Davy told him to move his left foot and then his left hand and sometimes he moved after. With his left hand he sometimes tried to reach up to his tubes, which the nurse felt was a common response to the discomfort.

This morning he was breathing completely with the ventilator while sedated. Late this afternoon he started breathing partly on his own. The ventilator was set to 14 (not sure of the units) and during the time from 8 to 9 tonight, the total intake?/air level was 16 to 22; the nurse said that meant 25% or 30% of the air was coming in from his own effort.

We could feel the huge base of energy support around us. Thank you. It made a big difference for him and all of us.

Very tired, so that’s its for tonight, We need to be there at 7 to meet again with the neurosurgeon on his rounds. Then meditation at 8AM. and our son Peter arrives from Seattle around 9.
with love, Barbara

Written by our son Mike
Updates on dad  Feb 24, 2018 12:45 pm

Day 2:

We slept 2 to 5 hours (Davy 2, me 4 and mom 5) and returned to the hospital for morning rounds. We met with a neurosurgeon who gave us difficult news. Dad had massive internal bleeding the first day — a 7 cm wide affected area, like the size of a hockey puck, in the left rear quadrant of his brain.

Typically day 3 and 4  after a stroke are critical because that’s when there’s the most swelling in the brain. Sometimes this causes further damage, and other times it is temporary and then passes. (What to do about this; See more below) During those days he will be less alert.

The bleeding has now stopped. However patients his age have less than 10% chance of partial recovery and almost no chance of full recovery. Many die within a few weeks.

But dad has always liked to beat the odds. More importantly, we have a caring community around him with a lot of knowledge of healing (of all kinds — allopathic, spiritual etc).

So many of you have asked how to help. Here is one thing we would like:

Tonight from 8 to 8:30 pm (Eastern) we are going to gather (in person or remotely) to pray and hold him in the light. Please join us. We’ll do the same again Sunday (Sunday, Feb. 25) 8 am and 8 pm.

My mom and Aaron makes these specific requests about what to do now:

Dear friends, remember that while the stroke and bleeding did cause damage, further inflammation can be  temporary, caused by the stroke and bleeding. We release this inflammation and invite the clear tissue to return. The most important gift you can give is to offer a very gentle calming energy. Always inviting, healing, never grasping at it. Picture his brain like a small baby that was deeply frightened by a loud noise. Picture how you would hold and quiet that baby, inviting it to release its fear and find its calm center. In this way picture his brain releasing the inflammation and returning to its natural state.

We know that cells can regenerate. The time for that has not come yet. The first step is to invite the brain to release the trauma it has experienced by calming and loving it. When that is done, in a few days, we’ll look at the next step.

Mike Forster Rothbart