I’m always a little sad when a vibrant life passes.
I remember a few years back when I saw a memorial collage honoring a young man of 28, who had passed while kayaking rapids… Based on the photos, one could tell this man had joy in his life. His smile was a contagious one could see and his friends pictured next to him were happily affected by his presence.
I didn’t know him, but I was moved with his memorial..And I began to weep and let it out, yet slightly smiling knowing that he was at least able to share his spirit with those while he was here.
Yesterday, I found out that another strong spirit passed. Yet this person I knew… Candace Coffee and I met as part of an international group of students and professors on a survey trip of Tibet. I was still in college and she had recently graduated from UCI with a degree in dance and international studies. She had aspirations for grad school, and future endeavors around the globe.
I got to share many wonderful memories in this season of traversing China and Tibet with Candace and our group. Whether it was playing Gang of Four cards on a sleeper class train from Beijing to Xining, sharing spicy yak noodles for lunch, or even the lamb kebabs that the Uyghurs would make on the street. It was exploring monasteries and nunneries, bathing in mountain hot springs, horseback riding in the country, sleeping in yak hair tents sipping on that special Tibetan drink we all love; yak butter tea. གཟུགས་པོ་བདེ་ཐང་།! (Cheers in Tibetan)
Ah the memories! Such ones are close to my heart, and 13 years later, I still feel a connection to all of those who were on that trip, because in today’s world, a trip like that does not exist anymore due to heavier travel restrictions in the Tibetan region.
As all of us were becoming friends at 3,650 meters in Lhasa, staying in our guesthouse three blocks away from Barkhor Square, something triggered in Candace’s body and she took a turn and was beginning to lose her vision..
She was flown to Hong Kong for immediate medical attention. As we learned some time later, she had to go back to the States. She went blind in one eye, then the other, then her vision regained…She felt numbness in her body…and for a while, she and many physicians did not really know what was going on in her body.
As it was discovered, Candace had Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO), a rare condition of which not everything is entirely known about.
And I didn’t see Candace for a few years after then…
When I saw her again, it was with our fellow partner on the Tibet trip, Jared. And together we shared a day and evening together, laughing and reminiscing. She had gone through some humps, but was in general good spirits and still very strong and able. I think she may have been doing a bit of dance, and acting as well.. This was 2004/05..
Yet, as the course of events that would happen for Candace’s life from here on, she would be encountered by a different sort of ‘Tibetan Himalaya’ to climb. These Himalayas which she would consistently conquer and overcome, regardless of what the level of intensity they could be.
I was inspired always by Candace, and while I didn’t get to see her as much face to face in LA, I felt I was still a part of her life through her photos. Whether she was traversing to beautiful places, gracefully dancing or fighting for the openness of embryonic and stem cell research in California, her life was vibrant, and encouraging. It was a joy to see her become a sweet, sweet mother for her two monkeys, Jack & Jude.
I had another cry last night, and I looked to the stars of the Hi-Desert. In the distance, I saw a red sparkly star just above the horizon of the mountain range…And I named that star Candace, because she is a star…and her life and how she emanated it will always be here.
I will miss you Candace..Thank you for being You..
Until we meet again…Au Revoir, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen..
Video of Candace talking about NMO
Contributions can be given to an education fund for Jack & Jude, Candace’s precious boys