Friday, October 28, 2011

Experiencing the Braco Effect

Last August, a friend of mine sent me some information on a man from Croatia named Braco (pronounced brot'-so). He apparently heals people just by looking at them or at a photo. Yes, I know, you have a bridge to sell me.

I watched a couple of YouTube testimonials from people in Europe and the United States. Supposedly, there is medical documentation to show that people who had terminal diseases and many other physical or emotional maladies had experienced spontaneous cures after a gazing session with Braco. I found that intriguing.

Over 250,000 people have seen Braco.
Braco is 43 years old, married and has a young son. He has long hair, which makes me feel nostalgic for the late sixties. He never sought to be a healer, so the story goes. He had a Master’s degree in economics and had worked previously in the business world.

One day, his mother wanted to see a well-known Croatian healer, Ivica Prokic. Braco thought the man might be a charlatan, so he went with his mother to check the man out. He was so impressed, he quit his day job to work with this healer. Prokic became his mentor and felt that Braco had a natural talent for healing. When Prokic drowned in 1995, people began asking Braco for help. At first, he declined, but the sick kept coming anyway. Through word of mouth only, his following grew. He apparently does not do television or newspaper interviews.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."—Thomas Edison, Inventor

I looked up Braco’s website and found that he was appearing at the Sheraton Hotel in East Rutherford, New Jersey in early October. I bought a full-day pass for myself and my husband, Steve, as well as a one-session pass the next day for Steve, myself and our two daughters (who know—eyes rolling—that Mom is into new and interesting experiences).

One thing that impressed me about Braco was how inexpensive his sessions were. At a cost of $8 per session, anyone can afford to see him. In one session, Steve and I sat next to two Roman Catholic nuns dressed in full habits. People came from as far as California, Florida, Puerto Rico and Europe to attend these sessions in New Jersey.

Braco was born in Zagreb, the capitol of Croatia.
I decided that the best way to get my money’s worth was to bring photos of every member of my family, plus my personal trainer (who’s having some health issues) and a young man I used to work with who is suffering from an invasive brain tumor. I did not tell him I was doing this. People who are seriously ill can get offended if they think you are trying to be “helpful.” But he has a wife and two young children, so I decided there was no harm in taking his photo and not telling him.

I’m not sure what I expected. My husband is very good at sensing energy, while I am energy-deaf, so to speak.

"The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind."—Paracelsus

So we sat in the first session. Steve saw an aura of white around Braco and was overpowered by the energy surging out of him. Not much happened for me. The second session, Steve had another dramatic episode; every cell in his body was tingling. Not much happened for me.

Then I told Steve for the next session, I would close my eyes. I know you’re supposed to look into Braco’s eyes, but that just wasn’t working for me. With my eyes open, I’m too easily distracted. There were, after all, shiny objects in the room. So on the third session, Steve again experienced heat, vibrations and mind-blowing energy waves. With my eyes closed, I felt a warm surge of contentment, maybe even a mild floating sensation. It was a beginning. We had four more sessions. Steve was almost levitating after one of them. My reactions were more low-key. One thing I did notice—and I hope it remains. My legs and one hand have been swollen for quite some time. By the end of the evening, most of the swelling was gone.

It’s said that many of the effects of a session with Braco take weeks to manifest. So now, I needed to sit back and see if anything would change for either one of us or the people whose pictures we’d held during the sessions.

The day after the session, I visited my mother, as I do every Sunday. I asked her how she was feeling, as I always do. She said she felt better than she had in a long time; that her health had gone up a level. Normally, she just smiles at me and says, "I'm fine." I never told my mother about Braco as she would most likely laugh at me and shake her head.

I can't speak for my daughters. They both think that energy healers are crap.

"Quantum physics has found that there is no empty space in the human cell, but it is a teeming, electric-magnetic field of possibility or potential.”—Dr. Deepak Chopra

Steve has not taken his fibromyalgia medication since the session—which at this point is almost a month ago. (He has had fibromyalgia for 11 years and has depended on that medication to function.) He also has not experienced any migraines since the session; usually a daily occurrence for him. And I can touch him on the shoulders and back, normally a no-no for someone who has fibro-sensitive nerve endings. As for myself, the more noticeable swelling has not come back, although my ankles are still a bit puffy.

Is Braco a gifted healer or a con artist? That's hard to say. But at $8 a session, who cares? It can't hurt.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tenacious G: The Last Leaf

When I was in secondary school, I read a story by O Henry called The Last Leaf. The gist of the story was this (and forgive me if I get any details wrong; I read it more than 40 years ago):

A sickly young woman and an old painter lived in the same building. The old painter felt discouraged because his life was coming to an end and he had never painted a masterpiece. The young woman was discouraged because she didn't seem to be getting over her sickness. One day, she told the old painter that she was convinced that she would die when the last leaf fell off of the vine on the wall across from her bedroom window. The winter came and went, but the last leaf on the vine never fell. She took it as a divine sign that she would get well, and eventually she did. She wanted to share the good news with her friend, the painter. She asked someone in her building where he was. She was told that he had caught pneumonia painting a leaf on the wall across from her window and died. She realized he had finally painted his masterpiece—for her.

Tenacious G: The Last Leaf
The "last leaf," today, often refers to the last person of a generation who has not died. My mother, aka, Tenacious G, was lamenting to me the other day that everyone she talks about these days seems to be dead. I know that makes her feel sad, as it would anyone.

The day after she made that remark, I received a phone call from the son-in-law of the man she resided with for over ten years after my father passed away. They were very fond of each other, but when Michael fell ill, they had to split. He rejoined his family in Atlanta and Mom stayed up here with us. Michael called her every day for three years, until he became too ill to call her anymore.

The phone call from his son-in-law, Bill, was to tell me that he had passed away. Michael was 93, had lived a long life, but bone cancer finally took him. Bill said he had been on a morphine drip and passed peacefully. The family in Atlanta felt it was more appropriate for me to tell Mom.

I was going to see Mom the following day, so I wondered how to break it to her and how she would react. She asked me to take her to the Halloween Store so she could buy a wig for a costume she had recently purchased, then I suggested we visit a park in the area to enjoy the lovely day. We sat down on a bench, both of us watching a beautiful pair of swans on the lake—and I told her.

"Oh," she replied. "I knew he was very sick. At least he isn't suffering anymore." I thought there might be tears, but instead she was philosophical about it. I was surprised but relieved. I guess at this point in her life, she is accustomed to loss. And she and Michael had been separated for several years, so perhaps she had already grieved the passing of the relationship. "I've lost them both," she added, referring to my Dad and her boyfriend. And that was it.

One of the swans that failed to capture my mother's interest.
We sat there for a while and then she said, "The swans aren't doing anything at all. I'm bored. Let's go. I want to get back and try on my wig."

"Okay," I replied.

Mom was never one for sitting around. Nor has she ever been the type who indulged in feeling sorry for herself. Impatient, she was already on her feet and heading in an unstable gait toward the car. It was time to move on to the business of living.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

A friend called me this past week to ask if I'd like to go into NYC and give the Occupy Wall Street folks some support. I said, yes! I was delighted to have the opportunity.

When we got there, I made a point of thanking everyone I met. They were a great crowd of people—all ages, ethnicities and educational levels. Basically, the 99% were there.

The news media—and many people I know—whine that the people involved in this civil disobedience have no polished agenda or demands. Nothing can possibly come of it. 

Relax. Eventually, a unified message will emerge.

The important point now is that people across the U.S. and the world sense that something is terribly wrong and are tired of feeling powerless. They are taking to the streets to gain a sense of empowerment through numbers. Walking among a large crowd of people who are just as frustrated and outraged as you are is validating.

It is obvious that there is a gross inequity of wealth distribution in this country and elsewhere.  We have all witnessed that those in Washington have little intention of doing anything about it. There is a sense that legislation is up for auction, and the highest bidder—corporations and the rich—will always win under our present system. Even the Supreme Court awarded campaign funding and disclosure to the highest bidders by ruling that corporations can be considered persons and are therefore entitled to donate to the candidate of their choice with no limit or identification.

Patience. The Civil Rights movement did not move full tilt the day Rosa Parks decided she was too tired to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. These things build. This is a grassroots movement. Give it time. Give it time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Revisiting the Longest Day

My father was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division in World War II. He told me, when he was still alive, that he was a radio man and among the first to jump into Japan when the Allies liberated the prison camps toward the end of the war. Most of the young men who fought in World War II had never been away from home and now they were scattered across Europe and the Pacific.

My dad, Alfred Friedman, jumping off a troop carrier in the South Pacific.
So it was a sense of awe and gratitude that I recently traveled back in time to the beaches of northern France and the D-Day sites of Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Utah Beach and Sainte Mere Eglise.

Remembering D-Day

On a rainy day, June 6, 1944, the skies suddenly cleared and the Allied Forces made the decision to go ahead with Operation Overlord, in which Canadian, British and American troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to push the German troops out of France and back into Germany. The D-Day invasion involved 5,000 ships carrying 150,000 men and 30,000 vehicles across the English Channel as well as 800 planes dropping six parachute regiments of over 13,000 paratroopers. An additional 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs over coastal Normandy in advance of the invasion. Of the Allied troops that landed on the beaches that day, securing French coastal villages, 73,000 of them were Americans.

The men and women of the French Resistance played a very active and invaluable role gathering intelligence prior to D-Day, something that is seldom mentioned. They paid a high price for their bravery. Most were hunted down by the Gestapo, tortured and killed.

Pointe du Hoc: Can you imagine scaling these cliffs?
Our first visit was to Pointe du Hoc, a point of land where American Rangers landed, one hour before the invasion, to scale 100-foot cliffs with grappling hooks.  They did this while under fire from hand-held machine guns the enemy discharged from the safety of concrete bunkers. The Rangers' mission was to disable the coastal gun batteries— huge 155-millimeter guns that could send shells 12 miles out into the ocean or to adjacent beaches. Since the rest of the troops would be coming in by sea, those coastal gun batteries had to be taken out before the invasion force could land. Once the Rangers overpowered the Germans in the concrete gun emplacements, they then had to fight for two days to hold the location, losing more than 60 percent of their men. Afterwards, the remaining 40 percent regrouped and continued Northeast to a rally point one mile from the gun emplacements on Pointe du Hoc.

What the Germans saw from their concrete gun bunkers.
The French—remember this the next time someone says something negative about them—have not touched Pointe du Hoc since 1944. It is considered hallowed ground. So you can still see the concrete bunkers and the craters left by Allied bombers and ships shelling the coastline. Many men were slaughtered trying to make it up those cliffs. Oddly enough, it could have been worse.

Fortunately, Hitler suffered a bad headache the night before, supposedly because he had learned that Rome had fallen to the Allies. So he took a sleeping pill, went to bed and left orders not to disturb him. This was a strategic blow to the Master Race. No one was allowed to make decisions without the F├╝hrer’s blessing. The Germans had reinforcements that could have been sent into the invasion area to back up the German troops fighting on the cliffs. But by the time Hitler finished his beauty sleep—he is said to have slept until noon—it was too late. Even when his concerned officers finally informed him of what was going on, Hitler said it didn’t matter. He was more interested in invading London than fighting a defensive war in France. (Bad call.)

"...Comrade in Arms, known but to God."
Our next visit was to Utah and Omaha beaches. The troops were actually supposed to have landed west of there, which would have been strategically better. When they landed at about 6:30 in the morning, the soldiers jumping off the troop carriers encountered mines, barbed wire and heavy gun fire. More than 3,000 Americans died on those beaches from stepping on mines, gunshot wounds and in some cases drowning because they jumped off the troop carriers in water that was too deep, getting weighted down by their equipment. Many more would die in the weeks to come. Men stepped over the bodies of their comrades to run up the beaches and keep the assault going. By mid-afternoon, the Allied troops broke through the German defenses. By August 1944, all of Northern France was under Allied control.

Our next visit was to the American cemetery, a site overlooking Omaha beach. It is difficult to describe the emotions that wash over you as you gaze over the 9,387 gravestones perfectly aligned in row after row to the horizon. Most have names, but several hundred do not (see photo above) because some soldiers were never identified. Those buried came from every state in the union and represent just about every ethnic group you can imagine. What is striking is that most of the fallen range in age from teenagers to early twenties. They made the ultimate sacrifice and never had the opportunity to have a career or family like the rest of us. Just writing about it brings tears.

Finally, we visited the small town of Sainte Mere Eglise, where soldiers parachuted down into the French countryside in the dark in advance of the beach invasion. This was supposed to have been a surprise landing under cover of darkness. Unfortunately, a house caught on fire and a bucket brigade of villagers was working to extinguish it. The occupying Germans came out to survey what was going on. The night, lit with the rising flames, revealed a sky filled with descending parachutes. The Germans ordered the citizens back into their homes and began firing on the troops while they were in mid-air. Many were dead before they hit the ground.

Steele hung from this church steeple.
The parachute of one soldier, John Steele, caught on the town’s church steeple and he hung there, playing dead, in hopes of not being killed. The Germans eventually took him prisoner. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when U.S. troops attacked the village, capturing thirty Germans and killing another eleven.

The success of D-Day changed the course of history. Hitler was forced to fight a two-front war against the Russians in the east and the Americans, British, Canadians and French in the west. Within a year, Hitler committed suicide, and the war was over.

Reflections on War

Some wars are unavoidable, even noble; others are not.

It is appropriate to honor those who serve and protect our country. But prudent to be wary of the well-heeled, duplicitous legislators and contractors—many of whom have never served—who carelessly send today's soldiers into harm's way for hidden agendas.

We owe that important distinction to our troops and to our country.