• Akila Venkatesh

#14: Run for a cure (in memory of Lindy Wolfenden)

There are some moments in people’s lives that touch them at their core, creating a deep sense of meaning and connectedness with life; experiences that make people truly realize that life is precious and can end at any moment; moments that help people be better human beings, live life to the fullest and have a renewed sense of appreciation for the little things. I recently experienced one of these moments and will carry the learning’s from that experience with me for the rest of my life.

On July 18th 2010 I was in the Maldives and got news from my cousin that his dear wife Lindy was nearing her last days on earth. Lindy was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer about a year ago. Upon reading my cousin’s e-mail, a wave of sorrow, disbelief and denial swept over me– “last days of life? She just turned 40, she has young kids, she was so happy with her life and has so much more to experience in this world. This can’t be it.” A current of memories started tugging at my entire being until I was pulled back to visions of her face, her brilliant personality and of happy moments we shared together. Somehow, while I was sitting in my beach villa, watching the wind blow against the white curtains as they gracefully billowed in and out against the backdrop of the ocean, I experienced the raw realization that a precious life was going to end too soon. I finally gave in and cried an ocean of tears that day.  On July 24th 2010, Lindy passed away leaving behind a loving husband and her two sons, ages 4 and 6, amongst many others who loved her deeply.

Words cannot fully express the impact of death on the lives of those who are near and dear to the deceased (especially those who are closest, such as Lindy’s husband, children and mother–my heart goes out to them). I was close to Lindy in many ways. She was first introduced to me by my cousin (her husband) about 10 years ago, when I was an impressionable young adult. I still remember being drawn to her; her radiance was captivating like a ray of sunshine beaming through the window, warming your face first thing in the morning. She was dynamic, confident, generous, warm, friendly and bubbly and it was evident that her husband and all those around her absolutely adored her. I even remember that in 2004, during one of my cathartic, self-reflective journal-writing sessions I wrote her name on a list of people I looked up to, indicating that she was a wonderfully self-actualized woman. Even during her struggle with cancer she continued to lend a helping hand to those around her and remained unbelievably positive, upbeat and strong. It was clear that in life and in death Lindy was a cherished jewel of a person who had a sparkling aura that so many people admired.

Not only did Lindy inspire her friends and family through her upstanding character, she also helped so many people in this world through her work as a pulmonologist and as the director of the adult cystic fibrosis program in Atlanta. Many of her patients, such as this one, expressed the great extent to which Lindy helped their lives. Lindy was a role model to me for several reasons, such as those listed above and I will use her exceptionality as a guiding light in being the best person I can be. Thank you Lindy for leading by example and inspiring me and others to be truly good, kind-hearted human beings and to work towards helping those in need.

What I also took from this experience is the authentic, heart-felt…and sometimes gut-wrenching realization that life can end at any moment, so it’s important to be present and really appreciate the gifts of life. For me that would be my wonderful friends and family, being healthy and safe, feeling the warm breeze on a summer’s night, enjoying the vibrant colours of my dad’s garden, sharing a good laugh with my girlfriends, just sitting on the couch with my fiance and feeling so happy, dancing, good music, nature, yummy food…the list goes on! In a world of corruption and greed, where much of what controls societies is money and power (in my opinion), I wonder if people would act differently and put their power struggles aside if they actually internalized the fragility of their lives.  I don’t have the answer to this question, but I know that for me, the loss of a beautiful friend has allowed me to focus more on what really matters in my life. It has also given me greater perspective as to the importance of helping others in this world. If the tables were turned and I were to put myself in Lindy’s shoes (close your eyes and just try to imagine), or in the shoes of anyone who was going through such a difficult (and perhaps, traumatic) situation, I would hope (perhaps desperately so) that other people would empathize enough to help, whether it involved a small act, such as helping the family with groceries, or making a donation to cancer research, or a larger act, such as devoting one’s career to finding a cure. Perspective plus compassion promotes gratitude, altruism and authentic living.


Here is another article on the inspiring work of Dr. Lindy Wolfenden. Thank you Lindy for helping the world. You will be missed.

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