Before last week I had never heard of Me Ra Koh. I know, I know - I live in a box. Her name was not even on my radar screen. Flash forward to today. I'm lovin her! big time! For those of you like me, who have no idea who I'm talkin about - she is a famous photographer, motivational speaker now appearing on the Nate Berkas show, appeared on Oprah.
None of the above has anything to do with why she has made such a huge impression on me. Me Ra has lived through some unbelievably hard times; date rape, miscarriage, almost near death of another child. And yet, there she was standing on a stage with a huge smile on her face. A number of times during her speech I wanted to let out a huge wail -350 people surrounding me - so I sucked it up. While her story is extremely moving, it was the very real and deep connection I felt with her that got to me. Judging from the crowd there were many people who felt the same connection.
The loss Me Ra felt after miscarrying her son, the fear a few years later when her daughter almost died from an infection they both picked up in their travels. Wanting to scream enough is enough already! How many times had I said those very same words. In an instant, my feelings from my own experiences; almost losing Little Hart from freak infection a year ago, Elle's scoliosis surgery two years ago - one mis-step she could have been paralyzed or worst dead on the operating table, my brother's death from a extremely rare form of cancer. As much as I tried to contain my emotions, the tears were rolling down my checks like a river. I realized I didn't care!
As Me Ra neared the end of her talk, you couldn't help but be inspired by her story. What really struck me was how photography had become her outlet, her way to make sense with the world, find joy again. My mind immediately went to Elle. At seventeen she has had more crappy things happen in her life than some adults experience in a lifetime. My own thoughts about how I had failed to protect her from the abuse in her Dad's house. How can I help her to become whole again? Then it hit me.
All great women that have gone on to make a difference in this world have experienced some sort of tragedy. Me Ra Koh - Oprah and many others. What did they have that others don't? The came out the other end of tragedy and kicked it in the ass! They did not let it control their life - they chose to take what they had experienced, harness it and use it to help others by telling a story to others. It could just be wishful thinking - that I need to believe that all the crap Elle has had to deal with in her 17 short years was necessary for her to change the world later on life.
Regardless of the reason, it gave me comfort and connection to a woman I had never met or even heard of before that night. Afterward she was sitting an arms length for me, when the evening concluded I went up to talk to her. The minute she looked in my eyes, the tears started rolling as I briefly told her about Elle's journey with tragedy and loss - her love of photography - my hope it could be her outlet as it had been for Me Ra. She gave me a huge hug and said I would love to autograph a book for her if you would like.
In recent months Elle had put her camera away for safe keeping. Listened the next day as I retold Me Ra's story - the connection I felt with her - how it reminded me of Elle. Elle took the book out of my hands - opened and read the inscription:
May these pages infuse your spirit!
Me Ra Koh
When I walked into her room today, tears filled my eyes when I saw not only Elle's camera out, but sitting on top of Me Ra Koh"s book! Thank you Me Ra Koh for the inspiring my daughter to want to capture the stories of life around her with her camera once again!
You may also like to read some of the background with Elle's journey: