My father, locked in his body but soaring free

Published on Oct 19, 2014

At TEDMED, photographer Kitra Cahana shares a new visual language accompanying the extraordinary story of her father’s severe brainstem stroke, a catastrophe that transforms into an inspiring and imaginative spiritual journey.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

It’s very difficult to express the sublime and the surreal in words and photographs. I wanted to attempt to communicate all that my family had experienced in the summer of 2011 – my father’s brain stem stroke, and the profound spiritual awakening that followed – with others. When my father first had his stroke, I wrote down these words, and whispered them to him when I first came to his bedside: “We only ever needed one pair of hands, two legs, a respiratory system to keep the world afloat between us.” This became my mantra. We can sustain ourselves through each other. This is what my father taught us; he said that all who came into his room of healing should expect to be healed themselves. Healing has to be mutual.

The stroke ruptured my reality as well as his. In those initial months, so devoted to his limp body and to allowing him to communicate all that was bursting to [...] continue the story