I have a bit of a split personality: there’s the singer/actress, and then there’s the mom/Lunchbox Lady. I’m no Sybil, but honestly, I love when I can find a way to bring all these people together. So I bring my kids to the set when I make videos where I sing about lunchboxes, and then I write blog posts about my kids and lunch packing.
Once again, my personalities get to collide: My singing side has afforded me the opportunity to meet an amazing family. My lunchbox side has afforded me the platform (this blog) upon which to tell their story….
I’ve been invited to sing at a “party” at the Catalina Jazz Club here in Los Angeles, in honor of Barbra Streisand’s birthday, April 24th. Our Name is Barbra 2011, is being directed by my talented friend, Clifford Bell. He says –
“On April 24, 1998, a small group of friends got together in a living room and took turns performing songs from “The Gospel According To Barbra” for each other’s amusement… Since then, it has become a yearly obsession to keep that ball rolling… recently we have evolved out of the living room and into a nightclub venue… and this year, will be the first time that we are having “The Barbra Birthday Party” as a fundraiser for the grass roots fundraising campaign, very near and dear to my heart, Songs For Isabella.”
At last year’s party, I sang Barbra’s “Papa, Can you Hear Me” from Yentl. At the time, I was about to go into surgery to fix my broken arm and I thought that song was like a prayer. For myself. My arm is fine now, so this year, I’m grateful to be singing for a little girl named Isabella. I spoke with Isabella’s dad, actor Gregory Vahanian, to find out more –
In August, 2009, after her parents found her breathing but unresponsive, 2-year old Isabella Vahanian was rushed to the hospital, stabilized and diagnosed with AML leukemia. While still in intensive care, she immediately began an intensive 6 round, in-hospital chemotherapy treatment plan. Her parents, Gregory and Wendy, lived with Isabella at the hospital on shifts 24/7 for almost 8 months while still caring for Gabriela, their then 8-year old, at home. Isabella’s care became their full-time work. Now that she’s completed her in-hospital treatment, her bone marrow and blood tests show she’s in remission.
Prior to Isabella’s hospitalization, she’d already navigated territory that had helped prepare the family mentally, emotionally and spiritually to meet the challenge of the situation with faith and realistic optimism. During the first trimester of mom Wendy’s pregnancy with Isabella, she and Gregory were told that the baby showed the indicator for Down’s Syndrome. Gregory says –
“This was humbling and I felt quite vulnerable. My first questions were really about meeting her needs. What might her needs be as distinct from our older daughter’s needs? Would I be man enough to meet those needs?” It proved quite healing for me to work with my own fears and concerns and attune to her joyful presence as a soul. When I tuned into her soul-to-soul, I got a clear, joyful and assuring message along the lines of “Daddy, I’m fine. I’m really so fine, Daddy.” But if my expression brings up anything for you, you have my full support.” When any doubt or questions about my own ability to provide for Isabella’s needs arose during the pregnancy, I’d repeat as I did in my daily prayers, “Lord, I’m your man… Lord, I’m your man.”
Gregory told me that there was great healing inside him during the pregnancy. When Isabella was born she had 2 or 3 holes in her heart that at 4 1/2 months old, required successful open-heart surgery.
“As I drove to the hospital the morning of Isabella’s heart surgery, I dialogued with God. I could feel Isabella present, smiling and confident. “Lord, I know we’re going to be blessed through this… I avail myself to you and would like to know the life lesson and blessing being offered to me and our family now.” I felt God was telling me, “If you thought you had an inkling about what it means to cherish your children, you’re about to discover a whole new depth and breadth of your own heart’s capacity for Loving.” He was right. I find that we’re always being blessed through every situation.
I’m very clear inside myself that God doesn’t place mountains in front of me to block my success, but rather to invite me to discover my skillfulness as a mountain climber. Fortunately, I have a wife whose faith runs as deep and steadfast as my own and we’ve really loved and prayed our way through each challenge and have come through closer and better off for having navigated the territory we’ve successfully gone through.”
This Party’s for her
Clifford Bell met Isabella’s dad Gregory years ago, through mutual friends. Moved by Gregory and mom Wendy’s devotion and attitude, he really wanted to help. Thus was born, “Songs For Isabella.” If you’re in Los Angeles, please join us on Sunday, April 24 at Catalina Jazz Club. Proceeds from this event will go to “The Songs For Isabella Fund”, a grass roots fundraising campaign to help the Vahanian Family in meeting the financial challenges associated with the long term hospitalization of their daughter.
If you’re not in LA, you can still help. They’ve partnered with The Talbert Family Foundation. This 501c3 organization provides a tax-deductible way to assist them in meeting their current cash flow needs as they bridge forward and reintegrate into a normal flow of life. To make a contribution and to check out a brief photo journal of Isabella’s Healing Season click HERE.
I’m looking forward to singing my song for Isabella and this strong and steadfast family, who’s story touches me deeply. No matter which side of me shows up to the party, I’ll have with me the healing power of music. I never leave home without it.