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KARMA GETS AROUND

A love saga

by Linda Segall Anable.


Early in my Buddhist practice, which commenced in 1981 in L.A., I often went to discussion meetings at Sheryl and Steve Bells’ home. They were my chapter leaders and friends in faith. Steve once came to an Oscar party I threw when I was with my boyfriend Lloyd, who introduced me to Buddhism – the best gift I’ve ever received. There was plenty of food, wine, and pot, which was illegal in those days. I felt a little nervous smoking around Steve, but not that nervous. Steve was tempted but declined, reasoning that as an SGI leader, he was a role model who must show impeccable character as well as deep faith. A Buddhist scholar, Steve now admits to being “privately a toker since the sixties.”

          Years later, after raising two outstanding daughters, Steve and Sheryl divorced, largely due to Sheryl’s romantic and spiritual relationship with beloved Japanese SGI leader Richard, which caused a huge scandal in the organization, as Richard was married and would not divorce his wife. I loved Richard; he was my favorite leader, so charismatic. When he spoke, everyone was inspired.

Sheryl was brilliant, vivacious, and had a huge heart. I saw her relationship with Richard as fated, karmic, profound, inevitable. Despite the affair, Sheryl and Steve’s deep bond survived and grew stronger.

In 2006, my husband Thom and I moved to Portland, Oregon, driven by the unexpected discovery of the dream house we weren’t even looking for. The moment we saw it, we had to buy it, right then and there. Mystically, the day we found out we got the house, October 4, 2006, was 25 years to the day that I went to my first Buddhist meeting: October 4, 1981. We moved in six weeks after we first beheld our beautiful hideaway from the world. What a benefit! It was meant to be. Many Buddhist meetings and tosos were held here over the years.

In 2012, Sheryl, who had always dreamed of living in Oregon, decided it was now or never, and now she had a contact here – me. I helped her with the real estate search, and she found a lovely house in the charming Portland neighborhood of Multnomah Village and moved to Oregon with Richard and Richard’s wife Tammy. Not much later, Steve bought a house a block away from Sheryl’s, and a few months later, Steve, and Sheryl’s best friend Jean, also moved to Portland. Together, they all became one big, unusual family.

Sheryl, Richard and Tammy shared one house, and Jean rented a room in Steve’s new place. It was a very curious, unorthodox arrangement, but deep down, on the karmic level, it was predestined, bound by deep faith – and Sheryl. A lot of karma was processed, a lot of human revolution was accomplished.

All of us are here to deal with our karma, work out relationships from the recent and infinite past and advance in faith. Sheryl, et al is a perfect example. Situations like this don’t happen spontaneously. There were many karmic roads that led them all there.

          Sheryl’s house became a gathering place, filled with friends and neighbors that she loved entertaining. There were barbecues, with Steve on the grill, parties, tosos and just hanging out. Sheryl was ecstatic in Portland. Her relationship with Richard thrived, and Sheryl was determined to work out her karma with Tammy. She felt that she made some progress, but, obviously, Tammy’s new life was not by choice. I didn’t really know Tammy but could tell she was terribly unhappy.

          And then, after years of Oregonian bliss, a karmic storm took a huge toll on the LA-to-Portland gang. First, Tammy passed away, then about a year later, Richard passed as well. And Sheryl became terminally ill with cancer.

Regular tosos at Sheryl’s house happened weekly, often led by Steve. One time, when she was so ill, she could barely speak, Sheryl told me that Richard had come to her. This blew my mind – he was waiting for her. Sheryl knew I would understand because I am somewhat of a channeler myself. I told Sheryl how awesome it was that Richard had reached out to her, and that if sometime in the future she wanted to “speak” to someone back on earth, I’d be available.

          In September 2018, on Sheryl’s last day, a group of family and friends held a vigil at her bedside. She seemed to be in a peaceful, semi-conscious state, happy to be surrounded by people she loved. I stayed for a few hours, but when I got up and said I had to leave, Sheryl bolted up, opened her eyes and said, “Oh no!!” It was so startling, everyone laughed.

          I gave Sheryl a farewell kiss and said, “I’ll talk to you later…”

***

And then it was Steve and Jean – the odd couple, the only ones left from the group that had migrated with Sheryl to Portland. Jean was still renting a room in Steve’s house. It was an uneasy situation, as they had not chosen to live together – it was Sheryl’s wish that they did. Sheryl had made plans and left funds for all her loved ones: one of her two Havanese pups went to Jean, and the other to Sheryl’s daughter Monica. Many of us received parting gifts. I got one of those “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” devices that Sheryl promised me would never need batteries and will work forever; also some cool hangars. Sheryl showered her people with love. She felt the karmic connections on a deep level.

Left with each other to deal with, Steve and Jean tried their best to get along. They certainly weren’t besties, but both realized that they were together for deep karmic reasons. Working it out would bring about great benefit.  

Around that time, 2019, my husband Thom decided to reach out to Steve, whom he casually knew from our visits to Sheryl’s house, and invited him to lunch. Thom loves going out to lunch and Steve was more than happy to accept the invitation. They started going out weekly, usually to Popeye’s or Five Guys, sometimes Mexican, and talk about politics and guy stuff. I started calling them Geezers Who Lunch, which Thom thinks is rude, but everyone else finds adorable. Thom and Steve became lunch buddies and good friends. During Covid, they would go to Popeye’s, park next to each other and talk on their phones while they ate. Seriously, so cute.


Steve dining in his car, Thom holding the chicken sandwich


Then one day, about two years after Sheryl passed, I heard from her. She had an assignment for me. She wanted me to introduce Steve to my friend Lindsey, a close friend and Buddhist, who had lost her husband Clive a few years back. Sheryl and Lindsey weren’t friends, had only seen each other once or twice at a meeting. Quite spookily, the two of them, (kinda lookalikes: short-haired, blondish, in black, behind Elaine in the red sweater; Lindsey’s wearing glasses), are standing next to each other in this next photo.


Cue the Twilight Zone music……..


When I mentioned Sheryl’s request to Thom, he said, “Let’s have them over for dinner!” And he jumped on the phone with now-close buddy Steve and said, “Hey Steve, can you come over for dinner? We want you to meet someone.”

Sure!

Lindsey was a little hesitant, not sure if she was ready to meet someone only three years after her husband’s passing, but she decided it was just dinner and it wouldn’t hurt to meet someone new, a fellow friend-in-faith.          

I will never forget that night. I made a tray of hors d'oeuvres, Steve brought a bottle of wine. The couple said hello – that went well – and I suggested they go out on the deck where a little table for two was set up for drinks and appetizers. Inside, I had a perfect vantage point from the kitchen window. As I watched them: heads together, chattering away, downing that bottle of wine, I imagined Sheryl beaming down from her private box at Eagle Peak.

They were inseparable after that night, and two years later, Steve and Lindsey were married at the place they met – our magical house in the forest. It was a private ceremony, just the bride and groom, a wedding officiant, Lindsey’s giant poodle Rory, our Golden Lab Jasper, Thom, and me. And, of course, Sheryl. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a piece of wedding cake had mystically vanished.



Lindsey moving into Steve’s house was awkward, as Jean was still living there. Jean had no other housing options as she lived on a fixed income. But Lindsey, who, years before, had scouted senior living options for herself in planning for her future, helped Jean find a wonderful place to live. Quite amazing as Portland has a serious homeless problem and decent places for low-income seniors are few and far between. In one of the most awesome benefits of this entire saga, Lindsey managed to find a senior housing facility that’s not only beautiful – it’s practically Club Med. Situated by a creek in a forested area, it gives Jean, an accomplished photographer, opportunities to take nature pictures as well as the family photos that she loves most. There are all kinds of activities for the residents and Jean could not be happier there.         

And she gets to have her beloved dog Sake there too.



Steve and Lindsey are happily married and recently took a trip to Japan to visit historical Buddhist sites and family – Steve’s daughter Kirsten lives in Japan and works for the SGI as a translator. (The story, written by Lindsey, is detailed in her January 2024 blog).

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practice the Mystic Law, we absolve our karma and advance towards enlightenment. We may not know the backstories of lifetimes already lived, but on a deeper level we do. And, as this story strongly suggests, the people with whom we develop close ties, share that karma with us.          

Thanks for this awesome story, Sheryl! And to all the characters in it.



L-R: Lindsey, Rory, Steve, Kirsten’s daughter Sienna with Jean’s dog Sake, Kirsten and Monica, with her dog Toki (formerly Sheryl’s dogs).

(photo by Jean Pritchard)




















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I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 40+ years and making beaded jewelry for 25 years, specializing in Buddhist chanting beads, also known as JUZU.

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