I wasn’t close to most of my family growing up, but I loved my maternal grandparents, PaPa and MaMa.

My grandfather, PaPa, was an out of place mystic and preacher with a 6th grade education who taught himself to read. He was brilliant. And delusional. And he was sick most of his life.

A lot of people, when you show them the connections between their lifestyles and their health, will believe you but not for a millisecond consider changing. They see your truth as a death sentence through glassy eyes.

That is how people often respond to my delivering the news of gut health as passionately as my grandfather delivered his sermons from the pulpit. With detached resignation.

My grandfather wouldn’t have been like that. If someone had told my grandfather he had some control over his body, that he could do more than pray and take his prescriptions, PaPa would have said, “God gave me a body and I’m going to take care of it. I’m going to purify this body and live.”

But he didn’t know that was something he could do. And not one of his many doctors ever mentioned it. Ever. Except to tell him to switch to low fat ice cream.

I wish I could tell him. Go back in time and tell him that I knew the reasons behind his lifetime of pain and give him the good news that would have set him free. He would have believed me, eventually, about the connections between his gut health and the neurological conditions that crippled him. And he would have stopped eating those endless bowls of popcorn and ice cream.

The health problems that kept him in bed for two decades would have improved or abated. He would have thrived under such conditions. He’d already met so many challenges already. The last decades of his life would have been the healthiest. They would have been easy, or could have been.

He probably wouldn’t have liked easy very much. He was too aware, too kind, too loving for the problems of the world to leave him to an easy life.

My grandfather would have been on the move, helping other people, trying to ease their suffering. He would have played music in refugee tents to tired children. He would have beaten the drums of protest with the water protectors, and it would have been his right. His mother was Cherokee. But for better or worse he counted himself a part of a tribe that encompassed every man (and woman), and he would have felt the just cause of every person protesting now and in the past many years. He would have been an active figure in these movements, practicing his religion, standing in nonviolent protest and bringing the Holy Ghost to the streets.

He would have been a blessing to all of us. It is a loss that he is not here with you and me.


I don’t feel a psychic connection with my grandfather, or with my grandmother — a quiet woman of immense dignity who crocheted and saved and invested and made the best meals we had ever tasted. I don’t feel a connection with them. I don’t feel their presence with me. But I do feel, sitting beneath this sky tonight, that they would be proud of me. And I’m grateful for their influence and for that feeling.

I will continue to tell people about the connections between their gut and their health. And the news will fall on some people, and they will be like dry soil, and the wind will blow my truth away, to paraphrase (badly, I sure) a sermon my grandfather once gave.

But some of the people I tell will be like fertile soil, ready and inspired by the news of their own power. And, they will do as my grandfather would have done: take responsibility and live a beautiful life.

Dear PaPa and MaMa,

May I always express with integrity the principles of love you instilled in me.

Your granddaughter,

“Sarah” Simone