Introduction to ...and Drink the Liquid Sound of Wisdom...

     I met Kimberlyann Storz-DeAngelo on April 8th, 2006, at a reception for my artwork given at my apartment in PA, the state we both reside in. She was the recommended invitation of a mutual friend whose home we would later share, and in the year spent there, would form a unique, strong personal and working relationship. I remember my first impression of her as a warm, gentle and genuine spirit who exuded an inner strength and connection that reflected her faith without pretense or agenda. “What is God?” I asked, somewhere in our conversation. She took my hand gently saying, “This is God...God is Love...” Our talk concluded briefly since I had many guests and wanted to converse with every one, hoping to sell some paintings. I thought little of our encounter at the time, being preoccupied with my own condition in wanting to liberate myself from my job and cultivate a living as an artist. Kim would later tell me when we were living together how she felt strongly that I would have some special involvement in her life and how she prayed for me in the parking lot after she left that evening. 

     August was especially hot, making my reluctant, but unavoidable, move that much more challenging. I was looking into acquiring another apartment when a last minute call from a friend offering a room in his home sounded more appealing. I learned, too, that Kim would also be moving in. 

     At that time in my life I was not a religious person. My father, who died of cancer when I was fourteen, was an atheist. My mother, who passed away in my early 30s, had gone to Catholic school and was raised in the Catholic tradition, but no longer practiced by the time I was born. There were no Bibles or spiritual books at home when I was growing up, and little conversation about God. 

     My first encounter with any form of religious organization came when I was a teenager in the form of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Curiosity opened the door to what would become a decades-long understanding of what being “religious” meant. Imprinted in my mind was a black-or-white, all-or-nothing, logically defined and ultimate understanding of God outside of which there is no salvation. This rigid notion of a theological absolute permeated my thinking long after I'd dissociated myself from the Witnesses, not finding anything that ultimately resonated in my spirit. Years later, when I became involved with the more mainstream Protestant branch of Christianity, I found again within myself, not a liberating peace that comes from the awareness of God's Love, but only a solemn sense of obligation, imperfection, and the belief that I could never do enough in God's service. I truly wanted to help others, but I had become a mistrusting, judgmental legalist suspicious of any belief that fell outside the parameters of what I considered “truth”. Finally, I walked away from it all, feeling my dwindling faith pour through my fingers like water. 


The Storm Before the Calm... 


     Later that August, Kim moved in also. It wasn't long before she began to share her life and work. Born Kimberlyann Storz on January 8th, 1966 in Jefferson hospital, the second of two daughters to Alfred and Mary Storz. From the beginning, unique health issues manifested themselves that would not begin to be properly diagnosed until she was in her thirties; a digestive disease; a collapsed artery pressing on her duodenum and small intestines that causes lack of proper blood flow; Undefined Connective Tissue Disease, which is an autoimmune condition that manifests itself in symptoms of other diseases. 

     At age four, two critical events occurred that would define the physical and spiritual journey her life would take. From birth, she lacked proper digestive motility that lasted six or seven weeks at a time, and Mary would have to give her medication to help her go to the bathroom. Her sister Fran recalls Kim's stomach rapidly swelling to many times normal size, yet Kim remaining remarkably calm as she always was as a baby. She was taken to her doctor's office where an emergency procedure was performed, in which a scope was used. Trying and failing to find a congenital defect, in the process, they believed they accidentally ruptured her colon. She was then rushed to Haverford community hospital, which did not ordinarily receive children, but made an exception in her extreme case. Her father Alfred was given a monumental decision to make. Surgery on someone so young and fragile could result in death, but if her colon was ruptured and they did nothing, toxins from it could seep into her body killing her within half an hour. A hurried, prayerful, life-or-death decision to operate was made and during the procedure, they briefly lost her. Upon her revival, she spent weeks in recovery, effectively having to relearn to walk. 

     While in surgery, Kim had her first of two near-death experiences. She recalls a sense of warmth and peace, bright light and an undefinable familiarity and knowing where she was going. She has never been able to accurately describe the pure experience of being with God, but maintains that when we are infants and children, we are closer to that “...naked and unmasked beginning...”; the memory of perfect love that fades as we grow up in a world where endless distraction, conflict and ever-increasing complexity draw us away from the knowledge of our oneness with each other and our Source. She would eventually speak with a therapist who worked with people with near-death experiences about her history and the fact that as she came back from the “Light”, ― “A fire that lit me aflame while it did not burn me.” ― she felt it was God rejecting her. He, her therapist, asked to consider that maybe it was God saying, “There's more for you to do.” Just before finding her therapist she re-lived her first near- death experience, in a dream, for two consecutive nights. 

     She could see in both family and strangers the pain that ran far below the surface and would be drawn to wanting to comfort and cheer them up; always having a tremendous sense of responsibility towards their grief and an unworthiness of the many blessings in her own life. Kim always felt the emotional and even the physical pain of others and would take on their suffering, never being able to control the strong, and at times overwhelming flood of feelings. 

     Her perceptions however, were not limited to the living. Since childhood she could sense the spirits of the departed and would go to sleep with music and line the walls of her bedroom with stuffed animals as a “shield” against forces she couldn't understand. Present, too, was a deep devotion to God; praying often and having an intuitive understanding of a higher power and the belief she would become a nun someday. Years later, she would make an appeal to an order but was declined because of her “health issues”. Kim comes from a Catholic background and learned from her father early in life to “see God in others” and that “God is within”. 

     She was a tomboy; thin and fair skinned, with a pixie hair cut eventually giving way to wild, and was teased for her red hair. Though found attractive by many boys, she never understood nor cared about the attention, preferring to climb trees, play dodge ball and kick the can in the streets of her Philadelphia home. 

     During her 8th grade year at Haverford Jr. high, 14 year old Kim had just finished studying at the school's library and was crossing the school parking lot when a gang of about ten boys who had just finished football practice (some of whom she knew as friends) grabbed her and dragged her into the boys' bathroom. It was after school hours so no one could hear her screaming and fighting as they tried to tear her clothes off and rape her. Though naked, she managed to escape without being penetrated. On her 17th birthday party this nightmare was fully realized when a drunken boy she didn't know raped her at a friend's home. Reflecting on this, Kim told me, “At first there's the shock. For some reason many woman go through this feeling of guilt, that it must be something they did, they brought it on. They are made to feel it's their fault. What helped me get beyond all that was not only feeling my own sadness and pain, but I truly did feel sorry for them. I felt a lot of pain for them because for them to do what they did, it said to me they were lacking love from somewhere, whether it be their family, parents... something was hurting inside of them to do that to someone else. So I was feeling my hurt and their hurt.” 

     After her rape at 17, Kim leaned heavily on alcohol and marijuana for about six months before suddenly stopping altogether. She became a straight “A” student again and started working ambitiously. Much of the events surrounding the incident were suppressed for almost 7 years. Kim would discover later that 5 to 7 years is average for female victims before they start to remember. Memories started coming back in little pieces. 



To say “victim”
gives you power
over me
a survivor
doesn't it
But “survivor”
one of your
survivors adds
another notch
doesn't it
puts you on a
pedestal
as if I'm thanking
you
for making me
“great” “strong”
a “survivor”
again
giving you
power
Until I see     feel
no more of you
Until you can't
make me (run)


Until you don't I 
own
the memory where
you are nothing
but coward
and I am
neither “victim”
nor “survivor” I
just am     I
am just
dreaming... 

When this is your story
it is not your story 
it is part of
who you are 
It is the salt you can't taste
in tears that chisel
chisel
chisel your heart
numb to the pain
until you see
your name

again and again
every time you hear
another's cry
see another's stare
from wounded eyes
until you see
your name again
and again
every time you hear
“rape”

Kimberlyann Storz-DeAngelo 

"Not My Story” 

3/4/01 



     One thing that helped her recovery was to stop beating herself up for not being able to fully move on, to “get over it”. “I was getting over it.”,she told me, “I was moving on. I was still opening myself to relationships. I went and spoke out and did poetry readings for benefits about it. I went to schools and spoke about it. I did a study for 'Women Organized Against Rape'. But it's part of me, it's still part of me. And it happens in many different ways to women all over the world, all different ages, throughout history, all different cultures. One of these days the dignity of the womans' soul and the womans' heart is going to be fully respected. I just have faith in that.” 

     It was the evening of her closest girlfriend's birthday and Kim had been repeatedly asked to go. By now, she had distanced herself from the party scene; working, writing and living a simple, quiet life. She went out for dinner with her parents that night and her mother asked if she really wanted to go (ordinarily encouraging her socialization) but Kim was insistent on being there for her friend. At 17, she had yet to obtain a drivers license but was saving for her own car and insurance. 

     An old Camaro pulled up to her Havertown residence and she and her four friends headed towards Westchester. Her friends had been drinking already. It was early morning by the time Kim was ready to leave and her friend who had driven had passed out. It was too late, she thought, to call her father for a ride and decided to let her friend sleep it off. About 4:00 A.M., all five finally headed home with Kim in the front passenger seat. Ordinarily, she would turn the radio on and roll down the window, but for some reason, this time she just sat back. 

     They found themselves on a winding road and in unfamiliar territory. Suddenly, the car struck a tree, throwing it up on its nose and tumbling down an embankment. Kim experienced the sensation of being outside her body. She could see herself in the car, witnessing the accident; see her driver friend thrown out his door; her friend who was sitting in the middle of the back seat being thrown through the windshield; the others unconscious, but still in the car. The entire front of the Camaro was caved in except for a box around her. Kim found herself back in her body. Something punctured her right shin and metal from the rear view mirror cut the top of her head. Broken glass covered her from her neck on down, but her face was unharmed. Finding her door jammed, she crawled through the open driver's side door and looking at the others, couldn't tell if they were alive or not, but quickly sought help. 

     Kim soon came to the home of two elderly women who looked out a window in response to her knocking. Seeing blood on her face, they panicked and stayed inside. She finally turned around to see a man smoking a cigarette near some bushes. This image triggered unsettling memories. Fearing she might get raped again, Kim collapsed in front of the house. The man must have realized she was frightened and brought his wife who called 911. Following the accident, the police took her parents to see the totaled car. One of the officers who'd been with the force for 28 years told them he'd never seen anything like it and that no one should have survived. Everyone would survive, but two friends spent considerable time in recovery. 


Grace on a Cellular Level... 


     Kim was in her early 20s and married when she was being tested for leukemia at Paoli hospital. She shared a 4th floor room with an elderly nun named Sister Joan who had shown great kindness to her and Mary. A former missionary nun now in her 80s, who had never been sick a day in her life, Sister Joan suddenly blacked out while attending church and was rushed to the emergency room. They hooked her up to a feeding pump just like Kim's. Kim named her feeding pump Harry, and decorated him. He became her “dancing partner” and they'd take walks down the halls together. On one such walk, she was returning to her room and saw Sister Joan sitting in a chair, nodding off. Kim's heart went out to her because she seemed alone. Walking up to her, she asked gently, “Sister Joan, won't you come for a walk with Harry and I?” At First, Sister Joan looked at her in puzzlement, but a big smile quickly rose across her face. Kim took her hand and Sister Joan with her pump, and Kim with Harry began their first of many walks down the halls together. When it came time for Sister Joan to leave, she gave Kim and Mary a St. Jude medal blessed at Lourdes, acquired on one of her many overseas missions. 

     At one point, Kim's doctor decided to do a bone marrow biopsy on her hip. He told her this was normally an outpatient procedure and quite safe, requiring only a local anesthetic. A few hours after the biopsy however, Kim started to hemorrhage severely. They had her laying flat on her stomach and were stacking twenty-five pound sand bags over the wound in a desperate effort to stop the bleeding, changing the dressings about every half hour. This went on for 3 days at which point Kim needed blood and platelet transfusions. Around 9:00 one night, a nurse said to Kim's mother as she held the gauze over the wound, “I have to change this. It's bleeding more than it has been and I don't understand why it won't stop. I'm going to call the doctor. Can you please hold this gauze down and apply pressure?” Mary complied, and as she did, Kim felt heat and a sense of peace, and she knew the bleeding had stopped. When the nurse returned, Mary lifted the gauze, making the nurse exclaim, “Oh my God!” Pressing around the wound, she asked Mary, “What did you do? It stopped bleeding.” Mary opened her hands and showed her the St. Jude medal Sister Joan had given them. She had held it to the wound and prayed silently. 


Faith is Believing in the Love... 


     By the time Kim was about 30, she had been to numerous hospitals and treatment facilities concerning her weight loss and digestive problems. There was the belief among the medical community that this was deliberate and self-induced. Weighing in the 70s, she was placed in another eating disorder program. Adhering to the strict feeding regimen, she would receive a certain amount of food per tray and a certain amount of trays per meal, 3 times a day along with a dietary supplement drink between meals ― rather than increase, her weight declined. The doctor running the facility at the time was convinced it was because of something she was doing. He thought she was ether taking laxatives, making herself vomit or exercising in her room to lose weight. Under this presumption they decided to place Kim in a wheelchair in which she was made to stay for fear she would expend even an 8th of a calorie. She was not allowed to sleep, shower or urinate alone, and was placed on 24 hour surveillance. Months passed, and under these conditions while still adhering to the feeding regimen, Kim continued to lose weight and grew steadily worse. The doctor and hospital became greatly concerned because the insurance company was threatening to withhold pay over the failure of their system. At this point the doctor decided to try to have her court- committed to Norristown state hospital. 

     By now, Kim wasn't speaking very much, just writing and drawing. Then, one evening after regular work hours, a doctor associated with the University of Pennsylvania hospital came to see her. He had seen the result of her blood work and examined her case. Approaching her, he got on his knees, put one hand on her face and the other on her knee and said, “I'm getting you out of here.” He went to the head doctor and insisted on her removal saying, “You better put her in a medical facility or you're going to have a lawsuit on your hands, because you're killing her.” She was then transferred to Presbyterian hospital. 

     Even after all this, the head doctor was so convinced this was all in her mind, he asked a top psychiatrist from Philadelphia to do an evaluation, still wanting to have her court-committed. This psychiatrist spent considerable time with her, finally taking her hand and saying, “That doctor wanted me to write you up to have you court-committed. He's going to be surprised when he gets my write up because there's nothing wrong with your mind. You're a woman who has not been heard all these years.” Kim would later tell me, “They actually had me convinced at some point that it was all in my head, that my digestive problems were my own fault. I know others that had some serious illness they couldn't figure out and they were put through the mental health system to eventually learn they had a rare disease or some rare form of cancer. I don't care about the visible, physical scars on my body, but the psychological and emotional abuse from all that; those scars are far more wounding. Am I afraid of sharing my story, yes. But if I can help someone else who's going through something similar to hang on and know they are sane, then it was worth it...”


Every scar     the many
scars
have become     my body's
map
of culture on my emotions
culture on my spirit
to mark roads
taken as a soul lost
from itself
in a world of physical
that seeks only perfection
for eyes
two eyes one sided
that won't bring focus
to vision
of a third
to see on through
all around 
that we are never 

lost     just a distance
from perfect ―
perfect view
perfect sound
perfect love
Every scar the many
to my body
imperfect
have become the map
of culture
on my emotions
my spirit
to take me back
Home.

Kimberlyann Storz-DeAngelo


8/11/01


     During this same period, her marriage of seven years fell apart. She was on home health care now, and living on her own. Her mother worked full time but still tried to show up whenever Kim was in the hospital; staying with her, supporting her, helping her take care of her apartment. In time, it became too much for Kim to watch those closest to her suffer through all this. All the hospital stays, and no one understanding the cause of her illness or the often terrifying or spiritually illuminating visions, dreams and empathic events, and there was no one she could talk to. On her last stay, her condition continued to deteriorate and she knew this was not an eating disorder. She weighed 48 pounds. She was discharged with a prescription for 100 tablets of Demerol, 50 milligrams each, for pain. 

     It was a Sunday afternoon around 4:00. Mary had just left and Kim knew her home health care nurse wouldn't return until 11:00 the next morning. “Plenty of time”, she thought, “to do this.” She put a favorite record on, swallowed the entire bottle and laid down on a sofa. All night she slipped away, finally saying to God, “Thank You Father. I'm so sorry. I'm not quitting. I can't watch everybody suffer and I can't make You or I suffer like this anymore. I don't understand.” Hands lifted her up as she convulsed, and a voice spoke saying, “No, you're not done, you're not done...”, over and over. At some point the record jammed, repeating all night. It was her Nevil Brothers' version of Amazing Grace. Kim's nurse found her the next morning, calling an ambulance which took her to the hospital. Multiple E E G's were performed, finding no residual effects. She was told that it was a miracle she survived and that considering her weight and the amount of Demerol taken, she should at least have brain damage or be in a coma. 


God is in the Living, Not in the Credentials... 



     In a September, 2008 conversation with her father, Kim told the story of a time she was in Bryn Mawr hospital awaiting physical therapy. The therapist was a Reiki practitioner, highly sensitive to the energy of others. She would work on Kim in 1 hour sessions, 3 times weekly. One day she began the therapy, then backed off saying, “I can only work with you for a half an hour at a time.” Kim replied, “If you're booked for the day, I understand.” “No,” she said, “it's your energy, it's too intense for me.” Kim cried as the therapist continued, “You have many with you, (referring to spirit guides) but you have one who is especially powerful.” She then went on to describe him. 

     "Yes,” said Kim, “that's exactly what he looked like whenever he's shown himself to me.” He was tall, thin and wearing a robe, with strong cheek bones, a gentle face and long white hair and beard. As their talk concluded, Alfred said to Kim, “You get many different reactions about your experiences, about your energy. You have these visions, dreams, peoples' dead relatives coming to you giving you messages. You have Christ with you. Did you ever think if it's too intense for others, imagine what it's doing to your body.” 

     Kim struggled all her life with her empathic gift, becoming exhausted by the emotional states of others near and far, and spent years searching for a spiritual counselor to help control them. Counsel finally came unexpectedly in the writings of two mystic saints, St. Cathrine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila. She would tell me, “It's like I live things or come to these understandings; messages are given or life experiences, and then I'll pick St. Cathrine up again and start reading and it's exactly what I was just going through, giving me more understanding.” At this time we were living together in Berwyn, and the image of the Blessed Mother appeared, laying her head over Kim's stomach; a crucifix of blood formed on a napkin after removing it from her lip and she wrote, “I give You my life as prayer.” It was also the time of a remarkable vision. Kim explained, “What I've been moved to do since age 19 is to look into a mirror, straight into my eyes, and to look so deeply that I was no longer there. It wasn't like I was looking at myself and critiquing my face, it was literally looking deeply into my eyes to go beyond. That's when I realized I could see others. I saw my sister. I saw a friend or someone. I would see a person, a face, an expression and would know exactly how to pray. It really spoke to me and throughout my life since then, I've done that.” 

     On one particular night, she was looking into her mirror and behind her left shoulder, she saw the image of a woman she recognized as her soul. Her expression was very old, though free of wrinkles, and yet there was a youthfulness about her. Her face was full of love, though she had suffered greatly; a simultaneous empathy and pain. Overwhelmed by the experience, she sat on her bed and prayed. The next night as she looked into her mirror praying, she saw only her black silhouette with an aura of light surrounding it, putting her back on her bed. She prayed to God, “Are you showing me Lord, Your Light that's with me? If there is anything You need me to hear tonight, please let me be an unobstructed vessel.” That's when the writing “Darkness switched on the Light” came to her. Recently reflecting on this work and “Rivulet Compassionate”, Kim told me, “People can say I choose suffering, or whatever. I'm coming to an understanding that it is not in my control. As I look at those prayers and those experiences; look at my life and that cross on the napkin... It's beyond my understanding. I just know that I'm not mine.” 

     In spite of the health issues and traumatic events Kim experienced and continues to live through, she's had a rich, full life. She went to school for business and nutrition, ran a natural food section and held management positions in supermarkets. While she was married and living in rural PA, she ran her own natural food store, forming close ties with the community. She was involved in landscape architecture and studied horticulture. She worked one-on-one with Down Syndrome and autistic children, the developmentally disabled and severely handicapped. She volunteered at a senior center teaching arts and crafts and taught English as a second language. She ran open poetry readings at the Point in Bryn Mawr and collaborated lyrically with song writers, to list just some accomplishments. 

     At 42, she still desires to help others in various forms of outreach. One such vision is in the forming of a spiritual order, although, without the proselytizing and conversion associated with most main-stream religion. She calls this, “The Sisters and Brothers of Listening”. “Simply put,” Kim says, “it's about deep listening. It's a safe, restorative place for peoples' hearts and souls where they can express and share. The vows have come to me as impartiality, confidentiality, honesty, no judgment, gratitude and feeling honored as being a deep listener. It's about being not only a channel of Grace, but a bridge of peace.” 

     Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I can think of no one in my life that personifies the simple yet profound gift of love, patience, forgiveness and acceptance that is at the heart of all great faiths more than my friend Kim. She sets a living example of God's Grace that transforms our hearts and minds towards a greater compassion for the world and our place in it. Though she has no formal training as a theologian or writer, I have always been awed at the intimate and powerful way God works through her in spite of adversity. It is this transformative Grace that's moved me to help realize this book even though I am a visual artist, not a creative writer. Though this is by no means a definitive biography, I wanted the reader to have a sense of the person who has meant so much to me, to show that God uses and speaks to us as clearly today as in any other time in history, and to know that no matter what trials may face us on the road back to our Source, God's Love has been and remains the Light to guide us Home. 

Samuel Zimmerman 

11/7/08 

© 2010-2014 Kimberlyann DeAngelo / Samuel Zimmerman

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