Listen To Betty's Story

Reiki calls upon your body’s ability to heal itself and that then empowers you. I started a practice and it builds and builds, and these are some of the most wonderful people. I’ve seen a woman get pregnant after two treatments who just couldn’t get pregnant before. I’ve seen Parkinson’s patients learn to manage their anxiety. People walk out of here with a smile. They walk out saying, “See, this is the real me. This is how I can feel.” It’s magic stuff.

I have orchids and they’re part of the Reiki system, I’m positive. They bloom all the time, they’re really beautiful. And they’re little Reiki masters too because they’re so beautiful.

I first began practicing Reiki while working with women prisoners in Tennessee. There was a prisoner named Lulu who looked like a dock worker, really something out of this world. She wasn’t up for parole and had already been in for 22 years for murder. But she was captivating and we became really good friends.

Somehow we got her before the parole board. They asked her a lot of questions and she essentially said “Well, the fact of the matter is that I did kill that woman, but the woman walked into my bar with a gun.” And they said, “Well that’s not in the record. Who was your lawyer?” And she said, “I don’t know. It was court appointed. I don’t know the legal system. You put me here and I stayed here. And my children have grown.” And the lawyer said, “Let’s check,” and they talked amongst themselves. And then he said, “I recommend parole.” This is after 22 years of thinking she’d never leave. He said, “I recommend parole, and what do my other parole board members think?” And they went down the line, “Recommend parole.” “Recommend parole.” “Recommend parole.” “Recommend parole.” “Recommend …”

She wrote a letter to the Belle Mead Cafeteria in Nashville, and said “I just saw a commercial and I see that you have a very nice restaurant. And I’m a very hard worker. I’m in the Tennessee Prison for Women for murder but I’m being paroled if I can get a job. Will you give me a job.”

They said yes and she got out.

I collect photographs, and the one piece of art that I feel honored to have is Grand Prix, a photograph by Henri Lartigue taken in the 1920s. I adore this image.

One day, the right hand corner started turning yellow. It got worse and worse and I was really upset because I love the image and it was disintegrating before my very eyes, right over the signature. I called a restorer who didn’t know what to do, and then I called a couple photography galleries in New York and they said, “Oh we know how to get in touch with Lartigue. He’s still alive. Here’s his phone number.”

So I called him in Paris and Fleurette (the woman in so many of his photographs) answered on the answering machine, “Bonjour,” and in French she said “We’re not here now so please leave a message at the sound of the beep.” And I said in English, “Hello. This is Betty Leigh. I have Grand Prix and it’s turning yellow and I’m heartsick. What should I do?” And Fleurette wrote me a long letter and said, “Meet us at the Plaza Hotel on this date.” I thought, “Wow.”

So I went to the Plaza Hotel and he was doing a photographic shoot for Vogue. He comes down and there he was with a little kerchief on and a little denim shirt, just the way he looks. He takes me up to his room with Fleurette and they go into the closet and I follow. He looks at my picture, wets his finger, and smears it through the signature. The signature didn’t move, and he ripped up the photograph. I was in awe. Then he goes in the back of the closet and pulls out another one. He had printed one just for me, probably knowing that someone had taken a picture of one his pictures and sold it. So he handed me a brand new one. He handed it to me and I put it in my case and he hugged me and and he kissed me.

And I left enchanted, walking on air.

My daughter is a show stopper. She has had some amazing jobs. And she had one in particular with a really big impressive company making a ridiculous amount of money, but she did not like the job. So she set about to leave, and ended up taking about half the amount of money to find something she loved. And she did and she’s happy and she gets to spend time with her daughter and her husband. She made a life choice, a happy one.

She has Eve, my granddaughter, who is a force of nature.

My ex-husband is older now and he’s going to be ninety. We’re having a big party. He has some health issues and I provide him with entertainment. We go to movies together with his caregiver, Hayford. We saw The Wolf of Wall Street. We saw Gravity. And he’s game. He goes in his wheelchair. And then we go out for dinner. I do his medicine and his food. And I love him.

To me, he’s still the same handsome man that I met that many years ago. He is. It’s quite something, the aging process.

My granddaughter Eve is a very good dancer. She’s a year and a half old and she’s very expressive in her movements––a lot of kicking, a lot of arms in the air––with no reservations. This is a picture of her on vacation and she has a look in her eye that's saying “Isn’t this the most wonderful world, and aren’t we so lucky? I can’t wait for the next thing.” It’s a beautiful picture. — Betty