I'm dedicating this section of my website to my wonderful sister, Doti Leu, the most gentle and loving person I've ever known. Doti (pronounced "Dotti") passed away peacefully in Bellingham, Washington on January 28, 2017, as I sat by her bedside while holding her hand.  Of the five kids in the Leu family, Doti was the oldest and I was the youngest, 14 years her junior.  Doti was not just my sister, though.  She was also my best friend.  

Doti was a sweet and joyful person with deep spiritual beliefs who adored children and loved nature.  Even though she's no longer with us in this world, I believe she's still looking after us and spreading peace, joy and tranquility.  So with that in mind, please consider this section of my website as a joyful celebration of her wonderful life.

Above:  Doti in 1955 at age 10, in 1968 in California at age 23, and in 2001 in Bellingham, Washington.

Background

I created this website in the spring of 2016 to describe a long road-trip I was planning to take around the U.S. as I visited numerous extreme geographic sites.  I started in my home town of Portland, Oregon, in May and by early November, I'd driven 25,000 miles and was in Florida, where I had planned to spend the winter before resuming my road-trip in March.  

However, after spending a month in Florida something just didn't "feel right," so I decided to head back to the Northwest, which was 5,000 miles away and in the opposite corner of the country.  From the Florida Keys, I called my sister Doti, who lived alone in Bellingham, Washington north of Seattle, and told her I was coming back, and in late November I packed up and headed to Oregon.  After spending a couple weeks in Austin, Texas with my dear old friend Joan and her kids (well, her "kids" were my age), I drove straight back to the Northwest because I wanted to spend Christmas with Doti.  Doti and I were very close and I'd spent almost every one of my Thanksgivings and Christmases with her.  After four 10-hour days of driving, I reached Portland, called her house, and left a message, saying that I'd be up there for Christmas.  As it turned out, though, she never heard my message.

 
Above:  The night before I drove to Bellingham to help Doti, I ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Portland and this was the message in my fortune cookie.  When I read it, I figured Doti's situation might turn out to be a lot more serious than I'd thought – and I was right. 
 
   

A few days later while I was still in Portland, I learned that my sister was ailing so I drove to Bellingham, about six hours north of Portland.  Doti had apparently been dealing with a number of health issues recently, though she hadn't told any of her brothers about it because she didn't want to bother us, which was typical of her.  In fact, we'd heard about her health issues from her neighbor.

Doti was staying in a rehabilitation facility (like a nursing home) in Bellingham and was glad to see me, and she and I spent Christmas Eve there in her shared room, singing Christmas carols and opening presents just as we'd done each year on Christmas Eve.  I thought she was going to recover, but a few days later she took a sudden turn for the worse and in early January, and at her request, she was transferred to an in-patient facility called the Whatcom Hospice House.  As it turned out, the Hospice House was a wonderful facility and the perfect place for Doti to spend the last weeks of her life.  Doti was very content there.  As she told me several times, she'd had a good life and was ready to "make the transition," as she called it, and she didn't want anyone to be sad about it.

Throughout the month of January, I spent every day with her in her room at the Hospice House, assisting her as much as I could while her health declined.  The highlight of her days was when I read emails from her friends and relatives each evening before I left, as they conveyed to her stories about their lives or told Doti how much she had meant to them.  On the evening of January 28, 2017, while I was at her bedside and holding her hand, Doti quietly passed away.

In retrospect, I'm glad I decided to follow my instincts and leave Florida in November and return to the Northwest, because the final month we spent together, with Doti lying in her bed in the Hospice House, was a special (though difficult) time for us.  Of course, I was greatly saddened by her passing but I wouldn't have traded those final weeks for anything.  For most everyone who knew Doti, including me, the world would never be quite the same.

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   Above:  Doti sharing a laugh with our Dad in 2002.

Who Was Doti?

My sister Doti (born "Dorothy") was a kind and loving person with an amazingly gentle soul.  She was so unlike anyone I've ever known:  she was warm, serene, compassionate, spiritual and independent, she loved sharing her love, and was full of light and joy.  She found great solace in nature and dearly loved children. Physically, she battled numerous sensitivities and emotionally, she was an exceptionally sensitive person; she felt everything.  And while Doti could be particular, preferred to do things on her own terms, and increasingly struggled to deal with health issues as she got older and became more frail, she was always positive and joyful and her mind was sharp as a tack until the end.  

Many called Doti "a walking angel," and those who knew her were blessed for the things she taught us.  She had a beautiful soul and lived her life on a higher spiritual plane than anyone I've known. Rarely did she say anything negative and rarely did anyone say anything negative about her, and her loss has left a tremendous void in my life and in the lives of so many who knew her.  

Doti was the only person I've ever known who truly understood what life was all about.  It's not about money, possessions, career success or power.  It's about love.  In fact, if I could sum up Doti in a single word it would be "love."  She didn't like negative thoughts, conflict or cynicism and she loathed any form of hatred. Instead she spread joy, peace and positive energy.  

Here's an example:  After she passed away, I was going through her things and came across a set of duplicate checks (i.e., carbons) that she'd written in the previous months. In the lower left corner of every check where you can write notes, she'd written kind comments such as "Peace to You!" and "Joy to You!" Now mind you, these weren't checks she'd written to her friends or relatives, but rather to utility companies and large corporations!  Those comments were so typical of Doti, and she was the only person I knew who would do something like that. She used every opportunity to brighten up people's lives. 

Doti was the most generous person I ever knew.  Though she didn't have much money, she donated to numerous charities and worthy causes. And she loved birthdays and holidays, when she could shower people with presents and cards.  Christmas, of course, was her favorite time of year and she never stopped believing in Santa Claus, but she also loved Halloween, when children would come around trick-or-treating.  She'd dress up each year for Halloween and anxiously wait for children to ring her doorbell, then would open the door with a big smile and a bag of treats.  All the children in the neighborhood loved coming to Doti's house for Halloween and she loved them back. That's not surprising, though, because other than her family, the biggest joy in Doti's life was children.  She didn't just love children; she loved every single child.  Perhaps that's because she was always a child-at-heart and never lost her childlike sense of innocence, and for that I'm glad.

 
Above:  Doti wrote lots of notes and affirmations to herself.  I found this note in her house after she passed away.
 
   

Doti was the most thoughtful person I ever knew.  After her younger brother Dwight died suddenly a few years ago, she wanted to do something to help his widow and their two teenaged children.  She was too frail to travel the thousand miles to the Bay Area to help, so instead she wrote a 7-page letter to them describing stories about Dwight when he was a child, hoping to assuage their pain.  She did so many things like that and, more than anyone I ever knew, she always thought about others more than herself.

Doti was never afraid of death, or "the transition" as she called it.  She had a near-death experience when she was a teenager that forever affected the way she viewed the afterlife. She was in a hospital undergoing emergency surgery on her abdomen and started fading out and seeing a white light, and she told me years later that it was a very calming experience. She was brought back to life, however, and could hear the doctors frantically shouting, worried that she had died.  She started laughing at them, because she knew that death was actually a very peaceful experience.  The doctors couldn't figure out why she was laughing, but from that moment on, Doti looked forward to the day of her transition and had no regrets about dying. She wanted her friends and relatives to be happy about it, not sad, and to celebrate her life.

And so, after Doti passed away, I decided to create this section of my website to celebrate her loving, generous, thoughtful and gentle nature. For those who knew her, I'm hoping these stories, photos and poems will keep her alive in your memories.  For those who never had the privilege of knowing her, I wanted to share with you her wonderful spirit. Each of us can learn so much from Doti, my loving sister, and she will be greatly missed.

Videos 

 

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Above: These are silent 8-millimeter movies shot by the Leu family from 1951 to 1963. Years later, in 1997, I had my Mom, Dad and Doti watch the movies as I recorded their narration, then I transferred everything to digital format. These scenes feature my sister Doti.  In 10 minutes, you can watch her grow up from age 6 to 18 years old. (9:44)

 

   
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Above: Here's my sister Doti giving my Dad a memorable Christmas present in 2002, a few weeks before he died of cancer.  This clip captures so many aspects of Doti's personality:  her warmth, her sense of humor, and her unbounded love for her father. (3:54)
   
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Contents 

   

Here are the pages in this section: