It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to meet someone who has died twice. Let alone get a chance to interview him and share his advice about how to really be alive.
Such was my great fortune last week.
I had just finished a very inspiring meeting with two incredible women who are making big waves in cannabis policy for children with epilepsy in Israel. We met in coffee shop on the top floor of a small, upscale mall in lovely town in central Israel called Hod Hasharon. Naturally, after the meeting, I went shopping. I happened to be in the market for a new hand bag and saw a beautiful selection of handmade purses.
As I poked around, the artisan who made them introduced himself. We had immediate chemistry and got to chatting as I honed in on a deep brown leather bag that maybe he didn’t know it at the time, but he had clearly designed for me. “You have great energy” he said to me “tell me, what do you do?” I told him about the meeting I just had upstairs and about my work with iCAN:israel-cannabis.
His eyes got very wide, he held his hand to his chest, his tone turned serious. “Cannabis gave me my life back…I have a story to tell you.”
His name is Dvir Thal Levine. He’s tall, has mysterious if not downright intense blue eyes. He practiced as a psychologist for many years and made a dramatic career change to the fashion industry several years back. He is 42 and runs a small, eco-inspired, handmade boutique bag company called GFN BAGS. A
bout three years ago, Dvir had a terrible – fatal- car accident. “I lost control of my car, I hit a truck and my car blew up. I had multiple system failure, I was clinically dead twice – once at the site of the accident, the second time in the hospital as they were operating on me; my lung exploded and I died again.” He touched his chest tenderly, “I have one lung. I have complete paralysis of my left arm, I have metal rods in my arm and my head, I have two cracked vertebrae and one that’s broken. “Still,” he said as his blue eyes twinkled, “I stand on my two legs and I smile and I sing and sew.”
We spoke about his recovery, about the eight months he spent in the hospital (he used prison terminology when speaking about his “time” in the hospital). We spoke about faith and the nature of willpower. And yes, we spoke about cannabis.
“I learned about cannabis as a treatment for my pain after a surgery I underwent in Germany. When I came back home to Israel, I had to wage “war” to [become a licensed patient]. Eventually, I was able to get a license and I started treatment with medical cannabis. I was able to get out of my wheelchair, drive again and start sewing.” He explained that medical cannabis helped him return to himself. It helped him get into a path of “willpower and faith and sense of connectivity…without all the noise of the outside.” It allowed him the peace of mind to meditate, to create positive thought patterns and mantras for himself and to put the power of those thoughts into action.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a focused conversation with a medical cannabis patient and the idea that the “lift” or “high” that cannabis affords, the very thing that prohibition culture holds against the plant, has been confirmed as an absolute medical benefit with huge therapeutic value. This also isn’t the first time I’ve started a deep conversation about medical cannabis use with a stranger and drawn a crowd.
A few people gathered around to listen to his story. “One cannot explain the feeling of coming back from the other side – of clinical death – to see your own body from above or the side, or from wherever I felt it…it’s an experience that defies definition. One minute you’re not here and then you are here. And suddenly you have this second chance…I’m not prepared to give up or to compromise in my life.”
It’s one thing to think or even talk about really digging your heels into life and appreciating each moment, but it’s quite another thing to actually do it. Dvir’s whole demeanor; his openness, his willingness to put himself “out there” to connect and to share was so inspiring. He’s what I’d call a “Lifer.”
Before I left I asked him what message he would like to share. He didn’t even pause – he just launched straight in. “First of all: don’t do yourself ‘a favor’ – do good for yourself. (it works better in Hebrew: Al Ta’aseh l’Atzmecha “Tova,” Ta’aseh l’Atzmecha Tov.) Make your life good, do good things for yourself. There’s no such thing as too hard. Yes, things can be really hard; money is tight, you have to have surgery, you lost control, your ego is telling you it’s all wrong… you have to remember: We are temporary in this world..all our problems are temporary too. Also, remember this: We’re guests here in this world. Be polite. Be good to the world – if you honor the world it will honor you.”
We said our goodbyes and exchanged information, and I walked out of the mall, passing dozens of people from all walks of life. Amazed by the amount of aliveness and the depth that lays beneath the surface of perfect strangers. Grateful for the work I get to share and yes, very grateful for my beautiful, new handbag, that at just one week old, is already full of so much history. For more information about Dvir and his wife’s beautiful, mindful all natural work – please visit #GNFBAGS on Instagram & Facebook