Eternally Yours

Life as Gloria Lamar knew it ended almost five years ago. But her heart beats on.

The woman is hunched over in her wheelchair, a pillow supporting her torso, head lolling, body clenched in on itself, feet tensely touching. Someone smooths her hair, gently tilts up her head. She grimaces, though whether from grief or pain--because of an involuntary reflex--it's impossible to tell. Now the people in the room are asking things of the woman: They want her to hold up her head, move her index finger, raise her right foot. Most of the directions come from a disembodied voice behind the video camera. The grimacing continues. A man is leaning close to her, holding up his hand, extending his forefinger, asking her to move hers in response. The camera focuses on her right hand, curled uselessly on the pillow. Her fingers are swollen, discolored. Her little finger twitches. Then her forefinger moves--blind, trembling, agonizingly slow. Everyone in the room is focused on that finger. They murmur encouragement. You can see the sympathetic twitching of their own flexible and responsive fingers.

"Come on, Gloria, you can do it."
The finger moves effortfully forward, like something detached from the body, like an earthworm pushing through soil. Finally, it's pointing straight down.

"Good, Gloria. Good."
Later, the man shows her a toothbrush, asks her to open her mouth. The camera moves in. Close up, her face is reddened and chapped. She clenches her mouth shut, then slowly, slowly opens it. A little, then--at his urging--a little more. She grimaces while the man runs the brush over her teeth and cleans out her mouth, but she never takes her eyes from his. When he's finished, he carefully leans back her head. Her face becomes smooth. The corner of her lip rises in a small, lopsided smile.

For Gloria Lamar, the world as she knew it ended at 10:40 p.m. on April 12, 1994, near Hygiene, at the intersection of Colorado Highway 66 and 75th Street.

As Lamar drove along the highway, a Jeep Cherokee, driven by eighteen-year-old Donald Bauman and traveling over 60 miles an hour, came straight through a stop sign on 75th Street and, without braking, flew directly at her Nissan Sentra, sending it spinning in a long arc across the road and into a ditch. The Jeep toppled onto its roof, then righted itself. Lamar apparently half crawled, half ran from her car, crossed the road toward the Jeep and collapsed face down on the ground, moaning.

Caprissa Frawley, an employee of BankOne, came on the scene right after the accident and found Bauman sitting on the ground, crying. "I was trying to calm him down," she says, "saying silly things, like 'It's okay,' and he started saying, 'It's not okay. I've ruined her life.'"

She thought he'd been drinking.
Frawley went over to check on the woman. "She's just a little person, looked barely over a hundred pounds, hair laid over her face," she remembers. "She almost looked like she was resting. I was surprised at how peaceful it seemed."

Evan Jourden, then a high-school senior, saw the collision. In an affidavit, he confirmed that the Jeep had made no attempt to brake. When he approached the car, Bauman was sitting on the ground, "screaming obscenities and throwing his arms in the air." Bauman asked Jourden if the woman was dead, and screamed several times, "What have I done?"

Bauman confessed to being drunk. "At this point," Jourden said in his affidavit, "he began to cry and said that he had been smoking pot and that he 'did a few lines' just before he left."

After what seemed to Frawley an extraordinarily long wait, Longmont police and paramedics arrived. She attempted to report what she had seen, but "nobody wanted to talk to me," she says. Jourden, too, was told by a sheriff's deputy that his testimony wasn't needed.

In his report, one officer noted that Bauman was flushed and uncoordinated and suffering full-body tremors but did not seem to have alcohol on his breath. The officer added, however, that a strong wind was blowing and he hadn't been standing particularly close to Bauman.

Both Lamar and Bauman were transported to Longmont United Hospital. While Lamar was rushed into intensive care, police questioned Bauman. He denied any use of drugs or alcohol but admitted he had been driving over 60 miles per hour and had a "habit of speeding." An officer read him his rights; he was later taken to Boulder County Jail. There Bauman's performance on coordination tests aroused the suspicion of at least one officer that he was under the influence of marijuana. But a urine test was not administered until 6 a.m. By then, Bauman had drunk orange juice, eaten breakfast and made several trips to the bathroom. The test was negative.

Gloria Lamar was 35 years old and the mother of two sons. Sixteen-year-old Mark lived with her. Her younger son, Ryan, lived with his father in Boulder. She supported herself and Mark with several part-time jobs, and she had neither health nor automobile insurance. But she did have plans. Plans to create a portrait of Ben Nighthorse Campbell in full traditional headdress, seated on a horse in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Plans for songs she intended to learn and perform. Plans to continue her studies at Front Range Community College. And for four and a half years, she had been dating Tom Hoh, an inventor with a quizzical mind, warm eyes and a calm, strong voice.

On the evening of the accident, Hoh had cooked Lamar dinner: Cornish game hens, sweet potatoes and a green salad. She had played guitar and they had sung together--Hoh remembers a Civil War song called "Hard Times Come Again No More." After dinner, he and Lamar set off, in different cars, to visit Hoh's daughter, Molly, in Longmont. The two women discussed a project they were working on, The World's Only Kid-Friendly Cookbook. Remembering, Hoh smiles. "I think they trademarked the phrase 'kid-friendly.'" After an hour or so, Lamar left for home.

Later that night, Hoh's son called and told him about the collision, having heard the news from Lamar's son. Hoh immediately left for the hospital. "I didn't know much about brain injuries," he says, "but I did know, being a scientist by background, that pressure in the head is a critical thing. So I asked the neurosurgeon to put a pressure gauge in her head, and he did. And there wasn't any fluid pressure. Which is good. Very good."

The MRI, too, showed only small signs of injury. "We thought we'd come in in the morning and ask her what happened," says Hoh. But the next day, he was informed that Lamar probably had axonal shear--a complete severance of the neurons in the brain. He didn't believe it. "People at the scene said that not only did she crawl out of her car, but she walked some sixty feet," he says. "She was moaning and talking, and she was trying to help this kid that hit her. None of that would have happened if she'd had axonal shear, because that takes out all of your communication capacities instantly."

Further shocks followed. Doctors told him it was unlikely Lamar would ever open her eyes again or breathe unaided. A nurse suggested withholding feeding to avoid the moral dilemmas that ultimately face so many families of coma victims. Hoh was given a handwritten note by the relative of another patient begging him to authorize the harvesting of Lamar's organs. "We were all in a state of shock," he says. "It went from something that we didn't think was overly serious to something that was terminal."

He insisted on the feeding tube, however. And after two weeks in intensive care, Gloria Lamar opened her eyes.

"The thing that annoyed me was, there wasn't really any medical advocate for Gloria," Hoh says. "We as a family had to figure out the mystery. What to do next, what is really happening, should we get a second opinion, who's going to be the conservator, should we let her go. How is Gloria? There wasn't a single person who could tell us. There's this guy from this place and the guy from intensive care and the story from the guy on the midnight shift. There wasn't a medical advocate who knew her whole story at any given instant of time. You had to piece together the hearsay."

Eventually the family found a rehabilitation center where Lamar could receive therapy and care. She was moved to Mediplex Rehabilitation in Thornton.

Meanwhile, Bauman had been charged with vehicular assault, reckless driving and driving under the influence. Police learned that he had turned right from Highway 66 onto 75th Street--going in the opposite direction from his home. He had turned back at a bend in the road, accelerated to over 60 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone and, although familiar with the intersection, driven straight through the stop sign.

"Had Mr. Bauman intended to avoid the collision, he had ample opportunity to do numerous things that would have accomplished that intention, ranging from coming to a stop as legally required, to braking, turning or simply lessening the pressure of his foot on the accelerator," wrote Detective William Bloxsom, an accident reconstruction expert later hired by Hoh. "Because Ms. Lamar was traveling approximately 66 feet per second and he was traveling at greater than 88 feet per second any action by Mr. Bauman that slowed him by even 1/4 second, would have kept the collision from happening."

The case never went to trial. A plea bargain was reached with Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter's notoriously lenient office ("He Aims to Plea," September 24, 1998). That September, Bauman pleaded guilty to careless driving resulting in death or serious injury. He was sentenced to two months in jail, two years' probation and 200 hours of community service. Since he had told his probation officer, Melinda Leach, that he had no resources, he was ordered to pay Lamar, whose care was likely to cost $15 million over her lifetime, only $1,000 in restitution.

Had Bauman been found guilty of vehicular assault, he could have received a four-year sentence. (In a recent Denver case, Joel Broussard was given three years in prison and two years of parole after crashing into the back of a car at 100 miles an hour, leaving a six-year-old brain-damaged--though cognizant and functional--and blind in one eye.)

At the time, Boulder deputy district attorney Steve Louth told the press he could charge vehicular assault only if he could prove that Bauman consciously disregarded the risk of injuring another person, and "I just don't see how I can prove this here."

"We would have had to show that he saw the stop sign and consciously decided to blow through it," says Louth today. "There's a restaurant on the corner that prevents people from seeing oncoming traffic. And the kid was an inexperienced driver."

Neither Jourden nor Frawley were interviewed by police or investigators from the DA's office. Only one of the two callers who dialed 911 that night was contacted. No one checked into Bauman's background or spoke to his teachers and classmates at Longmont High. It would be several months before those who loved Gloria Lamar gained any understanding of who her destroyer was and what had motivated him.

The living room of Tom Hoh's rustic, lived-in house a short distance up Lefthand Canyon is adorned with several of Lamar's paintings. Her subjects are conventional but full of life, and the execution is extraordinarily skilled. In one painting, a group of horses thunders forward, churning up dust, jockeys riding low over their backs. In a scene that could easily grace a Sierra Club poster, a lioness drinks at a pool, her cub protectively sheltered between her paws. Perhaps the most striking portrait is of a young Afghan girl in a shawl, copied from the cover of a National Geographic magazine. There's an odd fierce light in her astonishingly blue eyes and her expression--the shadows under her eyes, the set of her lips--seems at once challenging and afraid.

Hoh places a tape in his player. "We made this three days before the accident," he says.

It's a cheap, karaoke recording, but the woman's voice is smoky and rich, rushing out into the small living room. "When my soul was in the lost and found," it sings, "you came along to claim it..." There's a throatiness in the low notes, sometimes almost a growl--"I never knew just what was wrong with me, till your kiss helped me name it." The voice thrills into a higher register: "You make me feel"--it fills the space, unstoppable, full of passionate life--"You make me feel"--the voice is soaring and swooping like a swallow--"You make me feel like a natural woman."

In the silence that follows, Tom shakes his head. "She was an awesome person," he says. "So many things came easy to her. I told her once, the only thing wrong with you, Gloria, is that you're always apologizing.

"She said, 'I'm sorry.'"

For three and a half years, Tom Hoh fought Gloria Lamar's coma. Every morning he came to the rehabilitation center and attempted to ferret out from the nurses and doctors how Gloria had spent the night and what had been done for her. Then he attended to her personal hygiene.

"She was incontinent," he explains. "She had diapers on. I would clean her up. Cleanse her face. Just clean her eyes out and her ears and hands. Exercise her fingers, her arms and shoulders and her neck and back, and then rotate her pelvis. Everything. Knees. Give her a foot massage. Then she was clean and relaxed, and I could start attempting communication."

Lamar had been interested in alternative medicine, and Hoh brought her blue-green algae, colloidal minerals, homeopathic treatments. He argued with the medical staff about the painkillers and muscle relaxants she was routinely given. "They put her on muscle relaxants instead of physically exercising her to keep her flexible," he says. "They would give her drugs that just zoned her out. They said, 'Well, we have to make her comfortable'--even though it dulled her brain.

"She was in there," he adds. "I made an invention to prove it."
He leaves the room for a few minutes and returns with a cardboard box that once held salt-water taffy. Coils and wires spill over its sides. He takes a rubber glove from the box and reveals the buttons stitched into a finger. "I put this on her, and I was able to teach her how to press the buttons--like a stoplight--red, orange and green for 'no,' 'I need help' and 'yes.'"

He shrugs. "It's something that could have been done for patients years and years ago, something as pathetically simple as this."

In August 1994, Lamar was transferred to the Mapleton Center for Rehabilitation in Boulder, because doctors believed she was coming out of her coma. The move was disastrous, however, and her condition worsened. She was sent to Heritage Rehabilitation in Denver.

Through her silence and immobility, through the increasing rigidity of her limbs, through whatever her state of mind might be--agitated or dreaming, grief-stricken or simply vacant--Hoh reached for her. He made tapes of music she loved, of her own singing, of the work of musician friends. He decorated her room with photographs, read old letters to her, brought her roses and gardenias, recalled for her experiences they'd shared. He took her to the zoo and to the Ice Capades. He abandoned his own work, ignoring the mounting bills. And he kept a journal in which, day by day, he recorded his impressions of her condition and the effects of his ministrations.

"I always said, 'Gloria, no matter what, you know we're connected,'" he says. "And she would grin and smile. I kept repeating that to her whenever she was...uh...troubled."

The journal is a spiral notebook. Through page after densely written page, Hoh engages in a kind of meticulous charting: Lamar's physical condition and test results, her responsiveness, his activities with her and the techniques he tried, all the wearying minutiae of her days. He describes how Lamar learned to communicate by blinking her eyes and how he taught her to swallow, even though she was tethered to a feeding tube. He rages at staff indifference; he records family milestones; he worries about bills and the limitations of Medicaid. Over and over, he reports that he has repeated to her the same incantation--a list of things they'll do together when she recovers: "making love, dancing, singing, painting, making love, writing, champagne brunch, golf, kids..."

His words are telling:
I kissed Gloria three times; she moved lips in response but got very emotional each time.

Gloria likes the animals on the Discovery Channel.
BAD. CRUMPLED OVER. DROOLING.
I got Gloria to keep tongue down and forward with tongue depressor (wood) and then, after warning and prompting, put several drops of cranberry juice from dropper onto stick which flowed down onto middle of tongue so reflex back there could initiate swallow (which it does).

Everybody thinks Gloria will just fade out... They do no therapy at all now and don't even take Gloria out of bed every day unless I'm here.

Once I acted disappointed when her thumb was on yes and I asked her to go all the way up to NO. I walked away to do something in drawers and she felt like I gave up (perhaps) and hit NO NO NO NO NO NO to assure me she was cooperative.

I'm getting fantastic at fingernails and toenails.
We took Gloria outdoors in the sun and put her in the grass on her back (hands in grass, feet in grass), then on stomach. Vocalizing spontaneously, opening clumped eyes.

Gloria wants so much to tell me something.
NO SMILE. HANDS INWARD AND CLENCHED. OLD URINE. FACE DIRTY. EARS DIRTY. MOUTH. SMELLY. NOT MUCH ATTENTION FOR DAYS.

I was talking about taking journeys out of my body so my 2nd body could visit Gloria's 2nd body and Gloria listened intently and acknowledged with blinks.

Gloria went vocally ballistic, laughing then crying, we think. Voice loudest ever trying to talk, almost closing her eyes due to the power of vocalization/screaming.

Hoh had been warned against getting too hopeful. "Everybody told me that if she came out of this thing, she wouldn't be Gloria, she'd be somebody else--she'd be some totally new thing," he says. He's silent for several seconds, then says emphatically, "I never believed that, and I'll tell you why I knew. There were two occasions when she went into general anesthesia. Both times when she came out, she was Gloria again. She was totally flexible; she could move both arms. She could move her head, she could track, she was trying to talk. I told her jokes she alone would understand, and she just laughed. And it went away. It went away after four, eight hours. It went away."

The doctors told Hoh they'd seen that phenomenon before, but they downplayed its significance. And they refused to anesthetize Lamar again to explore the phenomenon further.

"Their theory says that when you come out of a coma, you've got virtually no memory," Hoh says. "It's got to be rebuilt. And you have to be taught by a speech therapist how to talk. You don't have the same personality. You don't have the same humor...Well, on both occasions, she was Gloria again. You can tell when the eyes are alive and when they're gone."

After the collision, Donald Bauman wrote a song:

A feeling of silence, trying to deal with this violence,
Driven to insanity by this vanity.
Anger that has too much danger, like being born in a manger.
Her lighting is so frightening that I feel her flashing and I go crashing.
I should feel shame, because I'm to blame.
I cannot hold all this disdain, because I am stain.
I can hear her voice over a thousand miles
A tornado that rips, like the horse...[illegible]

For Gloria Lamar to have the remotest chance of recovery, she needed far more intensive therapy than Medicaid could provide. Hoh hired Baine Kerr, a Boulder attorney, to explore the possibility of filing a civil suit against Bauman.

Kerr's investigation turned up some surprising information. Despite Bauman's statements to his probation officer--the pre-sentencing report lists "source of income" as "none" and says Bauman's "ability to pay fees" is "dependent upon family and work"--it seemed he was hardly without assets. Bauman had suffered some oxygen deprivation at birth, and a medical malpractice suit, settled in his favor, had guaranteed him a lifetime income. On his eighteenth birthday, in January 1994--less than three months before the collision--he had received settlement and interest payments of over $130,000; monthly payments of $4,166 also began. (After that, he'd purchased the Jeep Cherokee for $28,000 in cash.) The settlement was structured so that payments would increase annually. By the time he was fifty years old, Bauman could expect $322,670 a year; his old age would be sweetened by an annual income of slightly more than a million dollars. In the course of his lifetime, he could expect to receive $24 million.

In a deposition, Kerr asked Bauman why he had lied about his finances. "Because I wanted to protect my money," he responded.

When Bauman's lie was brought to the court's attention, he was sentenced to ten days in jail. Kerr also requested that the amount Bauman had been ordered to pay in restitution--$1,000--be modified in light of his wealth and Lamar's huge and terrible needs. The district attorney's office opposed Kerr's request. Then-deputy district attorney Louth gives two reasons for the DA's position: that the civil suit Kerr had filed against Bauman would resolve the issue of restitution, and that "it was not until sentencing was over and the Defendant's Fifth Amendment rights were no longer intact, that the People learned the exact extent of the Defendant's financial resources...At that time the People did not think it was legally appropriate to try and undo the plea agreement based on information obtained after the Defendant's Fifth Amendment rights had vanished."

But Fifth Amendment protection did not apply here, Kerr says. "Self-incrimination and financial disclosure are unrelated issues totally. Your financial condition is not something you can incriminate yourself by disclosing." He adds, "Bauman committed fraud when he told his probation officer he had no assets. That was the basis for a restitution award. Fraud. It just doesn't make any sense."

"When a prosecutor gives his word on something, you have to stand by it," says Louth. "I did the plea agreement based upon the facts that I knew at the time. Restitution was not based on the kid being poor or rich; it was based on Baine Kerr's assurance that it would be resolved in civil court."

According to Mimi Wesson, a law professor at the University of Colorado and a former federal prosecutor, the fact that civil litigation was pending against Bauman was entirely irrelevant to the issue of restitution. "It should have been part of the plea bargain that if Bauman lied about the extent of his assets--or anything else--that would be grounds for nullifying the bargain," she says. "And why was there no investigation of his ability to pay?"

As preparation for the civil suit went forward, Kerr's investigators learned a great deal more about Donald Bauman.

At the time of the accident, Bauman was a student at Longmont High, living with his mother. He tested high for IQ--in particular, for math and science skills--but seemed to be a volatile and isolated personality. He spent hours riding his bicycle. His only social outlet was with the Chambers Singers Choir, but his fellow singers described odd and anti-social behavior. They said Don hit his head with the palm of his hand when he made a mistake, muttered obscenities under his breath and glared at other people. One student described a "tendency to go berserk on himself."

It was in the choir that Bauman met Charity Mudd, who tried to be pleasant to him and once accompanied him to a matinee performance of The Naked Gun.

"Charity has a heart of gold," says her father, Steven Mudd. "She was nice to a kid in a situation where other kids were picking on him. She found out real quick he couldn't be a friend."

For roughly two years, Bauman haunted Charity's house. He tossed firecrackers onto her lawn. He phoned her at night and then hung up. He sent her notes. Her family suspected he was behind several minor and inexplicable acts of vandalism, such as the theft of a gas cap from Charity's car. An angry call from Steven Mudd did not deter him. When music teacher Kathy Belair found out about the situation, she told Bauman his behavior constituted stalking and that he should restrain himself. He became enraged.

Kurt Bauman (no relation), another student at Longmont High, expressed to investigators an odd mixture of uneasiness and admiration for Don. He explained that he thought of Don as physically superhuman and believed he possessed a kind of extrasensory perception, an ability to know "unknowable stuff." Though Don Bauman might seem "psychotic" to those who knew him slightly, Kurt saw him as brilliant and deep. "There are a lot of doors between his world and the outside world. It's hard for him to connect with the outside world."

Don "had a thing" about coins, Kurt said. During choir, he often pulled a coin from his pocket and tossed it to the floor. Invariably, it came to rest at Charity Mudd's feet. This proved that Charity was a demon, Don explained to Kurt, since coins are a magnet for evil. The fact that the coin also came up "heads" every time he flipped it was another indicator of evil in the room.

After the accident, Donald Bauman continued to be obsessed with Charity Mudd: "Reports all of Longmont is out to get him. States girlfriend used him to steal all his friends," health workers noted. His mother told his counselors she was "afraid to sleep at night for fear the patient will leave the house and go over to the girl's house or do something else."

Bauman was afraid of losing control and hurting someone, he told health workers. He felt he had been "severely violated in the past, so he would cope now by violating others because they asked for it."

The most startling revelation, however, came in a deposition Bauman gave in the civil suit. He maintained that he had no memory of anything he'd done between the time he left school after third period and the time of the accident, other than having dinner with his mother. (In the hospital, he had told an officer he'd been at his sister's house, watching television. His sister said he hadn't.) He admitted it was "probable" that at some point he had driven past Charity's house. He was upset, he said, because hurtful things had been said to him that day at school. Then he was turning onto 75th Street, listening to a Metallica tape and weeping, turning back, coming to Highway 66.

Had something distracted his attention? Yes, he responded: "Just before I saw the stop sign, I saw Charity's face overlaid--overlaid of the headlights of the other car as it was approaching me in the intersection."

"Like a hallucination?" Kerr asked.
"I won't call it a hallucination. I'd just call it like a vision..."
"Did you still know that it was a car that was there even though this vision was overlaid on top of it?"

"Yes."
"Describe the face as you saw it."
"Well, she had long, wavy blond hair, and her eyes were like glanced right at me; and she had a big nose, small mouth, kind of an oblong head."

"Was she frowning? Smiling?"
"Just a plain expression."
"A cold expression?"
"Yes..."

"What did you think was happening in terms of what you were seeing there? Did you think this was a reality? An illusion? What did you think at the time?"

"I felt as though she was really there, and she was scaring me at the time."
Bauman's attorneys maintained that his assets could not be taken from him because they stemmed from his malpractice suit: By statute, "proceeds of a claim for damages for personal injury" cannot be collected by creditors. They also said that Bauman was prepared to file for bankruptcy to protect his money. Kerr argued that the statutory exemption covered only the direct proceeds from the malpractice suit, not the interest on them. To avoid the threat of bankruptcy, Kerr intended to prove both that Bauman was intoxicated at the time of the accident and that his conduct was malicious and intentional. The suit was settled in March 1995, and a fund of an undisclosed amount was set up to help Gloria Lamar.

Through all the legal proceedings, Bauman continued to stalk Charity Mudd. In January 1995 she'd asked for a restraining order against him. "I do feel like I'm in danger..." she told Judge Carol Glowinsky. "I don't like people following me around. I don't like people knowing my comings and goings. I change my patterns constantly..."

The order was granted, but Bauman's harassment continued. Four months later, on May 1, he left a note for Charity at work: "Did you know I still like you?" he wrote. "The things that happen in court don't matter any more...I feel better that all that legal bullshit that you [illegible] in is finally OVER!! I am sorry that you where [illegible] I think about you all the time and the memories will never die. I enjoy thinking about you. I also hate the fact that you got involved and harrast by that STUPID lawyer KURR." (Kerr had alerted the Mudds to Bauman's testimony in his deposition.) "He's an asshole and a pile of shit. Forget about him."

On May 5, Bauman twice walked past the Hatch's bookstore at the Twin Peaks Mall where Charity Mudd worked. Then he came inside and approached her. As she turned to run from him, he growled. Bauman was arrested. He told the arresting officer that he "understood the violation but has a compulsion to talk to and be with Mudd." Eventually he was ordered to leave the state.

Donald Bauman, who is now 21, is believed to be living in New Jersey. His father, who also lives there, said he would tell his son that Westword had asked to interview him; Bauman never called.

Last February, Gloria Lamar's father and legal guardian, Lyle Cook, who lives in Tennessee, decided to move her to a nursing home in Manila, Arkansas, near the home of her mother and where he could visit his daughter once a month or so.

"Her family's quite religious," Cook explains. "We believe in, hopefully, a miracle one day. They have churches come into the nursing home and hold services. We told them anytime that happened, she should be there."

Cook has been working with Baine Kerr to protect Lamar's Medicaid benefits. He, too, would like to see more therapy provided for her. Recently he's noticed that she can communicate by blinking her eyes.

Although Cook says he appreciates much of what Tom Hoh did for Gloria, he now would "kind of like him out of the picture...He left word at the nursing home that she was not to be subjected to any religion at all. I countermanded that right off the bat. We wanted, if anything, more religion in her life rather than less.

"Tom Hoh spent several years trying to manipulate her life and getting himself into her life. He's kind of into mind control--sending things to her, trying to control her. Sending cards for her mother to read to her. She doesn't need that."

She doesn't need fundamentalism, either, Hoh responds; Lamar had no interest in fundamentalist religion. "It was the challenge, the stimulation--that was the only thing that was bringing her back," he says. "They do just the opposite. They drug her. And feel sorry for her. The doctors, and whatever support staff. All these places have chaplains, and they have the little events person and the social activities person...They're kind of in a coma themselves in a way."

Hoh himself is getting on with life. With several partners, he's financed a couple of ocean-going liners; he hopes to take divers on board to search for sunken vessels. He has shipwreck leases in hand and a lot of interest from divers, he says, and is searching for further funding. He has also begun seeing another woman, whose own father has been in a coma for four years.

Their common experiences have made life more poignant for both of them. "You don't just get destroyed," he says. "You see the ridiculousness of everyday, petty crap. Things become more valuable, more meaningful."

He looks at Gloria's painting of the Afghan girl. "I think about her a lot," he says quietly. "But not perpetually, like before."

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