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When I was twenty-four, I met Jimmie Wakefield working nights at an old, run-down psychiatric hospital located along the murky waters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At the age of eighty-one, she was one of the oldest registered traveling nurses in America with a lifetime of wild stories spanning her curious childhood in New Orleans, the tragedies of World War II and over fifty years of nursing tales, all relayed in the early hours after midnight in her deep, swear word laced southern accent.

At first, I didn't think I could tolerate Mrs. Jimmie's blunt, no-nonsense approach to doing things as we worked alongside the mentally ill and drug-addicted patients contained within the Winded Willow, who could be every bit as dangerous as they were hilarious. That all changed when I discovered she had once left her family, country and career behind for a decade to live a completely different life in the Himalayan Mountains of Kashmir.

An unlikely friendship formed and together we traveled across India to New Delhi, the Taj Mahal, the shores of Mumbai and the quiet mountain town of McLeod Ganj, home to the Dalai Lama and his exiled followers of Tibet. The journey would grant me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness incredible places, hear the stories of other world travelers and develop an unexpected romance with a local beauty. For Jimmie, this final trip to India was closer to heart, as she sought to fulfill a long-kept promise made to a loved one long ago.

This is the true story of my travels with a Gypsy Lotus.

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