The Winter Coat

After the birth of our second daughter, money was tighter than ever.  It was September 19, 1978 and winter was coming.  I needed a new winter coat but I had only $35 to spend on it—tops.  And this was a time when coats started selling at $50-60 a piece.  While it felt early in the season, it was actually late.  Coats had been picked over and I’d been looking already for several weeks.

I remembered listening to some Norman Vincent Peale tapes where he stated that in order to draw to you what you need, you have to believe that you already own it.  That it’s already yours.  That it’s meant to be yours.  The secret was to speak and believe as if you already owned it, so the choice of verb tense was important.  Peale’s most famous work—now a true classic—is The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952.  It can still be found on popular bookstore shelves today.

This positive-thinking philosophy would be repeated every decade by someone new.  In the 1970s, that person was Dr. Wayne Dyer, followed by Anthony Robbins in the 1980s.  By the twenty-first century, both would be talking about higher consciousness and our need to connect with our inner consciousness, that our power comes from within.

And then, a little tiny book authored by Rhonda Byrne would make headlines in 2006 unlike other books of self-fulfillment.  That book was The Secret and many of the philosophies that were being introduced to the public I was already practicing.  In fact, I had practiced it back on that day in 1978.

It was a typical shopping day for me where I was on a hunt for a specific item and coming up with nothing.  As I stood in the store, I visualized.  In my mind’s eye, I saw the coat that I desired—brown plaid fabric, a long coat that came down to my boots or knees, and with a hood.

At that very moment, my glaze fell upon the bin in front of me, which was full of mittens, gloves, and hats.  I wasn’t normally a hat wearer, but I noticed a rust-colored hat that I knew would match this desired coat perfectly.  I bought the hat.  I even began wearing it and carrying it, not caring that it didn’t go with the light-weight fall jacket or sweaters I was wearing while still on the hunt.

Two weeks later, I found the coat on sale for $32.  It was on a rack where it should not have been hanging.  It was almost as if it was there for me to find at that moment.  I happened to be wearing the hat.  When I put on the coat and looked in the mirror, the hat appeared as if it originally came with the coat.

Several days later, the winter’s first snow fell.  Every time thereafter, for the decade or more that I owned that coat, whenever I put it on, I was reminded that visualization works.  More importantly, I learned how my belief could not waver.  I had to see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, taste it.  All the senses had to be engaged.

This was not be the first time that I would draw to me that which I needed.  The future would hold far bigger needs, seemingly impossible goals, needs, or desires.  But what I did learn this day was not only did the secret work, but I learned how it worked.  Unbeknownst to me, the future was filled with opportunities for practice.

The Red Thread

By the time I was 24, I was married and expecting my first child.  We lived out in the country, so going to town to run errands was a planned event and with a list.  If something wasn’t purchased, most generally, the item would have to be put on the list again for the next trip.

On this particular trip to town, I needed to pick up a spool of red thread, but I had forgotten to bring a piece of the material I was using with me.  I needed an exact match.  I didn’t want to wait until my next trip to make the purchase because my ability to finish the project had already been delayed by several days already.  The thought of having to wait several more days if not a week displeased me.

At the time, I’d been reading a lot of books about intuition, how we are all born with an intuitive ability but that for most people, it remains underdeveloped because it wasn’t understood at the time.  While it was known that women were often seen as being more intuitive than men, the science wasn’t clear at the time as to why.  That science would come decades later, but at that time, a woman’s intuitive was something to joke about.

I was curious about my own intuition, but I wasn’t sure how to develop it.  While books spoke about it, there weren’t how-to books on the market back then as there are now.  At least, these books weren’t in the stacks of the public library that I used.

I been wondering if I could develop my intuition, let alone trust it.  And now, on this day, I had an opportunity, so I decided to test my intuitive power on red thread.  I was down to two possibilities.  Thread A was the one that I rationalized was the correct color.  I saw the fabric in my mind’s eye.  I sincerely thought it was THE thread to buy.  Thread B was the one that my intuition was telling me to buy, but I had no rationale behind that feeling.  None.  I couldn’t base the feeling on a single fact.  I thought it looked too dark, that it wasn’t even the right family of shades; it was a wine red, not the more cherry red Thread A was.

Because I didn’t want to take one spool home and discover it was the wrong choice, I decided the best way to test my intuitive powers was to purchase both.  Spending even so much as an extra dollar on a limited budget taxed my sensibilities, but I was desperate to have usable thread that evening so I could finish my sewing project.  As much as I hated returning items, I decided if I needed, I could return the spool that ended up being the wrong color.

So, I marked the threads lightly on the spool’s ends, marking the one I thought was the true color as A, and marking the one my intuition was telling to buy as B.

When I got home, I was astonished and surprised to find that thread B was a perfect match.  It was so perfect, in fact, that when the thread was laid on the material, the thread completely disappeared.  I had to look hard to see it.  Thread A, which I’d been so sure was the perfect match, was hideously incorrect.

The test was a small one, but my intuition had been correct and convincingly so.  The question in my mind now was, how trustworthy would this intuition be on larger purchases or events that had outcomes that were more important, if not downright critical.  Would I be able to trust my intuition no matter what?

Kathy and the Other Side

I could start in the beginning, but that would be boring.  Instead, let me begin where things got interesting.

Kathy and the Other Side

             Early September 1993 – Her hair gone, her skin was thin with a translucent milky-blue hue.  Huge eyes dominated her otherwise now sharply sculptured face.  She was just forty, with three young children.  It wasn’t fair that this once vibrant blonde beauty, who had sat beside me in the Florida State University football stadium in past eight years as we’d whoop our chants and cut the air with our “tomahawks” as the Seminoles carried the ball down the field against the Canes, the Tarheels, and so many other teams, had to suffer for two of those years with breast cancer.  And then, she was pregnant with her third child, excitedly so.  Successfully, she and her husband Jody welcomed their beautiful second son into their family.  And then, she discovered that the cancer had returned.

I remember the early coolish weather, the sun filtered through the pines and other trees in the yard.  In a room fixed up special for Kathy, my family and I took turns going in to say goodbye.  When it was my turn, I couldn’t help but notice how thin she’d become.  Huge glasses made her face look even more gaunt.  We hugged tightly, and she said goodbye.  Neither one of us spoke of the time two years earlier when she had begun her second battle with the cancer, when we had spent half a day together, sitting in her kitchen, bright with Tallahassee sunshine, talking about our extreme curiosity of life after death.  That was where we made a pact.

Two weeks later, Kathy was dead.

The pact: if she could, she would contact me after she died.


            I had moved to Tallahassee in the summer of 1988 and lived there for a year before moving to Cairo, located in the southwest corner of Georgia, about thirty-five miles from Florida’s state capital.  I got to meet and know Kathy and her husband, Jody, right away.  They were a fun couple, with two small children.

Not long after the move to Cairo, I began having premonitions and other events began happening.  I wondered if our home’s location had anything to do with the experiences.  I shared some of these happenings with Kathy, which is how we came to make our pact.

That was when Kathy died.

Time passed, about eight months.  I’d been a writer for sometime already, but now I was writing twelve hours a day, working on a book, coming out of my office only to get food and beverage or to sleep.  During the day, I was alone in the house with my husband at work and my two girls in school.  I was in my office as usual, at the computer finishing a book for a publisher’s deadline.  My fingers keyed letters into words and sentences . . .

A soft voice called out my name.

My fingers paused above the keyboard.  I looked at the door.  No one was there.

The clock told me the girls were still in school, my husband at work.  I listened.  Inside the house, the only sounds were the whirring overhead fan, circulating the air-conditioned air to offset the one-hundred-degree South summer heat and humidity that cloaked the house, the soft hum of the computer as it idled, and the steady tick of the wall clock.  Outside, the unmistakable buzz of the katydids—a sound I had come to love—became a backdrop to every other sound.  I could hear the buzz from inside.  Not hearing anything else, including a voice, I assumed my imagination was at work.

I returned to the keys, and was quickly engrossed in my story again.  I heard my name called again.  Only this time, it was said louder than before.  And the sound was distinct.

I froze.  Slowly, I rose from my chair, my heart racing, my mouth dry.  Cautiously, I moved to the door.  I half-expected one of the girls to jump out at me, screaming, “Boo!”  They delighted in hearing me scream or gasp with fright, a hand to my heart to steady the racing beat.  They didn’t jump out at me.  No one did.  There wasn’t anyone there.

Yet, ever so slowly, I stuck my head out the door, allowing peripheral vision to search either side of the door frame quickly.

I looked to the right.  No one was there.

I looked to the left.  The hall was empty.

My adrenalin high, my armpits sticky from fear, my breath trembled as I exhaled.

I’d been holding my breath.  For a few moments, I was rooted to the spot . . . waiting.  For what, I didn’t know.  I shook off the feeling and returned to the computer.

A few weeks later, I heard my name called again, then a rattling in the hall closet that was closest to my office.  It was a closet that I used as a pantry for canned goods.  I ignored the noise.

Minutes later, it happened again, but this time the added ping of the doorbell sounded for no apparent reason.  I say no apparent reason because frequent brown-outs, as I called them, occurred on a weekly basis, a hick-up in the power where the lights would blink, the computer’s battery backup would buzz, the fans would slow down due to no power, the VCRs turning off and then back on, the clocks blinking requiring a reset, and the doorbell would ping.

This time, however, the only sound had been the doorbell.  The computer battery didn’t buzz.  The VCRs were silent.  The lights and fans remained on, steadily doing their jobs.  There had been no brown-out.

As before, I went to the office door and looked down the hall.  This time, I moved toward the pantry/closet door where I thought I had heard the rattle.  Almost at the closet door, I went through a cold spot.

Goose bumps ran up and down my body.

I had heard about cold spots and how they depicted a sign that you were walking through a dead person’s soul or presence.  But I shook off the thought.  It was nearly 100 degrees outside.  There’d been no cold spot, I tried to tell myself.  But deep down, I knew it’d been a cold spot.  Extremely cold.

I opened the closet door.  Nothing.  I shut the door.

I shivered.

I heard my name again, only this time the sound was nearby, almost a whisper in my ear, as if someone was speaking to me, standing behind me.

“Kathy?”  I whispered.  “Is that you?”

“Yes,” she replied, softly.

I smiled and felt her smile back.  “We had it all wrong,” she gushed.  “Our image of God, our souls, our purpose.  Everyone has it wrong, everyone.”  Kathy was a devote Catholic, so I was curious how it was wrong, so I asked.

“What’s it like?”

Her voice was filled with joy.  “I can’t describe it, but it’s all about joy, love, and awareness of what we’ve done, who we are.  It’s about knowing.  Having all knowledge.  It’s wonderful!!!  The church has it so wrong.  So wrong.”  I asked her what she meant by that, but she didn’t answer me.  Instead, she repeated how much love there was.  And then she left.  My questions of wanting specifics went unanswered.  Kathy would not be the one to provide me with those answers, but she had provided a window into the unknown for me.

I was ecstatic that she had made contact and that our questions about death were being answered.  I was strangely comforted knowing she was around.  At that time, I didn’t tell anyone.  I didn’t want anyone to think that I had gone nuts.  I wondered if anyone would understand, including my family.  Up until that time, I’d been experiencing various small adventures of mysticism, but I couldn’t explain what was happening, so I kept my experiences to myself.  How in the world would I be able to explain this experience with credibility?

Interesting enough, several months later, I decided to share with my family what I’d experienced and Kathy’s visit.  Lo and behold as I talked about the odd ping of the doorbell, my youngest daughter, said, “And then it sounds like cans moving in the closet?”

I stared at her.  “And when you walk in the hall–”

“There’s a cold spot,” she announced.

“That’s Kathy,” I said.

The two girls looked at each other, both talking at the same time.  “Don’t tell me anymore,”  and “I don’t want to hear it.”  They walked away believing but also in denial.  It scared them too much.

A couple of weeks later, Kathy contacted me again.  Like the time before, I was working in my office and heard my name called.


“Call, Jody (her husband) and tell him to tell Deirdre (their oldest child) no.”

I hesitated.  What if Jody laughed at me?  Would anyone be able to understand what was happening to me?  Did I understand it?  Kathy prodded me and I argued with myself.  I suspect she heard my arguing with myself, because a short time later, she was gone.  She had given up.

How in the world would I call Jody and explain to him that his dead wife had contacted me with a message to give to him.  I couldn’t make the call without feeling foolish.  And yet, I wanted to call.  I decided to think about it.  From time-to-time, the request weighed heavily on me but then some task would present itself and the thought would be gone again.

Six months later, I ran into Jody.  He looked frazzled as any man who had lost his wife and was left with three young children to raise on his own would look.  I asked if six months earlier he’d had a problem with any of the kids.

“Yes, with Deirdre,” he said, shaking his head remembering.  “I had to make the first biggest decision regarding the kids since Kathy died.”

“What happened?”  I held my breath.  I wasn’t interested in knowing the details, or even what the problem was.  All I wanted to know if his answer had been yes or no.

“I told her yes, and I have been regretting it ever since.”

Then and there, I vowed that if in the future anyone who had died asked me to deliver a message to the living, I would do it, regardless of how awkward it might be for me.  Little was I to know that years later, I’d be asked to deliver a difficult message . . . or two.