Writing Down the Words: Making Magic Happen

I make lists.

Yes, I’m one of those.

I guess it’s because I like 1) seeing tasks accomplished, and 2) having direction for my day, particularly toward specific goals.  My daily To-Do list keeps me on track . . . well, most of the time.

I’ve always been a list maker since I can remember.  I found out that when I wrote down my goals rather than just thinking about them, the goals eventually became a reality.  I now believe that writing down my desires is a magical way for the Universe to know what I really want.  It’s not enough for me to say what I want, to vocalize.  Writing these goals, these desires down creates a strong commitment, a contract if you will, with the Universe.  I want these things badly enough that I was willing to put them to paper.

I was heartened some time again when I found support in the book, Write Your Own Magic: The Hidden Power in Your Words by Richard Webster.  He states that all “creativity is magic” and practiced by “Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, and Isaac Newton” and that even “William Shakespeare made countless references to magic in this plays, and was obviously familiar with the subject.”

Once upon a time in my twenties, I wanted to become a writer.  I had no training whatsoever, other than high school English, being a voracious reader, and having an immense curiosity to learn.  When I said I wanted to be a published author, people—family and friends—laughed.  Over time, the laughter stopped.  My goals were coming true.

I have a planner—the hard copy kind—where I list goals/desires for the month.  Using that monthly goal list, I create my weekly list, and from that my daily list.

On July 14 of this year (2015), I was let go from my professor/admin position at a university where I’ve been employed for almost eleven years.  I served as an adjunct for a year and a half, and then with my M.F.A. degree in hand, I hired into a full-time in a position I served for the remainder of that time.  I understand completely why I was let go; it was a restructuring event due to enrollment decreases over the last few years, decreases that are affecting college campuses across the nation.  Honestly, if I had been in my supervisors’ shoes, I would have done the same thing.

That said, over the last couple of years as more duties were assigned to me, I found myself become more tired.  The joy I once had for the job was fading, assignment by new assignment.  My career change to academics was the result of my love of teaching non-academic classes, connecting with students of all ages, helping them re-awaken an earlier joy of writing, and showing them how to become better writers.  Plus, I enjoy teaching or coaching teachers how to teach writing.

I would come home so tired from work that I often needed a nap before bedtime.  I was sleeping upwards of 12 hours a day.  As a result, my creative writing was neglected.  That depressed me further.  During that time personal life events—family deaths and a major auto accident—were taking their toll on me.  I hid this tiredness, this depression well, diving into my writing for relief, which has always served me well in the past.

But it wasn’t enough.

Back in the spring, I asked the Universe to find a way for me to be to write more, but without it jeopardizing my ability to live, to pay bills.  Close to retirement, I was still obligated to my institution for another three years due to their generosity in helping me obtain my Ph.D.

In being let go, that obligation disappeared.  I realized I was free to write and that I could retire from the daily 40-hour week grind.

I am now writing to my heart’s content.  My future isn’t nailed down yet, but that’s okay for the moment.

Today, I looked at my planner and the list I created on July 1, my monthly To-Do list, which were mostly creative writing tasks.  Sadly, I realized I’ve not accomplished one thing on that list so far this month . . . with one exception.  I know I still have time to accomplish the rest of the list this month due to that one item.

The last entry read:  Open a way for me to do more writing.

The Universe does answer.

Projected Thoughts

Mackinac Island is one of my favorite places in Michigan and the island became more special once I learned that the all-time classical time-travel movie, Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed there.  The island is magical in that no automobiles are allowed, except for the fire trucks.  Transportation are bicycles or horse-drawn carts and wagons.  In winter, the 500 or so residents travel by snow mobile.

 

My first summer visit to the island was with my first husband and our two daughters.  We were typical fudgies, staying in the downtown area, taking in all the typical visitor sites, including the fort and a short hike up to the Grand Hotel.  Then, visitors could go inside and look around, and even sit on the porch.  Now visitors have to pay a fee for that privilege if they aren’t staying at the hotel.

 

I visited the island throughout the years, several times, and always with a friend.  Often we would rent bicycles where we would travel around the island and follow all the inland trails.

 

The last time I visited, I fulfilled my bucket-list wish and stayed at the Grand Hotel.  While I couldn’t say much about our view from our room (a back roof), the food was fantastic, with the luxury of sitting on the porch.

 

During our stay, my friend went in search of the labyrinth.  I wanted to sit on the front lawn, where there is a lovely fountain and where the lawn was the location for the Somewhere in Time when the main characters, Richard and Elise, are reunited one last time, breaking the barrier of time.  Several benches sat on the lawn, circling this fountain, and allowing me a view of the famous stairs, leading up to the hotel.

 

I had just sat down, fully enjoying the sounds of the birds and water splashing, when a young boy, about eight or ten, and his grandmother sat on a bench opposite of me.  The grandmother appeared tired, probably looking for a break from this energetic, active child.  He talked constantly to her and she would reply in monosyllables.  Then, he started throwing rocks into the fountain and at the birds, becoming destructive and disregarding nature.

 

I didn’t want to leave, and I was feeling that they were intruding on the loveliness of the landscape.  Minimally, the boy was intruding.

 

Not wanting to leave and wanting the quiet back, I began project thoughts to the boy:  Grandma, I’m bored, I want to leave.  This isn’t fun anymore.  Let’s go.

 

I kept repeating those thoughts, projecting them toward the boy.  Several minutes passed, and lo and behold, I heard the boy say, “Grandma, I’m bored.  Let’s go somewhere else.”

 

Without another word, she rose from the bench, and they held hands as they moved on.

 

The quiet I had been seeking returned.

Randy Aalbregtse – Classmate & Neighbor

His name was Randy.   He was and still is, despite his far-too early death, a beloved classmate.  He was positivity personified, and he always had a smile for everyone.

From second grade through sixth grade, he was my neighbor.

However, we never spoke during that time.  Not once that I recall.  My brother was the same age as his younger brother, Kevin.  There were probably a total of a dozen of us kids in the immediate neighborhood and I would play hide-and-go-seek, baseball, climb trees, and ride bikes with all of them, but Randy never played with us.  Instead, he was always alone with his basketball: dribbling, spinning, jumping and sinking, or tossing from afar.

He would play for hours at a time.  By himself.  Once in a while, in the evening, he and his father, John, would play one-on-one.  There was always a lot of laughter then and John, who was far taller, appeared to block a good number of throws.  But Randy would find ways to skirt around his father and sink the ball with a layup.

I could see Randy playing from my bedroom window, when I was sitting in the yard reading, or when I was roller skating, usually by myself and on the only sidewalk in the neighborhood that ran across one long yard, located on the opposite side of Randy’s house.  It appeared he was as much a loner as I, if not more so.

When my family moved away from the neighborhood, as he and I were entering sixth grade or middle school as it was called then, I don’t recall seeing Randy again until high school.  By then, he was as tall as his father, a thinner version, and all arms and legs.  He played basketball and became one of the best players the school ever had.  Naturally, he hung out with other basketball players, all equally tall and equally enthusiastic about the sport.

I was quiet, never talking with others in the halls but always thinking about the next class, making sure I had my books, my homework, and such.  It wasn’t in my nature to talk to anyone unless they spoke to me first, and even though I would walk by this group of players every day, words were never exchanged.  Plus, I rarely attended extra-curriculum school events.  I was shy.  Extremely shy.

Time passed.  We graduated.  More time passed.  Our class held a few class reunions, some I helped organize, some I didn’t.  I moved away and then returned to the area.  I had become more outgoing and found it easier to start conversations with people, strangers or not.  It was during that time, that reunion, that I had a chance to chat with Randy and his first words seeing me, accompanied with that infectious grin of his, were, “Hi, neighbor.”

Every reunion thereafter, he greeted me the same way.  “Hi, neighbor.”

And then he became sick, but he never missed a reunion.  He attended one with a cane.  The next time was with crutches.  His smile never changed regardless of his declining health.

October 4, 2012

And then he died.  I saw the obituary and wasn’t able to attend his Celebration of Life that a number of our classmates attended, but I thought about him that entire weekend.

A few months passed.

As was my habit, I came home from work, had dinner, then came into my living room combination office, and turned the knob on my floor lamp, to turn it on.

The knob always required a hard twist, as it was stiff and didn’t turn easily.

This night, though, the knob turned easily, too easily.  In fact, the light wouldn’t stay on.  I puzzled over the problem.  No one had been in the apartment.  No one other than me was using the lamp, so what was different?

Carefully, I twisted the knob to on, finally getting the light to come on, and I started to step away.  The light went out.  Over and over, I tried to get the light to stay on.  And every time I had it on and would start to move away, it would go out.  The knob was so loose, it was difficult to find that small range where the light would even come on, as I could spin it back and forth easily trying to search that perfect on position, where the light would say on.

For several nights, this scenario played out.  After about ten minutes, my frustration got the better of me.  I started swearing.  I couldn’t get the light to stay on, no matter what I did.

And then I heard him.  His laugh.  And the word, “neighbor.”

“Randy?”

More laughter.

“You think this is funny, don’t you?”

I could feel his grin.  “Yes!” he responded.

“Okay, you can stay but stop playing with my lamp.”  I reached up to try to turn the light on and discovered that the hard familiar twist had returned.  I tested it several times.  On and off.  On and off.  Each time, I had to twist the knob hard.  (And ever since, the knob has never changed from this hard twist.)

“Thank you,” I told him, but he was gone.  I couldn’t sense him around anymore.  He’d had his fun and I sensed he was off to have fun with someone else, somewhere else.

Move ahead to July 2014—class reunion weekend

As typical of our reunions, we have both a Friday night casual get-together and a more formal reunion on Saturday night with dinner and a band.   For the first time, I attended the Friday night casual get-together.   I had a chance to chat with Roger, a great friend of Randy’s, along with being a former basketball player with him.  During previous reunions, if I saw Randy, Roger was always right there beside him.  On that night, I felt Randy was there, having a grand time seeing so many of the coaches and teachers who were in attendance.

After I dropped off my high school best friend, I drove home thinking about the conversations, the people I had seen, many of whom wouldn’t be in attendance the next evening.

Then, I sensed a presence with me in the car.  I heard, “Tell him.”

“Randy?”

“Tell Roger, this and whitey.”

I couldn’t make out what the this word was, but I saw Randy’s fists together and then moving away from each other.  He kept repeating the motion, but I couldn’t understand what the word was.

Randy relayed a number to me, too, what sounded like 6 or 16.  I couldn’t tell which.  I wanted to look in our old yearbooks to see Randy’s basketball shirt had been numbered, but since I had destroyed my books years ago, my curiosity would have to wait.

“Tell him!  He’ll know that it’s me.  That I’m here.”

“Okay.”

A long time ago, not having given Kathy’s husband a message she wanted delivered, I had vowed never to not give someone a message being delivered from someone on the other side, no matter how silly or ridiculous it could make me appear.

The next night, Saturday, I saw Roger sitting at a table, alone at the moment, so I joined him.  I told him I had a message to give him, from another classmate, but I didn’t say who.

“I’m supposed to tell you this”—I started making the motion with my fists pulling away from each other and returning and being pulled away again, over and over—“and whitey.”  As I kept making the hand motions, I explained, “I can’t think of the word, what the word is supposed to be.”

Roger said, “Stretch?”

“Yes!” I said excitedly.  I knew without a doubt that stretch was the correct word.  It still didn’t make sense to me, but I knew it to be right.  I knew because I could feel Randy’s grin—big and broader than ever before.

“Who is this message coming from?” he asked.

“Randy.”

He looked at me, both puzzled and in wonderment.

“Why? What does stretch mean to you?”

“That was his nickname.  We called him Stretch.”

“So what does whitey mean?”

“That’s what they call me back at Madison, where I teach and coached basketball.”  We just looked at each other.

“He’s here.  He’s here with you,” I told him.  “The message was for you.”

We talked about the numbers, but Roger couldn’t remember what Randy’s jersey number had been back in high school.  He said he would look in his yearbooks, but I’ve not heard, nor could I pull up any pictures of Randy playing, where the jersey number is visible, at least visible enough to read.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever know what these numbers meant to Randy, to Roger, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.

I’d been given a message to transmit, and I had.  Roger admitted he hadn’t been much of a believer of the beyond, but now I’d given him a lot to think about.

Once I was driving home alone, I sensed Randy was with me.  Again, I could tell he was happy knowing that Roger knew that he, Randy, had attempted communication and that they were at the reunion, together again.

She Was Playing with My Computer

So, I was at work, realizing it was the second anniversary of my sister’s death.  Eileen always enjoyed a good joke, especially if she got to play them on someone else.

I saw that the slide show that had been played at her funeral had been reposted on Facebook, so I opened it.  It began with her favorite George Strait song, Amarillo By Morning, a song that now always reminds me of her, and I do have to say, it is a great song.

Anyway, I watched the slides with Strait’s song and then there was a pause for the next song to begin.  It was at this point that I saw an e-mail coming in and I wanted to check on it, while the slide show continued.

I moved my mouse to make the move and clicked.  Nothing happened.  Nothing.

I went to diminish the slide show so I could see the e-mail program, which was behind the slide screen.  Again, I clicked, and the slide-show screen, which had been in a half-screen mode, became full screen.  Now, some of you might be thinking that I’m clicking the wrong buttons, but I wasn’t.   This time when I tried to return to the half-screen mode and the mouse clicker refused to work.

I tried to click an icon down on the bottom ribbon and the mouse icon moved to the middle of the screen.

I clicked the diminish sign and nothing happened.  I clicked it again, and the volume went up.  That’s when I began to have my suspicions about what was really going on.

No matter what I did, the mouse clicker wasn’t working.  I even tried to use the escape key and got nothing.

I couldn’t get off the screen.  No. Matter.  What.  I. Tried.  Nothing.

The thing is, I needed to return to work.

So, I called our IT Department and reported the faulty mouse, telling them that I couldn’t send them an e-mail because the mouse wasn’t working.  He asked me if there were any other mice available.  There was.  In the meantime, he’d report the failure and David, our resident IT employee, would deal with it later.

So, I unhooked the mouse and went to a neighboring computer and took that mouse and plugged it in.  It worked.  I was able to shut down the slide show and return to work.

The next day, when David stopped at my desk, I explained to him how the mouse had stopped working, particularly the left clicker.  He took it, saying he’d try it out to make sure it wasn’t working before turning it in.

Minutes later he returned.  “It works just fine.”

I told him about Eileen, saying, “She was playing with me.”

He just looked at me, smiled, and said.  “Uh, huh”

I sensed Eileen laughing, totally enjoying the joke, covering up her mouth so she wouldn’t explode.

This wasn’t the first time a computer has acted up when there was someone’s favorite music playing or when I could smell someone’s favorite food, drink, or tobacco that alerts me to the fact that I’m not alone.  Spirits love anything electrical, and they let me know they’re around by playing with my TV, cable, lights, and computers.

Have I told you the story about a neighbor and classmate who played with my writing lamp?  And who later wanted me to give a message to another classmate, a best friend of his at our last class reunion?

Lucid Dreams: My Learning Began with Dad

In the spring of 1989, I was newly married and moved with my husband and my two girls from Tallahassee, Florida to thirty-five miles north and the small farming community of Cairo, Georgia.  I enjoyed that we lived on the fringes of town, on an acre of land that was circled with slash pines and live oak trees.  One live oak was particularly huge, with one of its large limbs hanging down so low that it scraped the dirt beneath it and had begun to root there.

From the start of that move, I began to have a repetitive disturbing dream—though some might call it a nightmare.  The dream always started with my father coming to visit me in Georgia.  Our activities were always different, but they always ended with him having a heart attack, at which point I would wake up sobbing or with a horrified emotion of loss that he had died.  And yet, I never actually witnessed him dying in my dream.  I always woke up not seeing an outcome of survival or death.  I began to wonder why I was waking up then.  I think I was afraid to know.  I was retelling this dream to a good friend and screenwriter, Kelley Essoe, who in turn told me about lucid dreams.  She was quite knowledgeable in the topic, and I found the topic fascinating, and I wanted to learn more.  Basically, lucid dreams occur with awareness of dreaming and being able to remain in the dream, participating and observing.

As the dreams continued, my goal was to see the outcome, if there was one, or to determine if there was a hidden message.  The process was difficult at first, and I would wake up almost as soon as I became cognizant that I was dreaming.  Over time, I was able to stay in the dream longer, going further each time, even if for a moment or few seconds; and, I saw myself reacting to the heart attack.  I began to notice how my first reaction of panic and emotion became cool, calm, and skillful, much like those of a paramedic or first responder.

In the fall of 1989, the dream stopped.  Several months passed and the dream never returned.  The outcome remained a mystery and life went on.

In March 1991, my father—a man who could be quite stubborn—came to visit me in Georgia.  He said he wanted to play golf in Georgia, knowing Michigan was still cold and deep in snow.  My oldest daughter, a high school freshman, and I took him to Disney World in Orlando, where on our last day there, we met my brother and spent a fun, happy, long day.  My brother, who lived in Florida, returned home that night.  We stayed in Orlando, planning to visit Cape Canaveral on our way home.

A diabetic, who took pills to control the disease, Dad spent the day sampling ice cream, sugared soft drinks, and other forbidden foods.  I didn’t think too much about it as Dad’s habit was to drink a malt on a near-daily basis and not mind his diet as carefully as he should have.  Plus, he was a pipe smoker, a habit he refused to give up.

About two in the morning, I woke up, hearing a strange sound.  He was sitting in the chair by the window, in the dark, moaning a little.  Sensing I was awake, he stopped moaning.  “I think it’s my heart,” he said.

I started to get up.  He stopped me.

“It’s just heartburn.  I ate the wrong foods today, more than I should have, and now I’m paying for it.”

Those moans didn’t sound like heartburn, but I’d never had heartburn before, so what did I know?  “Are you sure?” I asked.

“It’s going away.  Go back to sleep.”  He convinced me that he was fine.  I figured if the problem was truly serious, he would have told me so.

The next morning, he and I woke up about the same time.  He started getting up, stating he’d use the bathroom first.  Halfway there, he passed out, falling to the floor, hitting his head against the wall.

“Dad!”

I leapt out of bed, waking my daughter who had shared the second double bed with me.  I rushed to his side.  He came to, opening his eyes.  On the floor, looking up at me, he said, “What happened?”

“You passed out.”

He looked at me, studying me.  I studied him, knowing full well what had happened.  He had had a heart attack in the middle of the night, convinced me otherwise, and he would do the same thing again now.  He was that stubborn.

Instinctively, I knew it would be useless to fight him.  Ten years earlier he’d had cancer in his leg, had it surgically removed telling no one, not even his wife, my stepmother, what was really wrong until five years later when he got the okay that he was cancer-free.  Even then, he had slipped up, which had me asking pointed questions where he finally revealed the information.

In that moment, I knew, for whatever reason he denied the attack as I had witnessed it, there was no way I would be able to convince him to get into an ambulance or be allowed to drive him to a nearby hospital as long as he was conscious and able to say no.  I knew as sure as we were staring at each other that he would say no, thus I had only one option.

Calmly, I said, “We’re skipping the side-trip.  We’re going home.”

Immediately, I could see Dad’s expression and body relax.  I knew I couldn’t  mention heart attack or ask about his health, either.  I knew he’d lie about it if I did, telling me he was fine, even though he was still flat on the floor.  I had to get him home, my home, which was typically a five-hour drive from Orlando.  That goal was my only thought for the moment.  We had to get on the road, immediately.  I’d figure out the rest as we went along.

“Okay,” he said.  I helped him up and he went into the bathroom.  I turned to Carrie and could see the fear in her face.  I knew I had to stay calm for her.  I knew her well enough that she would follow my example.  Without revealing what I already knew, I told her that we needed to get home so that he could see a doctor.  By the time Dad exited the bathroom, Carrie and I were dressed and had everything packed and in the car.

Rather than going through central Florida on a highway that meant going through a number of small communities, I chose a main highway where there were help telephones strung along the way.  If anything happened on the drive home, I knew I could get help via these roadside phones.  Cell phones were still an expensive novelty, and it would be several years before I had one.

Less than an hour into the drive, Dad insisted that we stop at a restaurant for breakfast.  Mentally, I considered saying no and immediately heard his unspoken argument.  I wanted to say no because we were making good time, but I couldn’t risk fighting him.  He said that he wanted some coffee.  I figured that his blood sugar was probably becoming an issue because he hadn’t had any as was his normal morning routine.  As much as I didn’t want to say yes, I did.  It’s what he wanted, so my goal was to maintain calm, keeping everything relatively normal for the moment, which was more important than the loss of a little time it would take to get us on our way again.

We stopped and were seated.  I had noticed a pay phone in the hall, next to the bathrooms, when we entered the restaurant.  Once we had ordered, I said I needed to use the bathroom.  Out of Dad’s sight, I called my husband, telling him that I thought Dad had had a heart attack and that he was to make a doctor’s appointment for Dad, giving him the time I estimated we’d be home.  I hung up the phone and return to the booth just as breakfast arrived.  Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road again.  A normal five-hour drive became a much shortened three-hour trip.  Thankfully, there was little traffic on the two major highways we traveled.  Just as we arrived at Cairo’s city limits, I told Dad that I’d made a doctor’s appointment for him when we had stopped for breakfast.  I also told him that he had no choice; he was going.

“I won’t argue with that,” he said.  He was a smart man; he knew when to choose his battles, too.

Half an hour later, the doctor called me into the consulting room.  Dad sat there, in a chair against the wall, looking small and lost.  The doctor confirmed that Dad was either having a heart attack or had already had one.  I looked at Dad and he started crying.  We both knew it was the latter.  I told him it was okay, that everything would be fine.  Not happy by any means, Dad conceded to the doctor’s direction that he enter the hospital for testing as it wasn’t safe for him to fly home unless he did so.

Carrie, Dad, and I got back in the car, and we drove the few blocks to the hospital.  Once there, Dad opened his door and took out his pipe.  “I’m going to smoke it, so don’t say a word,” he said.  The three of us made small talk while he smoked for about five minutes, which felt like an eternity.

Once in the hospital, he was wheel-chaired away, while I stayed in the front office to get him admitted.  Dad had given me his wallet before he had disappeared down the hall, so I was able to provide the needed insurance information.  I sat by the admittance clerk and Carrie sat on the floor next to me.  Just minutes into the admittance process, a good friend and neighbor, Rick, who was an anesthesiologist at the hospital and for whom Carrie babysit his kids, saw us and came over, asking what we were doing there.  That’s when I lost it.  I started crying, saying that Dad had had a heart attack.  Carrie began crying, too.  We were finally in a safe place.

Rick patted me on the shoulder, saying that he’d go see what was going on.  “It’s going to be okay.”

Finally, the paperwork was done.  Rick returned and told us that we could see Dad now, but to keep it short for now.  Carrie chose to wait while I went into his room.  I found Dad secured in bed, hooked up to machines and tubes.  Before I could say a word, he said, “You did the right thing.”  He admitted that he had been prepared to die on the way home, because he wasn’t about to inconvenience me or my family by being hospitalized so far away from my hometown.  “I didn’t want it any other way.”

In that moment, I knew why I’d had those dreams of his attack:  I had been prepared for the task it would take and the stoic but determined calm I needed in order to get my father to a safe place that was acceptable to him.  To have argued with him, to have cried or fallen apart, to have reacted any differently than I had could have and probably would have created very different results.  His own stubborn concern about my daughter and me, which would have stressed him even further, was more important to him than his own health.

I knew what to do because I performed exactly as I had in those dreams from two years earlier, dreams that hadn’t been dreams at all.  They had been practice drills.

Synchronicity – When the Universe Speaks, I’ve Learned to Listen

Too often, in our desire to be in control, we miss opportunities or messages that can lead us in the right direction.  Recently, I found myself once again amazed at the simplicity of observing synchronicity at work, which has led me to my next big project that fills me with great enthusiasm.  .

At the end of January, I was approached by the Program Director for the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America chapter, of which I am a member and was asked if I would be willing to do the February (mid-month) presentation on time management.  My first response was to say no based on the number of various deadlines I was facing at work, home, and other personal issues, plus feeling I was dragging my feet—okay procrastinating!—with my own creative writing projects.  Bottom line: I didn’t think I could add one more item to my plate.

Immediately though, I realized I NEEDED to do the presentation.  For me to get a handle on my own procrastination and current time-management issues, what better way to reinforce the material than to teach it?  After all, we retain 100% of what we teach.

So, I said yes.

The week before, I had found an article on the science of why we writers procrastinate, plus I had a couple of other brain science philosophies that I teach to my English composition students that I thought would be interesting in showing the why behind our procrastination.  Relatively quickly, I had several pages of notes put together for the presentation.

Delighted by that work and feeling better about moving past my procrastinating ways, I decided to tackle my piles of creative-writing projects that had been neglected for past 15 years while I was in school and began the tedious task of putting two major bookshelves right.  I sorted piles of loose papers, marrying scraps of papers with notes that contained brilliant flashes of ideas for a project—or in this case, many projects—along with articles saved, to the appropriate projects.

In that process of cleaning up those shelves and projects, I discovered a notebook entitled, Time Management for Writers.  Lo and behold, I had written a book 20 years ago on the very topic I was going to be discussing that weekend!  I’ve always been passionate about the topic and here was early evidence of that passion.

Of course, the writing was crap.  After all, I’d written it two decades prior.  Thumbing through the material, I could see that my growth of understanding about the topic and my writing ability were far removed from manuscript that looked as if it had been printed on a early Tandy computer.

But what a find!

So, here I was needing help when synchronicity struck, bringing all the required elements together and re-igniting my passion so that once again the winds of the gathering spring is loosening the winter of my procrastination.

My sister, Eileen, who lets us know she’s still around

My sister, Eileen, died on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.  In reality, I think she really died a couple days earlier—on Sunday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

At 4 a.m. that Sunday morning, my phone rang.  I shot straight up, turned on the light, put on my glasses, and looked at the caller I.D.  Not recognizing the number, I debated whether to answer the phone or not, then thought, it could be an emergency.  It was.

My nephew, Lee, informed me that his mother had been taken to Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall, having had a cardiac arrest a couple hours earlier, but was now being transferred to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, where I lived.  For her to be transferred, I knew it wasn’t good, but I kept that feeling to myself.

Lee asked if I could go to the hospital to be with her until he and the rest of the family could get there, which he figured would be another hour.  I figured it to be at least two.  For me, Bronson was only fifteen minutes away.

I grabbed my purse, and a bag, throwing in a snack, water, a book, the dissertation chapter that I was currently editing, and my iPad, which was turned off, with all apps closed as was my habit, as it had been parked for its nightly recharge.

When I arrived at the hospital, it was quiet and dark, with halls devoid of activity.  I ended up in a dark waiting room, where I turned on one light so as to not awaken two women sleeping on two couches of the three couches on one side of the room.

On my side of the room, where there were a few chairs, I sensed that I wasn’t alone.  I looked around and even got up to check the hall but no one was there.  Moments later, I heard classical music playing.  I found the music comforting as classical music was my favorite type of music.  Then I heard an Adagio that was one of my favorites.  And then another.

 Once again, I sensed Eileen was in the room, but this time right next to me.  All of sudden, I realized that the music wasn’t coming from the overhead speakers but that the music was coming from my bag.

I pulled out my iPad and opened it.  No application was open or turned on, and yet the machine was playing my favorite downloaded music.  I had to open the app in order to turn it off.

“Eileen?  Are you here?” I whispered.  Immediately, I felt her grin, and then she was gone.

Eileen was well aware of my intuitive abilities, as I had told a few stories about it, but that nearly ten years early.  At the time, I didn’t think she, or the rest of my family, really believed it all.  So, I didn’t talk about much with them after that.

The family began to arrive and the prognosis wasn’t good.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that she died at 2 a.m. when the cardiac arrest had occurred.  While I sensed Lee, her second oldest child and second son, understood exactly what was happening, his brother, Bill, and three sisters—Lacy, Cathy, and Sarah—were in denial, grasping any little sign upon which to hang their hope.

Normally, I’m not one to hang around a hospital for hours upon end, but in that moment, I knew that I wasn’t really there for Eileen in seeing her recover.  Instead, I knew I was there to help her kids accept her death and make the needed transition, but I wasn’t quite sure how I could do it until finally Eileen began the conversation in a major attention-getting way later, as I was going home that night.

That entire Sunday was a day of sadness and hope for these kids, and I could see their hope flagging a little as they first talked about the reality, their fear of losing her, and then their return to hope that the doctors were wrong.  Lee was the only one of the five who believed, like me, that she was already gone.

A big family, with my sister and her friend, Lee and his wife, her sister and mother, and Eileen’s other four children, their father, plus myself, we filled most all of the seats in the room.  Three other women, strangers to us, were in the corner, with one quietly talking on her cell phone.  My three nieces were at the point of trying to convince themselves that their mother was returning to consciousness, stating as much, when all of a sudden the woman on the phone said, quite loudly, “No, I’m NOT!”

The girls’ conversation stopped immediately, their heads turned in unison to the woman who had spoken.  Realizing the woman was on the phone, the girls laughed and dismissed the outburst, but right away I knew that was Eileen speaking to her kids through that woman.  While to everyone else, the outburst looked coincidental, I knew differently.  Eileen was listening to their conversation and wanted them to come to grips of her death and was finding any way possible to tell them otherwise.  The timing of that woman’s response may have appeared coincidental, but it wasn’t.  Even one of the girls said it had sounded like Eileen.  I wanted to tell them what had occurred, but I sensed they weren’t ready to hear it, yet.  I knew there would be an opportunity to refer back to this incident later.

Conversation went back to their hope and other aspects of their own lives that they had put on hold for the time being.

Later that evening, as I drove home, I heard Eileen tell me, “Ask them about the rose ips.”

“Rose hips?”

“No, rose ips?”

“Rose lips?”

“No, rose ips.”

“ What?”

“Just do it,” she said.

Once home, I called one of the two girls who was staying overnight in the hospital, asking what they knew about rose hips or rose lips, but they didn’t have a clue.  I told them that I would see them in the morning.

Monday, February 11, 2013

When I arrived at the hospital the next morning, I asked if they had uncovered the meaning, but they hadn’t.  They told me that their father, Tim, would be arriving shortly, wondering if he would know.

When Tim arrived, they asked him about the rose lips or rose hips, and he shook his head, not knowing.  Then, I said, “Could it be rose tits?”

He burst out laughing saying it was Eileen’s favorite phrase when she got mad at him, making reference to his previous wives who had been well-endowed.  The kids were fascinated that their mother had found a way to communicate with their father.  They wanted to know more, what to listen for, how to listen, what could they expect to hear, and yet I knew they didn’t truly believe that she had died.  They felt that she was still alive but was able to communicate, but I knew differently.

Having remembered my stories from years ago, they questioned me.  To place the stories in a safe context for them, I shared some of my experiences that included my father playing with my TV after he had died a few years back.  They had loved their grandfather and knew how he had a history of repairing TVs and computers.  They asked if there were others way that the dead communicated with me and I was able to share a few stories of hearing them, smelling specific scents associated with them, like a pot-roast or brownies baking in the oven, and like their grandfather’s pipe tobacco.

They asked if they’d be able to see signs, so I told them the various ways the deceased can communicate with us.  They were interested and even spoke of doing some research on the subject.

The conversation turned and the day was filled with routine, lunch, and then a conversation with the doctor who told the family there didn’t appear to be any brain activity, but that the hospital wanted to run a few other tests to make sure.  The results wouldn’t be ready until later that night, probably the next day.  Throughout the day, two at a time, family members would go sit by Eileen’s bed and keep her company.

At one point, my sister, Monica, and Eileen’s good friend were in Eileen’s room talking about Eileen’s doll collection.  Monica was telling the friend about how Eileen would hold tea parties all the time, when we were growing up and how those dolls meant everything to her.

Unbeknownst to me, Eileen had a partial.  Upon her admittance, it had been removed and placed in a small cup of water that had a lid.  As they were talking about these tea parties, the lid had flown off the cup and flew across the room.  When I walked in the room about five minutes later, they told me what had happened.  With teeth representing talking or eating, it was Eileen’s way of saying that she wanted to join the conversation!

Monica shared the experience with the family and the Eileen stories began.  A sense of celebration had begun.

That night as I was driving home, once again, Eileen made her presence known.  “Ask about the giraffe explosion.”

“The what?”

“Giraffe explosion!”

“Giraffe explosion?  That doesn’t make sense!  Could you make it any more difficult?

I heard her laughing.

“You’re testing me, aren’t you?”

“Yes!”  And she was gone.

The minute I got home, I texted one of the girls who was staying at the hospital.  She’d didn’t know and everyone else was gone, at the moment.  We’d talk in the morning.

 Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The next morning was a repeat of the morning before.  None of the girls knew what giraffe explosion meant.  Their father arrived and they asked him.  He started laughing and told the story of a family trip to the zoo, where he’d gone into the gift shop to buy something for the kids.  Knowing he couldn’t buy just one giraffe, he came out with an armful of giraffes, one for each of the kids.  He said that Eileen had taken one look and had burst out laughing, shaking her head.

More stories were shared, and then later, at a point when it was only the three girls and I in the room, one of the girls asked me point-blank what I thought was happening to their mother.  I was able to tell them that I thought she had already died before she ever got to the hospital.  I was able to talk about my music playing on its own, and how the outburst of a stranger had fit perfectly into their conversation, sounding very much like their mother.

At that point, one of them asked, “She’s staying here because it’s what we want, isn’t it?”  They turned to each other, the truth in their eyes.

“We have to let her go, don’t we?”

One of them answered, saying that they did and that they’d have to help their oldest brother come to same resolution because of all of the kids, he was struggling the most.  In that moment, I knew the kids would be okay.  Later, the doctor confirmed that indeed Eileen was gone, there was no brain activity.  As the family began to arrive, the decision was made to pull her off life support that afternoon.  One by one, the family went in to say goodbye.

In the meantime, I needed to travel back to Marshall, a 45-minute drive, to tell my mother what was going on, as she was too ill to travel, and up until then didn’t know the seriousness of Eileen’s condition.  One of Eileen’s daughters had posted what was going to occur on Facebook, and we didn’t want an inadvertent call made to Mom before she was told by one of us in person.

I was halfway there, when all of a sudden, I fell goosebumps travel all the way to the top of my head, down to the tips of my toes, back up to my head and down to my toes again.  Then, it felt as if my spine was rising out of my body, going straight out of the back of my head.  Then, I felt this euphoric relief.

I looked at my watch: 4:37 p.m.  I sensed that I had just experienced Eileen’s death and her soul leaving her body.

About twenty minutes later, I called Lee’s wife, Heather, who said she was just getting ready to call me.  Before she could say anything more, I told her what I had felt and the time I felt it.  She replied, “That’s exactly when Eileen died.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eileen’s funeral was truly a celebration that included a drive to the ceremony and a brief prayer.  The day was miserably cold with deep clouds and thin, sporadic snowfalls.  The moment the prayer was over, a small hole appeared in the clouds where we could see blue sky and the sun shining brightly down on us, just a small portion of the crematory where we stood.  And then the hole quickly disappeared.  It was a dramatic moment noticed by all, with a few voices saying, “It’s Eileen.”

Since then

Eileen still makes her presence know from time to time, flipping lids off containers, her faint image in pictures taken since her death.  She leaves significant messages with her kids.  Even as I write this blog, I sense her here, delighted that she’s in the spotlight again, a place she enjoyed and thrived.

By no means is she forgotten, not with the legacy of life she’s left behind, nor does she allow us to forget.