She Was Playing with My Computer

So, I was at work, realizing it was the second anniversary of my sister’s death (Feb 12, 2013).  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, 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.  Not even CTRL+ALT+DELETE. 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 into my computer.  It worked.  I was able to shut down the slide show and return to work.

I continued working with the substitute mouse the rest of the day.

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, and added, “She must have been 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.

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.

“Kathy?”

“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.