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 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.