Sunday, October 30, 2011
Taking a Trip to the Spirit World
This past Friday evening, my sister and I attended a demonstration given by a psychic medium. I have to say, even though I've written a book-and-a-half revolving around the paranormal, I'm a bit of a skeptic at heart, though the Fox Mulder in me wants to believe. My sister seemed excited, and had invited me to attend this past summer during a family picnic. Perhaps it was the summer beverages, or too much of my father's barbecued kielbasa, but I remember eagerly agreeing, not giving much though or credence to the production. What the heck, a nice time out with my sister.
Months passed, and there we were, waiting in line to fill the small theater. It was packed, sold out, and I could tell from the look of the crowd, there were far more believers than non-believers. I was unexpectedly nervous, not the Edgar Allan Poe "nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous," but just plain nervous. I had no excuse for this agitation.
We filtered in, grabbing two seats in the center. The show began and the medium explained how things would work, no cellphones, keep bathroom breaks to a minimum...and then we meditated. One audience-goer fell asleep (no, it wasn't me).
Then it was showtime.
The medium explained she heard voices, saw images, smelled, tasted, touched. Apparently, earlier in the day she had scribbled notes as spirits paid her visits, including many dogs. This puzzled me. How did the spirits in the other dimension (as she put it) know who was to attend this evening? Dogs? All dogs go to heaven? Was that really true?
I had not done my homework, as my sister pointed out. I was supposed to fill the past week with thoughts of loved ones that I wished would communicate with me. Oops. Missed that memo. I decided to close my eyes and do the Spark Notes version. I think I may have even audibly hummed. I remember my sister smacking my arm. I tried to recall the smell of my grandmother's pasta sauce bubbling basil and garlic into the air, tried to recall my best friend's last words, the name of our first dog (Sophie), etc. But no readings came our way.
It was undeniably fascinating, however, to watch the impact of the medium's words on other members of the audience. At one point, the skeptic crept back in my head as the psychic seemed to manipulate the conversation. "Mahoney? Is there a Mahoney, or does that name mean anything to anyone?"
"I'm Mahoney," said a young man, raising his hand.
"Interesting, interesting," the psychic continued. "Irish, yes? Someone has a deep Irish accent, trying to get into the conversation I'm hearing."
My eyes rolled in my head. Mahoney... Irish, eh? No kidding, that's a stretch.
But then there were moments where the (pardon the cliche) hair stood up on the back of my neck. The psychic was pulling names, habits, events, dates... all undeniably real to the family members present. She provided images and fragments of connection between the spiritual plane and our own.
"Are you redoing a kitchen?" asked the psychic.
"Yes," the daughter replied.
"Did you use a staple gun to hammer in a nail? or use the wrong tool to do something."
"Well, your father was there, and he didn't like that."
Moments like that made me take pause, made me consider that perhaps there was something more out there.
Two-and-a-half hours flew by. I walked my sister to her car, we said goodbye, and parted ways.
On the drive home I considered the experience. I found myself drifting back to the day of my best friend's funeral. I had been left with much of the responsibility for making the arrangements, lining up a church, organizing music, helping the family. He had been a teacher for thirty-one years, well-liked, well-respected. Over his teaching career he had amassed a huge collection of ties (mostly ugly, on purpose) and the family had decided to distribute them at the wake, so that those attending the funeral could wear them in honor of his memory. I snagged one of his favorites, draped it over my shoulder, and prepared for the next day.
The week leading up to the funeral was fraught with mishaps. Nothing fell into place, and I felt like things were not going as he would have wished. For instance, he had told me before he passed, that he had wanted a small gathering, but instead, we found ourselves in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Norwich, CT, hundreds of mourners present. So much for a small circle of friends.
After the funeral, my wife and I decided to swing by the supermarket to pick up something for dinner. We were both exhausted, so I told her to wait in the car. I walked in, still dressed in funeral attire, my friend's sunrise tie still snug around my neck, and I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad, like i had screwed something up, and I jokingly asked aloud, "Well, Ed, I did the best I could, if things were okay, send me a sign."
Somehow, lost in my thoughts, I had wandered all the way down to the dairy aisle, and realizing yogurt for dinner was a bad choice, I spun around, and that's when I saw him.
It was an unmistakable image of a large man, barreling down the front of the store, making a beeline straight in my direction. I can't remember his facial features except to say that he wore a large smile. His arms swung rhythmically at his sides, as though marching in step during a parade. I froze to the spot, the little plastic basket swaying in my grip. I remember thinking, is he going to stop, should I step aside?
As if in answer, he did stop, just a foot away from me. He pointed his finger at my chest and said, "Now that's a great tie!"
I remember my eyes tearing, my throat closing a bit. "Thanks," I finally choked out.
And he was on his way, down around the corner, disappearing past the cartons of milk. It took me a few seconds to recover. I remember striding down the aisle, moving quickly from one side of the store to the other.
There was no sign of the man.
He had simply disappeared.