A few weeks after publishing Surviving In Spirit: A Memoir about Sisterhood and Addiction, I received the following message via Facebook:
Hey! This may be the weirdest email you get today and I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure your sister is trying to get a message to you. I’m not a psychic but I have the ability in some capacity. My mom is able to talk to the other side and I just conferred with her. I was trying not to say anything but sometimes it’s impossible. Here’s my cell if you feel like talking…
As a non-religious person skeptical of anything otherworldly, I’ve never consulted a psychic, nor taken my horoscope seriously. On the rare occasion a friend insists on reading Astrology Zone aloud to me (I’m a Leo), I end up twitching between over-excitement (“You are capable of making quite a bit of money this month!”) and utter befuddlement (“An unusually sweet new moon…will energize your eighth house”) before resigning myself to the fact that a vague predictive outline is just that—even where seemingly accurate. Isn’t it senseless to group humans’ destinies into one of twelve blurry forecasts dependent upon the calendar day on which they were born? Isn’t it yet more senseless to pay a stranger to supply impossible-to-verify hints about what the future may or may not hold?
All of that said, how could I not call the lady claiming to be in touch with my deceased older sister?
Equipped with a pen and paper — for doodling in case of boredom, or for the writing down of mind-boggling revelations, I wasn’t quite sure — I dialed the alleged medium’s number. No one answered, which was both unexpected and unexpectedly frustrating. How long does a gal have to wait for a line to the other side?
Apparently, about an hour.
When my phone finally rang, I braced myself to be under- or overwhelmed.
At first, I was mostly struck by how easily our conversation flowed — as if we were close friends catching up after a lengthy absence. It turns out that we both had Lyme disease as young adults, and worked in finance right out of college. Were these similarities somehow to account for the medium’s as yet revealed insights?
Eager to get down to business, I said, “So you’re in contact with Céline?”
The medium explained that the second after she finished reading my book, her phone vibrated off the table. Though comforted by her willingness to admit that she had read my work, I doubted that a vibrating phone could qualify as mystical symbolism. Nevertheless, I encouraged her to go on.
“I had the distinct feeling that your sister was present,” she said. “Then, the next morning, my husband came back from the garage to ask why all of his car windows and the sun roof were wide open in 20-degree weather.”
“You think my sister did that?”
“Yes. And since I didn’t really want your sister’s spirit lingering in the house, I knew I had to consult my mom, who’s an experienced medium, whereas I’m less comfortable with my connection.”
“I see,” I said, officially intrigued.
After providing her mom with a few details about me and the book I had written, my amateur psychic friend got the full report: “Céline is really happy and she wants you guys to know that she’s at peace. She was a stranger here on Earth and that feeling of being a stranger was too much for her to bear. Her only sadness now is that she’s sorry for what she put you guys through, especially your mom.”
These statements, however recognizably hazy, triggered tears. It didn’t matter that nothing impressively insightful had been said. I was crying — and it felt good, mostly.
She continued, “There was a man in her life whose names starts with a D. A lover, maybe? David?”
“Damien,” I sniffled. “Our little brother.”
“She wants to say that she’s really sorry to him for everything too — for what she put him through.”
By this point I was weeping, because it made so much sense that Céline would specifically mention my mom and brother. While Dad and I have proactively pursued measures to cope with Céline’s death — he through religion and therapy, me through writing — it would be fair to say that my brother and mother have struggled a lot more.
“There’s lots of music around her. It’s orchestral!” the medium added.
“She adored music,” I confirmed, barely caring that I’d mentioned my sister’s musical prowess in Surviving In Spirit.
“Céline was beyond this life,” the medium said, her tone dauntingly soothing. “Your sister’s brilliance was too much even for the people who loved her. She couldn’t help herself. It was in no way at all your family’s fault.”
Emotionally exhausted, but also relieved, I asked whether there was anything else I should know.
As if directly addressing my inner skeptic, the amateur medium assured me that she had tested her mother by asking her about Céline’s appearance. (She herself had seen the photographs of Céline and me published in the book). Reportedly, mama medium knew that Céline had shoulder length brown hair, and that “she didn’t wear makeup, and never cared.”
“Thank you,” I said. “This has been wonderful.”
Since that phone call, I can’t claim an official spiritual conversion. I doubt I will ever pay money to speak to a psychic or a medium (the one who contacted me did so out of kindness, free of charge), and I don’t plan to start reading my horoscope regularly. But if a tarot card reader is stationed at an event I attend, as in the case of a recent bridal shower, I will jump at the opportunity to sit with them.
Lately, I am also more open to signs — fully aware that once you start looking, you are bound to find them: in the mysterious dark brown hair clinging to the washing machine; in the toothless, bald panhandler’s choice to sing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” one of Céline’s all-time favorites; and in the odd way a street lamp is reflected on a building’s glass façade so that two “walk” figures are visible, one looming above the other, as if protecting her forever. Each of these discrete, meaningful or silly symbols has left me smiling.
In the end, I didn’t need the medium’s words to be unequivocally true. Or proof that she had interacted with my sister. What I needed, without knowing it, was the sense that Céline’s energy — her spirit, I suppose — might still be circulating this world.