by Diane Chamberlain
I tell this story often to friends and acquaintances and anyone else who will listen because a) it fascinates me and b) I want someone to explain it away. So I offer it here in the hope that someone can explain it away.
Here's the story.
About six years ago, I had dinner with my friend, Joyce, who mentioned that she went to a psychic (I'll call him Reverend Bob), which I thought was a ridiculous thing to do. I don't believe (or at least, I didn't) in psychic abilities, ghosts, heaven or hell, or mind reading (although I do have a profound belief in the Divine, but that's a different discussion). Joyce described her experience to me this way:
"Reverend Bob's the minister of a metaphysical church. I went in and they handed me a note card and I wrote the names of two people I wanted him to get in touch with. Then Reverend Bob held his hand over the note card and went into a sort of trance. Then he told me about the people on the card. By name. He was in touch with my father and . . . "
I couldn't believe my friend was so stupid to fall for this nonsense, but I was also intrigued. How did he figure out what names she'd written on the card?
The very next night, I had a Match.com date with a guy who, it turned out, sang in the choir of the metaphysical church where Reverend Bob was the minister. Coincidence? Actually, yeah. I'm one of those people who believes there are coincidences. (Also, things don't happen for a reason. I guess I'm pretty cynical). My Match.com friend proceeded to tell me that Reverend Bob had connected several times with his brother who died in Vietnam. He told me this matter-of-factly, as if he was talking about the sun rising in the east.
My curiosity was seriously piqued now. How did this guy do it? I decided to find out.
I made an appointment for my own session with Reverend Bob. (side note: he doesn't charge for these meetings, although the secretary who scheduled my appointment told me the church welcomed donations).
The tiny white church was on a busy street in a busy Northern Virginia city. When I walked in, I was in a small foyer. Ahead of me was the sanctuary. To my right, the minister's office. The secretary greeted me and showed me the stack of note cards on a sideboard in the foyer and told me to write down two or three names of my dearly departed. Here were my suspicions: 1) There was a hidden camera in the foyer, or somehow the pen they gave me was rigged, or somehow the sideboard would pick up the impression of the names as I wrote them on the note card. I would foil them. I carried the note card into the sanctuary and sat in a pew, away from the hidden camera, but just in case there was a hidden camera in the sanctuary, I covered each letter in the names as I wrote them (using my own pen. I felt truly paranoid and also very clever). Then I quickly folded the card into quarters. I'd written just two names:
- · Susan Chamberlain (my grandmother who died when I was 20 and with whom I was very close. Like me, she had rheumatoid arthritis and she's my role model when it comes to living with this disease)
- · Nan Chamberlain (my mother, who had died only a few weeks before this appointment)
Reverend Bob called me into his office. I'd brought a blank audio tape with me as the secretary had requested and he inserted it in his tape player. For a second or two, he held his hand over my hand as I clutched the folded card. Then he shut his eyes and invited the spirits to come.
He opened his eyes and began talking to me about books I should read on spiritual stuff. For about fifteen minutes, he talked about this and that. I figured he had a little earpiece through which someone was telling him I'd hidden my card too well and the session was a lost cause.
"Susan," he said. "She's sweeping snow or sand from a sidewalk. She's sweeping a path clear for you."
Holy shit. How did he do that?
Immediately I connected to what he was saying. If anyone was clearing a path for me on my RA journey, it was (and still is) Gram.
He began chatting about books or something again. I don't remember, because my mind was spinning. When he shut his eyes once more, he said, "Someone else is here. Nan? Nan? Could it be Nan?"
When I listen to the tape now, I can hear the tears in my voice as I whisper "My mother."
"Do you do any writing?" Reverend Bob asked me abruptly.
"I see spirit standing next to you, tapping a pen against her hand."
I laughed. Mom couldn't know someone for 30 seconds without telling him or her "my daughter's a novelist."
We went on like that for a while. By the time I left, I was so shaken that I forgot to leave my donation and had to drive back to the church to do so.
How did he do it?
"Your website?" my sister suggested. "Obituaries? But then why wouldn't he have picked Mom and Dad, who died much more recently than Gram?"
I don't know.
Since that time, my significant other, John
(number 70 in the Match.com dating game, but that's definitely for another post),
also visited Reverend Bob. John wrote his names on a slip of paper at home.
Reverend Bob chatted with John's mother (her name: Koula) and a beloved
neighbor and even the neighbor's husband who popped into the session unbidden.
My friend Ray, who is Middle Eastern but you'd never know it, wrote his names at
home in Arabic,
and when Reverend Bob was in his "trance," he said to the spirits "In English please!" Then Mohammed and Abdul joined Ray and Reverend Bob in the room.
How does he do it??
Although I'm open to having this entire experience debunked, I have to admit it changed me. One thing Reverend Bob said that has stuck with me is this: people who die don't automatically know how to get in touch with us, so we need to listen. If we find ourselves suddenly thinking of them, we need to acknowledge that we hear them to let them know they're getting through. This is why, until someone can tell me how he does it, I'll keep saying, "I hear you, Dad. I hear you, Mom." Just in case they're really here.
Just in case.