How do you tell a story that really begins with the suicide death of your 17-year-old son? I had experienced much that life has to offer in the 44 years prior to that fateful day on September 19, 2012, but none that so fully altered my perception of self, personal direction, and meaning in life. It was in so many ways my great undoing, my dark night of the soul. Surviving the death of our son Todd felt completely out of context and out of time. My reality unraveled. My darling sweet boy had promised to take care of me in my old age. I had visions of his future, the sweet girl he would marry, and the children he always talked about having some day. I could foresee the joy he would feel at holding his own baby and in realizing that all the challenges faced in life are worth those precious moments of pure unconditional love.
My world had become completely altered. I shifted from plans of starting a new business to suddenly trying to remember how to breathe in and out. I couldn’t understand how the sun continued to rise every morning and how people seemed to go about their daily business. There were months of struggle just getting out of bed and getting dressed. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. It was difficult to walk out the front door. I leaned heavily on my darling husband John, who I knew was quietly suffering every bit as much as I was but in that reserved and stoic way that men are expected to grieve. I endlessly wept and screamed and I wondered how I could feel so much pain and somehow not die from the experience.
As an adult, having left behind the dogma of my conservative Christian upbringing, I had considered myself an open-minded skeptic. If I called myself anything it was “agnostic.” I simply no longer claimed to know what the nature of existence beyond death might be, if there was any form of existence beyond the physical at all. I had always had an interest in the psychic mediums I had seen on television. They were often very genuine and believable in my eyes and I was encouraged by the astonishing evidence they seemed to relay of a continued connection with those who had left the physical realm. Prior to Todd’s death my family would usually asked me “why did I watched such things and didn’t I know it was all a scam.” I wasn’t bothered by their opinions because I could remain an interested skeptic and not tie myself to a statement of belief in whether it was real or not. After Todd’s passing I no longer had the luxury of non-committal interest. I needed to know if any part of my son still existed. Could consciousness survive death? And if it did, what was the nature of that existence? Could I experience any meaningful contact? Would he still know me? Could he still feel my love for him? Was he still our son?
In the days and weeks following Todd’s death I experienced a precious few lucid dreams that felt to me like visitations. The most notable was the first one in which Todd vividly stood in front of me and stated that I could not have prevented his death. The visit had an odd sensation of a complete absence of emotion both coming from Todd as well as in my own body. It was just a matter of fact statement and then he was gone. The next day my sister Deborah came to check in on me and proceeded to tell me of a dream her daughter Annabelle had of Todd a few days earlier. She described in detail the exact same dream I had had the night before, even down to the detail of the missing sense of emotion. I was so astonished I couldn’t even tell my sister of the synchronicity with my own dream. On another occasion some months later, I was alone at our family farm in Texas where Todd is buried. I slept upstairs in one of the cabins we had built for overnight stays. Todd came to me in a dream and told me how sorry he was for the pain that he had caused to all of the people who loved him. Again, it was very matter of fact and then he was gone. Could these experiences be based in any kind of reality outside of my own dreams and imagination? Was this a form of contact with my son? Was he really trying to relieve my guilt and grief and pain? Or, was it just my own psyche trying to survive an unbearable loss?
I became a woman on a mission to understand the nature of existence and consciousness. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read books on the science of consciousness and the workings of the brain. I read the lay versions of quantum theories and experiments that proved conscious intention and interaction alter the behavior of physical matter. I read about evidence of reincarnation, near death experiences, deathbed experiences, and out of body states. I read spiritual texts from a wide range of cultures, mystical traditions, and philosophies. I began to meditate, both as a way to cope with my grief and as a personal experiment with the Mystical and Eastern philosophies that claimed it was the way to experience the deeper complex nature of consciousness. I watched videos of mediums channeling spirits to discern for myself their believability and reliability. With mixed results I sat with mediums in person or by phone to see if they could connect with my son in ways that felt real and validating to me and the way that I knew him.
Eight months after Todd’s funeral my Dad contacted all of his nine children to inform us that he had developed advanced stage prostate cancer and that his life expectancy was limited to a few months. He had chosen not to pursue any treatment. I went home to Texas to serve as his primary caretaker for the last three months of his life. My father may not have realized it at the time, but by allowing me to assist him through his own transition he provided me with a great gift. I was able to say to him all of the things I wished I had been able to say to Todd; how much I loved him and how important he was in my life. Not that I didn’t say those things to Todd, but I never knew that the last time I said them would truly be the last time. My father and I talked about all of the meaningful elements of human life and how those things colored our perceptions and our experience. I was able to watch my father as he began to let go of this reality and move into another. And ultimately, I was able to hold his hand and “catch his last breath” as he had instructed me to do. I told him what a good job he had done and then retreated to the family farm as soon as I was no longer needed.
There were a number of astonishing things Dad related in his last couple of days of lucidity, but the two most meaningful for me were when he seemed to see and interact with Todd. In one instance, he was talking with me and one of my sisters when he looked off into the distance, pointed his finger and asked “Is that Todd standing on a plane?” Surprised, I simply responded “I don’t know Dad, but I sure hope so.” In hindsight I wished I had asked my father if he meant a “plane” like an airplane or a “plain” of flat ground. The visual is quite different (though perhaps unimportant) depending on how you look at it. On the next occasion, Dad had just woken from sleep. He had been moved to a hospice provided hospital bed in his bedroom and I was laying next to him in his king-sized bed. He opened his eyes, looked at me, and said “You are not Tom.” I have a younger brother named Tom and I said “No, I am not Tom.” Then he looked puzzled and said “No, not Tom, I mean Todd. I was just talking to Todd in the Celestial Room.” Once again all I could think to say in the moment is “I hope so.”
With time, all of my study and focus on the nature of consciousness led me to experiment with methods and processes that others claimed help open you to deeper experience. I was already meditating so it was an easy step to include visualizations that were supposed to promote out of body states. I soon started to experience a great deal of lucidity during dreams and startling out of body experiences of a convincing though brief duration. I was becoming convinced of the primary nature of consciousness. I was beginning to experience a wide range of synchronicities and became more aware of sensations in my body that corresponded with these events. Many sources claimed that awareness of and communication with non-physical persons and information was a skill that could be learned. If nothing else I have always been a good student. I surmised that if these things are learnable then why should I be less able than any other person to develop these skills. In my own mind, I talk with my son and my father every day. I “hear” their responses to me. I looked back on experiences throughout my life and began to wonder if the odd (occasionally lifesaving) coincidental thoughts I had once chalked up to my imagination might actually have been communication from someone outside of myself. I started to differentiate between the negative internal voice that created doubts and difficulty and the more empowering positive messages that seemed to be a voice separate from my own; the voice that made leaps of logic and creative connections that seemed beyond my limited capacity. I began to suspect that this physical existence is the dream and that the greater reality truly is Consciousness itself.
So here I am nearly 6 years into my journey as a parent of a child in the non-physical. My relationship with my son and my father continues as does my connection with many other transitioned family members and guides. I now more confidently rely on my personal guidance and connection to further my own healing and have discovered that this skill can be helpful to others as well. I feel it is important for me to share with others validating evidence that we are vastly more than this physical body our egos so readily identify with, that our connection with and love for each other continues beyond the boundary of physical death. We never really die. We simply transition to the next conscious state.