Let me tell you a story. Listen with the openness we had as children, when we all willingly believed in what is mysterious and magical, for this really is a tale of magic and the transformation that comes with knowing it is real.
Today is the 49th anniversary of the day my mother vanished forever. I wrote about my mother’s disappearance at an old blog called Big Ass Belle. The details of the story aren’t that important. Essentially, she vanished on a cold Sunday morning, a few days before Christmas of 1969. It was a singular event in my life and in the lives of my family members. There is tragedy and heartbreak in losing one so loved to death. And it is a different kind of tragedy, an endless heartbreak, for someone to go missing for 49 years.
There was before, and there is after. In years after, leading up to the subject of this post, we were never able to really let go, to grieve and move on, and we marked the transitions of life and the passage of our ordinary days always wondering. What happened? Where could she have gone?
Often, I would look at my father when he was still living and think “it’s not possible she could still be alive.” He left us at Christmas six years ago, 95 years old, and even in his state of dementia, he would still touch my arm and look at me intently. “What do you think happened to Audrey. Do you think she’s still alive?”
She would be so old, and surely in ill health, alone and lonely, and troubled by the same demons that drove her out the door that frigid December morning. But if not alive, then where could she be? Where is her body? Wouldn’t her secrets be finally revealed in death? For 20 years, I’ve fought to keep her on my state’s missing persons list, the oldest case in Oklahoma, but nothing has come of it. Nothing.
In 2010, my very smart, rational, science-minded sister, then 66 years old, happened into a small spiritualist encampment in Florida called Cassadaga. There she encountered mediums and psychics, for it’s a small village devoted to the mysterious arts and whether you are believer or simply a sightseer, they are there, a flock of working spiritualists, and they are quite busy.
Wandering through the village, a skeptical Karen encountered a medium standing on the front porch of her cottage. “I think you’re supposed to come in,” she said. And so my adventurous oldest sister entered the medium’s lair, was seated, and before she could even speak, the woman drew back, looking alarmed, and exclaimed, “oh, oh, there is someone rushing at me, she is pushing everyone aside.”
Everyone. Yes. I know the images that will evince for the skeptics among us, the very idea that we are surrounded by the spirits of those long gone, that they can be invoked simply by a willingness to believe they are there. And yet it is possible, I now know this. With certainty. It is possible even when we cannot set aside the flood of disbelief which automatically wells when someone says these things aloud. As with Karen, we have only to show up, skepticism in tow. Our people in spirit will do the rest.
But even if we can’t bring ourselves to a state of belief which is, after all, not much more than a suspicion, it changes nothing. It happened. Someone in spirit was so eager to communicate with my sister that she rushed that medium. Disbelief and skepticism don’t change the fact of it. Actually, I should say that disbelief and skepticism don’t change the facts which were subsequently revealed by that spirit, who turned out to be our long lost mother. She gave us answers to questions we’ve had since that ghastly day in 1969.
What happened to Audrey? Why did she leave us? How could she have stayed away, never to have reached out, not once? And most importantly, we at long last knew she was no longer alive — in human form — which is a comfort when the loss of someone is so unfinished.
Like my sister, I am also reasonably smart, and science-minded, but also artsy and romantic, so my interpretation of events may be suspect. I want to believe, I admit it. I love the idea of the unknown becoming known and I inhabit my own imagination as if it’s another, very real, world. But Karen is not that way. She’s rational, down to earth, one who requires proof.
That one, the utterly rational sister, conversed with our mother, of that I’ve no doubt. There were dozens of proofs, literally dozens. A complete stranger in a part of the country where none of us have lived before knew details of my mother’s pre-internet disappearance she couldn’t possibly have discovered. Karen’s appearance before the medium was not preceded by an appointment, or signing in, or any of the myriad ways a bit of information can be given and research obtained. The trip to Cassadaga was done on a whim.
Karen’s appearance was unheralded and the medium a stranger. At the time, it seemed to me impossible that one can speak to the dead, but it happened and it’s real. The medium revealed everything: where she lived when she left, and why she vanished, what was happening to her at the time, where she went and with whom, and most importantly, that she had died in 1993.
I know the skeptics out there are scoffing. The mere fact of our being human carries with it a disbelief in things unseen because it’s more comfortable that way, to believe only in truth we can verify and experience with our five senses.
But that it was my mother, I know without a doubt. I know it as solidly as I know that my eyes are brown and my once red hair has gone silver, that I am living and breathing in Tulsa on a sunny, cold afternoon in December. I am equally certain that most reading this will still not believe, though maybe the truest part of you may whisper before sleep tonight, “what if?”
What does it mean to really know that our loved ones don’t die? That they continue long after their human suits have disappeared? Prior to this encounter of my sister’s, I was terrified of mediums. My fear of death ~ and hell ~ was so extreme, I couldn’t even consider a reading. What if the medium said I was going to die? But this was astounding news from my mother was convincing and it had come through a medium.
I rushed right out and booked an appointment with the same one. And then I sat on it, giving in to fear again, for over a year. When I finally marshaled my courage to sit for the reading, it was a truly healing experience and the first of what would become many, because Mike died six months after and daddy three months after that. Grief once again felt ruinous, but this time I confirmed very quickly that my sweethearts were not dead.
In the Cassadaga reading, my mother needed to know if we could forgive her for walking out in 1969, if we could let go of our pain and anger and years and years of wondering, of not knowing, of never being able to grieve for her. She asked for our forgiveness and we gave it.
In subsequent readings with the amazing mediums, Nina Cree and Sandy Soulsister, I’ve had life-changing, astonishing conversations with my mother. I recognize now that this initial loss, my mother’s disappearance, was the foundation of the life I have today. That agonizing event was the sand in the oyster of my life (her words) and while I attracted a lot more sand and grit on my own for a period of years, that event was the beginning invitation to change in the most divine ways. The sand, the grit, has been turned into a pearl of the greatest beauty.
On this day 49 years ago, my mother vanished. Nineteen years ago today, my brother-in-law died by suicide. It’s also the winter solstice, which I have celebrated annually since 1993, a ritual which put to rest years of winter sadness. It’s also the birthday of a dear friend, Valerie, another accomplished medium and spirit artist, and the day my sweet niece Kylie was born.
Life just goes on. It evolves. We get sand and we make pearls. Or not. It’s a choice and I can attest to the fact that it helps to have the input of our loved ones in spirit, to recognize that there really is more to this life than what we see. That’s such a lonely state of being, thinking this is all there is. Knowing there’s more is delicious.
I am grateful, but really, something beyond that. There has to be another word. A devastating, heartbreaking event in 1969 led to some really, really ruinous years after, and ultimately to this life of peace, joy, love, and KNOWing. No fear of death anymore. No fear of anything. There is a sense of certainty about the universe, this life, and what I now know comes after and that is very, very precious. My mother is well. I hope you are too.