Bill Philipps and Me
Some months after John died and months before my son Jonpaul died, my friend Joy and I were headed to the Apple store at the Irvine Spectrum, a massive outdoor mall. Joy used to be a high six-figure executive, and now runs a number of charities. She is short, voluptuous, gorgeous, full of fun and spunk and lots of humor, one of my favorite people.
My friends and I often go to the Improv at the Spectrum for live comedy. On this day we are passing this theater on the way to the Apple store. I see a sign that reads: Bill Phillips, Medium. The show starts in twenty minutes. Price tag? Twenty dollars.
“Let’s go,” I say on impulse.
“To see a…” Joy examines the poster. “A medium? Jen, are you kidding?”
Joy is as skeptical as they come, but even though the doors had opened a bit, and I often felt John’s love as a physical force, I was certainly skeptical of ‘mediums’ at this point. Skepticism goes beyond disbelieving all things not nailed down by science and processed by a materialist view of the universe; it basically boils down to critical thinking skills. John and Jonpaul, as I’ve mentioned were both immersed in the literature of atheism: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Sam Harris, Letters to a Christian Nation, (two of Jonpaul’s favorite scientists) Christopher Hitchins, God is Not Great. They both strongly believed kaput was at the end of your sentence. John was even a card-carrying member of the Skeptical Inquirer. In fact, we met Michael Shermer, the debunker of all things that go bump in the night, at convention where John was speaking. In an elevator where I even conversed with the famous skeptic.
“Mr. Shermer, my husband and I are big fans.”
“Thank you,” he said politely.
Still, I feel as if I know Mr. Shermer; I’ve read a lot of his writings. His famous debate with Deepak Chopra on the reality of transcendence is deeply moving. I remember reading Mr. Shermer’s conclusion to this debate out loud to John and Jonpaul; it is an explication of the beauty, power, and magnificence of the universe and how this is transcendent enough for any thoughtful person. I also appreciate Mr. Shermer’s skilled discrediting of many New Age phenomena, especially mediums. People like Bill Phillips, I thought. I can honestly say I know every trick in the book.
Yet, suddenly, inexplicably, I would like to witness this first hand, how the mediums manipulate people. I remember the fantastic reading I got from Fred. I think of course some people do possess some psychics abilities, do they not? What does it mean, these psychic abilities? That the world is not what we think?
Suddenly I really want to see Bill Philipps preform.
“I’ll buy you a martini,” I bribed Joy.
“Sold,” she said, indulging the fanciful impulse.
We rushed to the Apple store and made it back just as the show was starting. Three hundred or so people crowd the space. Our martini arrived just as the announcer introduced the medium Bill Phillips.
We exchanged smug, knowing smiles.
Right off though, Bill Phillips was not what I was expecting. Handsome, tall, thin, he was young and gay as all get out. He exuded a kindness at odds with the obvious showmanship; he manifested an exaggerated theatricality the moment he steps onto the stage. Though maybe this was more the gay stuff; it is often hard to separate the two.
Mr. Phillips first explains how the magic happens. “They are crowding in now…” and he is to convey what the ‘spirits’ are saying. “Please do not call out,” he repeats three or four times like a schoolteacher.
First, Bill sets up a brief meditation exercise. Joy and I, serious yogis (who occasionally down martinis, grateful we have never had the need to attend twelve-step programs) honor the request as best we can beneath our mild inebriation.
The lights go dim; the music New Age.
The audience greets his pause--one filled with what I imagine is a pretense of concentration--with utter silence. As if we too might hear the voices crowding in. “Ok…
I’m getting a Steve…”
I snorted knowingly, roll my eyes; Steve is one of the most common names.
The miracle would be if no one knew a dead Steve.
“He died young, nineteen. Who knows Steve?”
“My nephew! Steve! He was nineteen when he died!”
Bill holds up his hand, stopping the middle-aged woman from saying anything more.
“He’s telling me he passed three, maybe four months ago…”
“He’s telling me it was an overdose. He’s showing me a bottle of pills…”
“Yes! They rushed him to the hospital but… he didn’t make it.”
Another long pause against a silent, solemn background.
Confused by the young man’s specificity, I whispered, “She must be a plant, an actor.”
Joy managed a nod, but she was enthralled by the show.
“Was there sexual confusion?” Bill asked. “Was he gay?”
I whispered, “Of course, it is a gay ghost!”
“The law of attraction,” Joy laughed.
“I don’t know,” Steve’s aunt was saying. “We always thought he might be…”
“He was really struggling with his sexuality and his parents expectations. He felt rejected by them; he didn’t see any way out.”
The woman’s arms crossed over her heart as she nodded. Her open, she looks, frankly, dumbfounded, amazed. Excellent acting skills, I thought, probably a professional out of work actress.
“It was his time. He didn’t realize how much his mom and you love him. He knows that now. He wants you to know he is very happy… He’s sending you and his mom love…”
The woman was wiping her eyes.
Then, it got really weird.
“Do you drive a red convertible?”
The lady nodded. “Yes…”
“Is it a Mustang? He’s showing me a red convertible Mustang.”
“Yes, a 2003.”
“He loves that car. He’s telling me you let him drive it once.”
“Oh!” She laughed, wiping her eyes. “On his birthday two years ago. We went to his favorite restaurant and I let him drive…”
Bill nodded sagely. “Are you remodeling your kitchen? He’s showing me boxes and, well, construction in your kitchen. It looks like one big mess.”
The audience laughed with Steve’s embarrassed aunt.
“You’re painting the living room, too.”
“He doesn’t like the color you picked. A pale yellow?”
The woman tried to justify the yellow paint choice, which, of course, is impossible.
My thoughts tumbled in confusion. Why would a ‘spirit’ mention this? What about the spirit world? Is ‘Steve’ with anyone? Are there billions of spirits there? Are they grouped according to geology? Family? Religion? Would there be, like, a Catholic heaven, a Muslim one, a Native American Great Spirit co-op? Do the legion of dead Mormons get that infamous personalized planet to play on? Has Steve seen God? If so, don’t we want these details?
Yet Steve faded as soon as his aunt has squared her remodeling plans with him. Bill started listening to other spirits.
“Lyle… Does anyone know a Lyle?”
“My husband!” another middle-aged lady called out. “That’s my husband.”
“He’s telling me he died… I’m getting a hospital bed and some kind spinal injury, something to do with his spine?”
“He had a spinal tumor—”
“He’s showing me May 12th? Does that mean anything?”
“That’s his birthday!”
“And what happened in January? I’m getting January 4th?”
“That’s the day he died! He was in the hospital… and—”
“He’s showing me a beach where you and he got married…”
“Yes, yes. We were married in Hawaii.”
“Joy,” I said her name as a plea for help.
Rather than share my confusion, Joy was entertained, smiling. “He’s pretty good.”
“Are they all actors?” I whispered, still baffled by the specifics of the information. According to all the books, the ‘medium’ is supposed to ask twenty questions rapid fire before they get a hit, and then zero in on that information, creating an illusion of clairvoyance.
“Lyle is telling me he saw you fall the other day? You were… dancing?”
Lyle’s wife laughed. “I was wearing high heels, I’m too old, and well, Vegas…”
“A recipe for disaster,” Bill laughed, the sound light and infectious. “He’s showing me earrings? Have you got new earrings?”
The lady fingers her earrings, telling the audience the details of this most recent splurge.
My thoughts spun crazily. The Improv’s employees must have fed Bill and company audience members’ names on credit cards and he had an accomplice back there, Facebooking people to obtain personal information. Or perhaps actors were littered throughout the audience. Joy and I and a few other people are the only ones not in on the game. We paid; the other people were paid.
I knew one of the bouncers working. Tall, black, handsome man. He recognized me from the time I talked to him about giving Jonpaul a job there. Jonpaul had a brown belt, almost a black belt and at six-four, two hundred pounds he could handle a comedy club. Plus, he doesn’t drink and he loved comedy—it seemed a perfect fit. This was before Jonpaul left for the university. I slipped away and found Mike in the back.
“I don’t get it,” I whispered. “How is he doing this? Are you people feeding him our credit card information?”
His face registered shock, and he laughed. “We would never do that!”
“Then is it actors? Does he plant actors in the audience?”
“No, no. He’s the real deal. I had a grandma who had the talent.” His face softened, his tone filled with love. “My God, she was amazing! Used to read for the whole town. There are people with the gift, people who channel folks who have passed. Bill Phillips is one of them.”
I returned to my seat. I shared the exchange with Joy.
“Maybe John will come through,” she said.
Strangely, the idea never occurred to me. John would never condescend to show up at sideshow entertainment of this caliber. In fact, if John were still present, he would be dismayed (or maybe amused) that I am here, watching.
After some pretty specific, very strange readings, Bill asked the audience if there were any questions.
My arm shoots into the air.
He moved towards us in the back. A microphone appeared in front of me.
“I am wondering why the, ah, ‘spirits’ are interested in such mundane aspects of our lives?”
The whole audience turned to stare unkindly at me. All three hundred of them.
This question, I realized too late, is a major psychic show faux pas.
Indeed, all kindness disappeared from Bill’s face, replaced by outrage. “You. Think. This. Is. Mundane???” He throws his arms up in exaggerated disgust and turns away. The whole audience continues to glare at us. “I have nothing to say to you!”
Joy and I shrank behind our martini glass.
The story was later repeated at our book club to uproarious laughter, but my thoughts go over and over what we witnessed. How did he do it? He knew exact dates! He knew names and how they died and it wasn’t heart attacks or cancer, which is the way most people die, which is what they warn you about in the debunking the medium books, and he didn’t ask twenty questions before he got a hit. He hit and hit, again and again. I try to convince myself there were multiple actors in the audience, but he would need at least a dozen actors to have pulled it off. This is one of two explanations.
The other possibility of something else begins to unsettle me.
Continuing to turn it over in my mind, I google debunkers and read what they have to say, including my close friend Michael Sherman. I discussed it with Jonpaul who found the subject amusing from the start. In his mind, like all scientists, this is settled science. “Mom, mom…” He directed me to read this book: The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland. I read the book, but I know all this. I tried desperately to see the show through the familiar tricks outlined in the book, but none of them apply. None of it explained what I witnessed. Rather, it conveyed only what Mr. Rowland imagines happened. Like scientists who dismiss thousands of scientific journal articles proving psychic phenomena, Mr. Rowland (and others like him) start with the assumption this is not true and then armed with absolute (I hesitate to say perverse) certainty, they go to work from there.
I channeled John’s voice without help from Bill Phillips.
John explains again that our human imagination creates reality. If there were a tape of the event, it would differ significantly from my memory. I test this out on Joy, but Joy, too experienced it, reciting parts word for word as I remember. The whole audience experienced it.
The door creaked open more, a beam of light shines out.
I made an appointment with Bill Philipps.
Mr. Philipps has a two year long wait list, but familiar with client scheduling from my many years with John, I mentioned to his secretary that if there is a cancellation, I could fill it on a moment’s notice.
The appointment popped up two weeks later.
Again, not being stupid, it was a blind reading. I provided a fake email address, fake name. I paid with a money order, and I gave my computer friend Steve’s untraceable phone number. Bill Philipps has absolutely no means of knowing a single thing about me.
Two days before I landed the appointment, missing Jonpaul fiercely, I visited Jonpaul’s Facebook page, which I had only done twice before. I post this message: I would give my life to throw my arms around you one last time.
Then, I notice something strange on his Facebook page. Jaime had posted our favorite picture of Jonpaul there. He was three years old and wearing his sister’s baseball mitt. This was one of two pictures that hung in our home; I was intimately familiar with it.
Yet the Facebook picture was different than the original. A very bright light surrounded and illuminated the young Jonpaul, shooting out from his form. Looked like wings. I don’t understand how it got there.
I am suddenly awash in emotion; I am missing him to the depth of my soul and yet I feel a powerful emotional current. I started crying. My mom and Joni, my oldest friend who was temporarily living with us, rushed into the office. They examined the Facebook picture. We rushed to look at the original. The light was missing.
“Wait,” Joni cautioned, remembering. “Jaime took the picture for his Facebook page from the original. The light came from this.”
The explanation made perfect sense.
Later, with Bill Philipps, I discovered the rest of the story.
Bill Phillips’s office was in the middle of the industrial part of Costa Mesa, just west of the giant mall like city South Coast Plaza. The modest building was populated mostly with tax accountants—it is unpretentious in the extreme. My destination was at the far end of the hall.
Bill Philipps waited for me in the hallway, standing there, reading his phone. He wore board shorts and a tee shirt, flip-flops. I am wearing worn Levis and a silky red sweatshirt, and flip-flops—CA beach city wear. He greeted me with a smile as we shook hands. Taller than I remembered, he exudes a warmth, which translated to kindness in my mind.
The door to his office shut behind us. The lights create an ambient calm, one that matches the elevator music playing softly in the background. His couch enfolded me in comfort. Candles and books sat atop the coffee table.
Bill took the chair across from the couch.
“Now Jane isn’t your real name, is it?”
“No, it’s not.” A good guess, I thought. “It’s Jennifer.”
My name was Jennifer Horsman, which, let’s face it, is a terrible name for a writer. I wanted to change my name to the lovelier Flowers when I married John, but my first novel was arriving and my editor at the time worried I might lose all my fans. (Turned out I had all of two fans.) Once John and Jonpaul passed over, I wanted to honor them by changing my name at last. Additionally, my initials were also JJ. I was sitting on the beach, contemplating the name change when a man walked by wearing a tee-shirt that had Flowers on the front in bold letters.
“Jennifer, okay. Did you have trouble finding me?”
“No, google maps. A modern life saver.” Nervously, I explained, “I hope you don’t mind giving a blind reading?”
“Oh, no. I actually prefer it. People usually give me too much information and it interferes with the reading.”
Surprised, I wondered if this could possible be true? Still, I was determined that no words would escape my lips. I might confirm a ‘hit’ with a nod, but that was all. “Good. That will help me, I think, if it is a blind reading.”
“Would you like to record this?”
Bill already appeared distracted, hearing things.
“Can I?” I asked uncertainly, surprised by this as well. I removed my phone, turned on the recording app and set it on the coffee table.
“Of course. Sometimes I say things that won’t make sense, but later you understand what they mean.”
This was one of the tricks mentioned by the debunkers. Later, after the immediacy of the experience, people’s minds have time to generate patterns that don’t actually exist. The rest of the conversation was transcribed from the recorder.
“Okay, Jennifer. Right off I am getting three men. Masculine energy. All three are Js. You have a lot of J’s around you!”
In fact, we do. James, my father, John, Jaime (after my dad) and Jonpaul, but I didn’t offer this information.
“First. An older man. He passed maybe twenty years ago. He’s above you, meaning, a father? Yes, he is your father… Did your father pass? Yes? J…James, was his name James?”
Again, I nodded, but after John, James was probably the second most popular male name beginning with a J. This could be a good guess.
“And he passed twenty years ago or so?”
“Twenty-three years ago.” So accustomed to the give and take of conversation, I momentarily forgot not to speak. Even as the words escaped my mouth, I renewed my determination not to provide any more details.
Bill nodded distantly; it seemed very much as if he was listening to something I don’t hear. “He had heart trouble. He’s showing me his chest region.”
This too, was one of the common tricks. The most likely cause of death: heart disease or cancer, and it was also true in my dad’s case.
“He died of a heart attack.”
“Okay. He’s showing me a shovel and a pan. Something with a shovel and pan. It is gold?” Bill seems confused by this. “Does that mean anything to you?”
My hand goes to my face to stop my gasp. “My dad’s favorite vacation was panning for gold; we often went panning for gold.”
“That’s it,” Bill laughed, tickled by the connection. “I couldn’t tell what he was showing me…”
My thoughts tried to absorb what just happened; my mind began racing.
“Okay, he’s telling me he loves you very much. He’s telling me he couldn’t always express it…”
My dad? Not once in my life did we part without him saying, “I love you, darlin’.” My dad’s love was a tangible force in my life; we were very close. “No, he was always telling me he loved me.”
I realized at once that this was not from my dad. This was what Bill told other people, mostly because many fathers, maybe most fathers, have difficulty expressing love. It would also come as a sweet comfort for many people to hear this after someone passed away.
My suspicions were confirmed. I can’t explain the gold panning hit, and happy accident? But I reasoned I was probably wasting my time here.
“Oh, okay… Well,” Bill attempted to recover. “He’s saying he didn’t express it enough.”
Really, not at all true; the opposite is true but I leave it alone.
A long pause followed.
“He’s telling me he is with a woman. She is on your mother’s side? Older, maybe a grandmother? Her name starts with a M, M E R… Do you know who this is?”
“My mom’s mom, my grandmother, was named Merle.”
“Yes! He is with her, on your mother’s side.”
Ridiculously, as if needing to correct him, “My dad wouldn’t be with my grandma. He never liked my grandma.”
“Jennifer,” Bill chuckled, speaking as if I were a very young child. “It is not like that in the spiritual realm. There’s no animosity, no dislikes. Souls are connected for different reasons. Besides, they were both gamblers, right?”
That was an excellent guess!
My grandmother, like my dad, was a pretty serious gambler. Keno, Bingo, slots, she lived for it, played every day she could, would go to incredible lengths to get to Reno where she commanded four or five of the ridiculous one-armed bandits.
“Has your mom passed?”
“No,” I shook my head.
“Okay, Jennifer, I’m getting the other two. It is kind of confusing, separating them. One is also a J. I’m getting a John. He is older. He’s… is he your husband?”
“Is his name John? Yes? He died… he is showing me April 10th. Does that mean anything to you?”
Upon hearing this auspicious date, my heart kicked in. I can’t describe what happened at this moment, but adrenaline shot into my body and as if preparing for danger, all senses go to high alert. “He died on April 10th.”
“He was seventy-four?”
Stiff with tension, I nodded.
“He’s showing me his chest region, too. Was it his heart? Did he have a heart attack?”
“He’s telling me he was a teacher… College? He was somewhere… different when he passed. In another city? He was doing something important… It was something he cared about, something important. I can’t make out what?”
He was in New Orleans helping his students present at a convention, but I still do not offer information Bill does not have.
“He loves you. Oh, yes, lady,” Bill laughs, “You are surrounded by his love.”
My hand covers my mouth, as if to contain the emotions. I was moving towards being overwhelmed, but I realized I am waiting for Jonpaul. Almost impatiently, I am on the emotional edge of my seat.
“Okay… I’m still…I’m a little confused.” Bill lets out a huge sigh before he paused for a long minute. “The other one is younger, much younger. Is he a John too? No, like John, but different somehow…”
His name burst out of me. “Jonpaul.”
“Oh… Jonpaul.” He nodded. “He is young. He died… was he twenty?”
I shook my head.
Bill ignored this. “He was in his early twenties then. He died recently. I’m getting March 11th. This year?”
“Yes,” I said in a whisper of emotion.
“He is family to you…”
“My son. Our son. John and my son.”
“Oh, I am so sorry… Okay, okay, now I get it. That’s what’s going on. They are together. John and Jonpaul.”
The room blurred. Jonpaul was here with John; they are together, that was all I knew. My heart cannot bear it. A tidal wave of emotions surged through me; it is like waking from a nightmare without end to find yourself in an unexpected shore, a place where you are safe.
Bill handed me the Kleenex box, but otherwise there are no pauses now between
“Jonpaul wants you to know he is happy, very, very happy. He’s trying to help you; he’s been trying to help you. Ohmygod Jennifer. He loves you so much—he is surrounding you with his love...
“He’s showing me how he died. Something to do with blood. His blood… An infection? Did he have a blood infection?”
“MRSA,” I whispered, barely able to speak.
“MRSA?” Bill repeated. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is?”
“It’s an antibiotic resistant infection that went into his blood. It formed pockets around his heart valve and well, he didn’t make it.”
Bill fell silent, staring off at the floor, deep in concentration. Several minutes passed. “He wasn’t supposed to leave yet; it was before his time, maybe two years, I’m getting. Okay, is there some guilt surrounding his passing?”
Maybe? Yes? I don’t know. I am unable to answer this.
“He wants you to know there is nothing you could have done. You really need to know this. He wanted to leave. He was never going to be here long. He and John are very, very close. I’m getting, okay, the three of you have had many, many lives together. John and Jonpaul always leave together in every life….”
I heard these words. I do not think of these many lives we have had together; I am unsure if I can even believe it at this point. The idea of having experienced many lives with John and Jonpaul felt too startling then and in a meaningful way, inconsequential. The thought that seized my mind was that they always leave together.
Unbelievably I was thinking, What about me? Why do they always get to leave together?
Bill was unaware of the preposterous regression of my sensibilities; he continued pretty much unabated: “Okay, he loves you. Wow. You are very close.”
“We were very close,” I repeated. “John, Jonpaul and I…”
Bill nodded. “Wow….” His hand goes through his hair; he stared off to the side. “Okay. They’re telling me you’re a writer?”
I nodded, but this too was so inconsequential to me. I don’t care about this.
They always leave together…
I wanted to know why they always go together, why they went together and left me behind? How could they do this to me?
It seems so unfair, so selfish of them.
Bill offered me an interested smile. “That’s exciting. What is it you write?”
We might have been meeting for cocktails at an upscale restaurant for the first time. Worse, I might have been on life support and Bill might have been the surgeon who was about to save me, but whom suddenly became interested in my fun hairstyle. This could not be more inappropriate in my mind. I managed to say by rote: “Most of my published novels are historical romance novels, but also children’s novels, two plays, a bunch of screenplays. I probably hold the world’s record for largest number of options, but none have been produced so far.”
He must have sensed my discomfort with the turn in conversation because he said: “They really like what you’re writing right now. Something about them? You’re writing a book about them? Your memories?”
It was, in fact, this very book.
“They really want you to finish this—it is very important… There is someone else with them. An older woman on John’s side. Another M name. Mar… I’m getting a Mar…”
“Marion, John’s mom.”
“Yes! She is sending pictures of ladybugs. Does that mean anything to you?”
John’s mom collected ladybug pins and trinkets. It seemed such a goofy, somehow endearing quirk. When she died, I kept one and there it sits in my jewelry box at home.
Now I was perched on the edge of hysteria at this point. This was startlingly, unexpected, like nothing I could have imagined. My dad, my ornery old grandmother, John, Jonpaul, Marion. Here. Now. Bill was connecting to them, speaking for them.
I was participating in a miracle.
“Someone else too. Another M name. A male. He is with Jonpaul. Max, I’m getting a Max?”
Here was what happens when I heard this: It was another intrusion on my reverie, the astonishing, incredible, heart lifting idea that John and Jonpaul were, well, not kaput! They are still here! For a long minute, maybe more, I was so dumbstruck, I could not think long enough to wonder about the identity of Max. I honestly do not care.
With effort, I stumbled to answer: “Jonpaul had a lot of friends,” I managed, but my thoughts are spinning so hard and fast, for the first time in my life I have to concentrate to breathe; forming coherent thoughts was quite beyond me. “I don’t know a Max.”
Later, about the third time I listened to the recording, I suddenly wondered if this is the Max who had the debate with Jonpaul? The young man who died the week after the debate, the beautiful young man who had argued love is a gift from God?
“Jonpaul is coming in loud. Humm…”
I waited on the edge of my seat.
“He is telling me he sent you a story a while ago. You were driving in the rain. You were thinking about him and something, I’m getting rainbows? A children’s story? Something about death and rainbows? Does this mean anything to you?”
I gasped. “Yes!”
Bill’s laugh resonates with both joy and triumph. “Jonpaul sent that to you. He also telling me that something happened yesterday or the day before, I can’t tell which. You were looking at your computer… his Facebook page? It was pretty intense. Did something happen?”
I managed to tell him what happened.
Bill nodded. “He was there. He was with you.”
“They’re showing me San Francisco. I’m seeing San Francisco… Like, they want you to move there or—”
“I am from San Francisco.”
“That must be it… They’re also telling me there is someone else… a female. Another J name. My god, there’s a lot of Js around you! Who is this? Do you have a daughter?”
“Yes,” I managed to nod. “Jaime, our daughter, Jonpaul’s sister.”
“They’re showing me September 9th. Does that mean anything to you?”
“It’s Jaime’s birthday!”
“You were walking with her the other day? I’m getting something about a medical career. Is she thinking about medical school, becoming a doctor?”
“She’s a school psychologist. Right now, she’s getting her Ph.D. while she works as a school psych in a high school. It’s a great job, but well, the other day, while we were hiking, she started wondering if she should go to medical school. She wants to help people, kids. Just switch careers.”
“They were there; they were listening….”
His eyes fell to the carpeted rug off to the side and he nodded thoughtfully. “They’re telling me that in your last lifetime, you had such a hard time when they left, Jaime came to be with you for this lifetime, to make it easier for you…”
ThiIf I had a coherent thought, I would have exclaimed, Well, it worked!
I cannot imagine this passage without Jaime.
“Jonpaul is telling me Jaime has something in her car… something that connects her to him? Like… something that belongs to him? No… I can’t tell what this is… I’m not getting it… Do you know what this is?”
I shook my head.
“He’s telling me it is very meaningful to him. He wants her to know he is there when it happens.”
(Hours later, as I was telling Jaime, I asked her: “Do you have anything in your car that belongs to Jonpaul?”
After a thoughtful pause, she said, “You know me. I’m like you. I don’t keep knick-knacks.”
“That’s what I thought.” I proceeded to ramble on when she interrupted me.
“Wait. There is something. Oh, mom. I don’t know. I’ve been playing this game while I drive to work. I think of him as I listen to the radio. I ask him to choose the next song. Then, when the song comes on, I try to find meaning in the song. It makes me cry when I do this, because every song resonates so deeply about love and loss…”)
Back to the reading with Bill Phillips:
“Also, does she surf? Jonpaul is showing me her on a board in the ocean? What does that mean?”
“She does surf, but she paddleboards all the time. It’s her favorite thing…”
“Yes, he is with her when she does this. He is watching over her, keeping her safe…”
At this point I held up my hand to stop.
But Bill ignored this as he does the clock that said some time ago our hour was up. “Jonpaul is telling me something else. Something happened. You were in another city… New York? He was trying to connect to you. I’m seeing an old lady and…”
There seemed no point in holding back now.
Through my heightened state and tears, I managed to tell Bill what happened in New York at the ballet.
Bill went silent for a long time.
“You don’t need me, Jennifer. You three are very close; you’re very connected. They are surrounding you with their love.” Bill’s large brown eyes radiate the emotion he just mentioned. “Jennifer, you don’t know how lucky you are.”
My world has just changed and I know, even in this moment, that it is not going to be a small change. I was unable to speak; my brain felt on fire, as if fueled by high-octane information. Fueled by the energy of love. Fueled by the most profound understanding that we do not go kaput when we die; that there was not just transcendence. There was… a spiritual realm from which we came and by which we will one day return.
Still wiping my eyes, hands over heart, I finally got up to leave. “Bill, you don’t know how hard this was. You don’t know John and Jonpaul. They were hard core empiricist, atheists—”
“Not anymore, they aren’t,” he says with a smile.
I laughed through my tears; I thought it was a fantastic, fun and funny line.
“Jennifer, may I hug you?”
I nodded, but something else slipped into my awareness. Bill was almost as tall as Jonpaul. He has the same broad shoulders. He does not seem that much older. As I stepped into Bill’s embrace and his arms came around me, I felt his love, but it suddenly became much more, the more, an answer to my most fervent wish: I would give my life to throw my arms around you one last time…
I suddenly cannot let go; I cannot stop saying thank you.
Finally, “One last thing,” Bills called to me from his doorway.
I turned back.
“Jonpaul will be sending you feathers.”
Feathers? What does that mean? How can Jonpaul send me feathers?
I stumbled out into the bright light of a Southern California day.