Just like that, they were gone.
Three of my family members were dead, within weeks of one another—my aunt and uncle from brain aneurysms and one from heart failure. Each news-bearing long-distance phone call drove the stake of grief and loss deeper into me.
What was happening?
It was the late 90s. I had just started my new life in Boston, Massachusetts. I had my whole future in front of me, my carefully laid out plans leading toward graduate studies. It would appear that this small-town, North Dakota girl was quickly growing accustomed to the vibrant pulse of a coastal city.
In those tender weeks, surrounding the death of my family, I was pummeled by emotion on a daily basis. It was too hard to think. I numbly wandered in and out of graduate school classes. The intensity of my growing passions was sideswiped by thoughts of death.
Pain soon shifted to desperation. I wanted answers. Flailing, I wandered in and out of churches, temples, and spiritual centers, demanding the truth that might explain my deepest spiritual conundrum: what happens to us when we die?
I was unhinged.
It seemed as if overwhelming loss had nonchalantly tossed me off a cliff and into the abyss of my greatest existential fear: death and dying.
Stacks of books on every spiritual topic under the sun swiftly replaced the college texts on my bedside table. My eyes searched the pages frantically for closure and understanding. I learned about Buddhism, Spiritualism, Judaism, the paranormal, life after death, near-death experiences, authors claiming a direct connection with God, angels, astrology, tarot, past lives, and aliens just for starters.
When I couldn’t sleep, I read. When I wanted to scream out of anger, I went deeper within. While hoping to crush the ache of my grieving heart with knowledge, I began attending a spiritualist temple.
It was soon after that I heard from a loved one from beyond through a medium.
I was home.
My path after college graduation led me back home—to North Dakota. My mind was full, and I was ready to begin my lifelong career in the arts.
However, the gaping hole in my life, from the absence of loved ones, created an inescapable reminder of my East-Coast-truth-finding mission. I isolated myself and began putting into practice the things I had read in those books. I filled my weekends learning breathing techniques, designed to achieve an out of body experience.
If I could experience what it was like to leave my body, I could at least know what it was like for people who died. While unsuccessfully working on that mission, I accidentally discovered my own psychic gifts.
Voices that weren’t mine gave me instructions and messages in my head. I spontaneously witnessed images on the screen in my mind—scenes from a movie with no ending, or faces flashing on my inner eye like a slide show.
Eventually, I grew courageous enough to share what was happening with others in my life.
Whenever someone asked me how I had come to the conclusion that I was psychic, I didn’t know what to say. I spent lots of time puzzling about it, trying to sort out how the pieces all came together.
There really was no denying it had actually happened by complete happenstance. I wasn’t trying to find my psychic gifts; they opened to me through the hours of meditation techniques I was using in my attempts to astral travel, trying to feel what it was like to be dead.
I was invited to teach intuition classes. I was compelled to speak about spirit communication with anyone who would listen. The harsh sting of rejection hit me from those who refused to open their minds, or who simply couldn’t rectify their religious beliefs with psychic phenomena.
The growing pains were brutal. I was simultaneously spreading my proverbial wings and pigeonholing myself into a specific niche. However, despite the backlash, I galloped along, as if led by invisible reigns. My circle of influence grew smaller, and those hungry for metaphysical studies magically began crossing my path.
I couldn’t help myself at that point. I was compelled by something so tremendous that it consumed me. My professional goals now thwarted, I trudged onward, sharing my gifts, meeting others who were willing to hear what I had to say, and reassuring them that they weren’t alone.
I still look back on those days over 22 years ago in Boston, and I wonder if death was the catalyst for where I am now.
Though what happens to us when we die still eludes me, I now know there is something beyond this life. I have felt it, heard it, and witnessed it through 15 years of professional practice. I know there is only a thin veil that separates us from those we love who are no longer here.
The hard and painful realizations all those years ago collapse into this moment. I may never fully accept that a part of life inevitably includes death. However, I can say with certainty I am no longer seeking to avoid the reality of it.
In the meantime, a beautiful world was revealed to me, as well as the healing that went right along with it, which I continue to pass along to others.