October 26, 2022

I see dead people.

Not to be too spooky, but I’ve felt connected to my ancestors from a very young age. By age 4 or 5, I would pray to my great aunts and uncles who’d passed away when I was little. In the days before the Internet and all its wonders, I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could communicate with my loved ones who weren’t on this planet. I could send messages to my great grandmother with whom I share a birthday. I could ask the God that I believe in to send a message for me. “If they are with you, please tell them I love them,” I’d pray. Constantly trying to communicate my love. Constantly trying to connect with the great beyond. It came so naturally so me, I didn’t realize it could be considered a paranormal, “woo-woo” thing until I became an adult and started to internalize the beliefs, fears, and cultural norms of a patriarchal, Western society.

My connection with the afterlife faded in my teens and early twenties. This period of time also happened to be when I was abusing alcohol and other substances heavily. It might be a coincidence. Regardless, when I was approaching the end of my dangerous party phase, my connection to my dream life, prayer, and those who’ve passed on came back with ferocity. I believed to be receiving messages in my dreams. I was once sleeping at a friends’ apartment in college. I awoke just after 4:00am. In a twilight state, I faded back into sleep only to see a group of angels surrounding the apartment complex in which I was sleeping. In this “dream” state, I knew where I was, and I knew that angels were there, too. When I woke up, for a moment I felt an awe-inspired sense of something greater. “Maybe there is something beyond this life,” I thought. “Maybe I was just raised Catholic and it’s entered my subconscious,” the doubting mind said. But my felt, visceral experience was beyond denial. I knew it, I felt it: angels were there with me. It started to become clear that I was risking my life with my behavior and lifestyle choices. The path I was on had an absolute end: and there were only two ways out: death or sobriety.

Sobriety became a valid lifestyle consideration when people I knew, in my age range, started dying from overdoses and drinking-related accidents. I’ve called these tragedies the earthquakes that shook me to my core. The loss of these precious lives was just rattling enough to wake me from a state of stupor and make me question, “Why am I doing this with my life?” and “Why did they die and I didn’t?”

During the first four years of my sobriety, I lost five friends to drug and alcohol-related deaths (several I’d known since childhood). These earthquakes hit me hard. I can’t imagine how the losses impacted their families, or how these families are still impacted today. There is a lot of glamour when discussing recovery. There are so many success stories- but these stories are few and far between. More often the stories of addicts end in death or a lifetime of suffering. Why one person makes it into recovery and another does not is so often based on the luck of the draw. And, in my experience, spiritual intervention.

I have never believed that my recovery had anything to do with “me.” People in my life have often disagreed with that, and made comments about my strength, knowledge, or personality that had something to do with getting sober. I disagree, respectfully. I have no idea how or why I got sober. I woke up one day, was drinking at a Giants game, and just had a change of heart. Suddenly, I didn’t want to anymore. The desire was removed. Just like that. There was absolutely a different energy at play, a different spiritual power. Some intervention from the great beyond that put me on a new path. I had tried and failed so many times prior to that day. Something was different. I surrendered. “Perhaps it’s just the survivor’s guilt talking,” the doubting mind returns to argue. But, I have that same deep feeling, the same deep knowing that getting sober was an act of God and not an act of “me.” When my friends started dying, I once again gained the ability to and desire to connect with the great beyond. Only this time, it was a much louder, clearer conversation.

One friend visited me in a dream hours before he died. He’d been in the hospital under a medically-induced coma after sustaining brain and other organ damage from an overdose. In the dream, I was sitting in an attic alongside him and our other mutual friend. He was in distress. There were dark energies all around the outside of the home, just beyond the roof. He was scared. He didn’t know whether to stay in this realm and return to his body or to leave and approach the next phase of his soul’s development. We sat with him in this dream state and told him we wouldn’t leave his side until he was ready. When I awoke, I was sweaty, dumbfounded at the experience I’d just had. It was so powerful, so palpable, I felt the need to go to the hospital and tell this young man’s father what I’d experienced. It was not about me. It was about the message: this young man’s spirit is in-tact, despite his body and mind being in disarray. He was not yet gone. Do not give up hope. His father handled my message with grace and openness. I found out later that the family had just been given notice that the young man would not make a recovery and they had decided to let him go.

Another visit came from a dear friend who also suffered a fatal overdose. His visit was years after he left his Earth body. The visit was happy, peaceful. In it, I was  walking through a grassy field. It was clear that I was at some type of outdoor music festival or other celebration of life. My friend approached me in the field and was his happy, loving, expansive self. He wanted me to tell a loved one on Earth that he was okay. That he was happy. This was the message that needed to get across and, again, had nothing to do with me. When I called our mutual friend after I woke up, she told me that the anniversary of this young man’s passing had just happened and that the timing of my call felt synchronistic. I started growing more comfortable with these visits and less afraid of what they meant about “me” or my mental state.

This post was inspired by a visit I had in the wee hours of this morning from my great aunt. I’d been thinking about her and my other relatives recently. Many of them passed away in the past few years, and I had a deep, loving connection with all of them. About two weeks ago, I was standing on a beach north of Davenport. As I watched the pelicans fly by, in their graceful formations, I grew sad. The pelicans always remind me of my Irish relatives who raised me. I was sad because I wished they could be here with me now. I know they’d be so proud of the life I’m living and it pained me to think they can’t be here to share in my joy. I am an imperfect human, but I try to live my life in a way that would make them proud. I cried and prayed to them on this day on the beach, and then forgot about it. Until this morning.

I woke up at 3:00 am after a dream about an earthquake. It took me a while to fall back asleep, but once I did I was immediately entering a different realm. It often happens this way. I wake up, and I know that when I go back to sleep I am going to experience vivid, lucid, or visitation dreams. I drink water, and I drift into the deepest state of sleep possible.

In my dream, I saw my aunt. She was there, in the flesh, and I was so surprised because I was conscious of the fact that she had died years ago. Nobody else in the dream could see her, only me. I grabbed hold of her hand and held it tightly. It was the same hand I felt as a little girl. The same hand that walked me around the block so many times. The same hand that gave me high-fives, fed me, and tucked me into bed. One of the many hands that raised me into the person I am today. I knew upon holding her hand in my dream that this was different: this was a visit.

I hugged her so tightly and told her how much I love her. How much I miss her. She told me the same. Then, without my prompting, she told me “I am so proud of you.” I hugged her even tighter as the visit came to an end. I woke up crying, moved to tears by the knowing in my heart and body that she had heard my prayer. She is always here. She is always listening. There are just some moments, and some times, where we can hear our loved ones more clearly.

It is no surprise to me that this occurred on October 26. A time of year celebrated around the world, by myriad religions, as a time to connect with the ancestors. A Scorpio-driven season where we are told the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. A time when communication with your loved ones who’ve passed on is encouraged. Diwali. Dia de los Muertos. Samhain.

So, I see dead people. And you probably can, too.

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