We Don’t Die
Thirty years in the making, this message from beyond changes everything
Friday, April 18, 2014 7:00PM
Potluck dishes fill the air with the smell of homemade cooking. We wait patiently for the medium, ten friends eating and mingling. At last, the doorbell announces Verna’s arrival.
Our host, Jeff, excuses himself to welcome the expected guest. Their quiet banter through the entry hall turns to silence the moment her heel clicks on the tiled kitchen floor. This beautiful Sicilian woman locks eyes with me as she steps forward.
“Oh wow! He’s not gonna wait. Your father’s here!”
Thirty-one years earlier
Friday, February 11, 1983
Washington Hospital Center, Washington, D.C.
We feel her before we see her through our sleepy eyes. Mom moves gently through the dim light of the waiting room.
My sister, my wife, and I, soothe our five-month-old baby girl while we comfort Mom, and each other, after the long, overnight vigil. The love of Mom’s life, and ours, John Carlton Godlove, passed away in a cardiac intensive care unit following a diagnostic procedure. Like his father before him, he was seventy-one.
There had been no reasonable hope. Dad was bleeding internally. He couldn’t survive surgery; his heart couldn’t tolerate the drugs needed to stop it; and pain meds only made the hemorrhaging worse. It was brutal. So we waited. And waited. And waited. In and out of the intensive care unit all night.
His bed, the first bay on the right, is bathed in cold, fluorescent light. Unable to open his eyes or speak, he motions to write. Mom holds a pad of paper and gently puts a pen in his hand. He makes motions in the air above the pad, sometimes on it, but it’s futile. He wants to communicate, but can’t. We try to make him comfortable. We tell him we love him. We tell him we know he loves us. We’re powerless to help and our hearts ache.
The night finally delivers death and relief from his long suffering. It also delivers one of the worst blizzards on record for the eastern seaboard, stamping this moment indelibly on us. We gather our things to return to the motel that will be home, and the 7-Eleven that will be our kitchen, until the interstates are plowed days later. We scrounge for plastic garbage bags to wear as boots to get to my Subaru through the thigh-high snow. Everything is shut down.
Picking up my cardigan sweater, I notice something is different. In that dim morning light, I can just make out a single red thread, tenderly weaved through its breast. A small heart. My mother’s overnight handiwork so close to Valentine’s Day. It remained in that sweater until I wore it out.
You’re never old enough to lose your dad. And at 25, I was a new father with so much ground to cover without his gentle words and wisdom to help guide me.
Thirty-one years and three children later, standing in that kitchen, face-to-face with Verna, I discovered I was wrong about that. Dad had been with me every step of the way. And he still is. I revised my personal history to include that truth, and it paved a way to an entirely new future.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Spirit was hard at work leading up to this life-changing evening with Verna. It started eight months before I met her.
Saturday evening, August 17, 2013
Eight months before meeting Verna
Sovereign Performing Arts Center, Reading, PA
The line was a city block long and four people wide. Reading rarely sees this. Sarah and I inched forward with the crowd to see Theresa Caputo, The Long Island Medium. We headed for the fifth row in this vintage theater, third and fourth seats from the aisle, house right. In front of us was a single man, and beside him, a couple. We later recalled seeing the couple dining in a nearby restaurant.
Theresa opened the show on stage and then entered the audience using the far aisle on the opposite side of the theater. She was mic’d with two cameramen in tow. They projected Theresa, and the people she was reading, on a huge screen at the front of the theater. When she got to the back row, she took the stairs up to the balcony and did readings as she crossed to the staircase on our side of the theater. She descended those stairs and resumed her readings, moving toward the stage, working her way down our aisle.
All night, the readings were intense. So many tragic deaths and so much grief resolved through her readings. Theresa slowed as she approached us, then stopped one row past ours where the single man and couple were seated. This reading proved to be as intense as the others. The man’s son died violently as a police officer. The couple’s son, in the armed services. The parents didn’t know each other, but their sons showed up together in spirit. Theresa called it a tag team. Their stories, like every other that night, were tearjerkers.
When she finished, she headed to the front row but stopped short. Turning around, she walked back to the people she had just read. The cameras, now aimed squarely in our direction, projected them, and us, onto the huge screen above the stage.
“I’m getting a ring.”
Both the man and the couple thought about it. The man acknowledged that his son had a ring, but it didn’t lead anywhere. Theresa stayed with it for a while, then finally gave up. When she turned to walk away she stopped short again and came back.
“Or it could be a cufflink.”
Again, there was no meaningful response, so she turned and walked toward the stage. And again, she stopped short, as if caught by the collar, and walked back once more.
“They say you have the same name.”
They remained stumped and silent, so she finally gave up and moved on.
That said, I have a confession to make. I owe Theresa an apology. I’ve wondered ever since how often this happens. She was right on, but I was too self-conscious to respond.
The only thing I brought with me to this show was my Dad’s ring. Which, by the way, looks exactly like a cufflink — slightly rectangular shape with the corners knocked off, gold with a brown stone. It’s the only personal item I have of his, and I brought it with me in a black velvet pouch that night. It was deep in my right front jeans pocket. With the cameras and lights on us, I was too self-conscious to dig the ring out and draw attention to myself. This theater is really old and the seats are very narrow. The contortion required to extract that ring would have made me look like I had gas!
Then there was the whole tragic tenor of the evening. My dad passed decades before. It was sad, for sure, but not a tragedy per se (sorry Dad!). And many of the stories that night were more recent passings. It just didn’t seem to fit the evening. That, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to call out, even to the row directly in front of me, “Yo! Theresa! Let’s see what we have here!” Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen in a theater peppered with people I knew.
Oh! The name? Right on. My full name is John Carlton Godlove, II.
I know. I know. I’m an idiot. Or at least that’s what I thought over the next several days.
Four days later
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I was kicking myself on Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. I had blown the only opportunity I’d ever have to connect with my dad. Finally, on Wednesday, I decided to do something about it. I had a business meeting half an hour from my office. Sitting in traffic at the last stoplight, exasperated, I bargain out loud.
“Hey Dad! I know you were there Saturday night. I’d sure like a confirmation. If you could please send me a sign, that’d be great. Something electronic would be good!”
It was an inside joke. I got my love for gadgets from my dad. So much so that I designed and patented a golf device a few years before. Not electronic, but still pretty cool. My dad would (does!) approve. So I smile to myself at the thought and drive on, still heavy with regret that I had missed, what I assumed, was my one and only opportunity to “speak” with him.
Ten minutes later, I’m in the meeting room, plopping my binder on the right rear corner of our U-shaped conference table. A breakfast buffet and coffee are waiting outside the room and I waste no time joining my under-caffeinated cohorts in the hall.
As I dish out my oatmeal, I hear a sound coming from inside the room. It’s a beeping, an electronic beeping. It starts quietly and then gets louder and louder and louder before stopping for a moment and then starting again, over and over. I’d never heard it before, and haven’t since. It’s incessant and obnoxious, and I think to myself,
“Why isn’t someone turning off that alarm?!”
Oatmeal in one hand, coffee in the other, I re-enter the room and approach my seat. That’s when I realize it’s my phone that’s screaming. I had mindlessly left it with my binder. I had no memory of setting it down. I never do that. Except this one time.
I pick it up and look for everything I can imagine that could make it scream. Nothing is running to create that sound. No alarms. No apps. Nothing! I close every app anyway. Still it persists. It doesn’t stop until I shut the phone down completely by powering it off.
I was so focused on getting the attention off my corner of the room, that my earlier conversation on the drive there didn’t even come to mind. That happened later that day during a quiet moment. I remembered in a flash, and instantly knew that Dad had honored my request. I knew he was laughing, and I smiled at the thought for the rest of the day. I must have looked like a Cheshire cat.
And it still makes me smile! That sign, in the face of what happened with Theresa over the weekend, lifted me. I just didn’t know then, how much higher I was going to rise.
Five months later — three months before Verna
Saturday evening, January 25, 2014
Gourmet Dinner Club at a friend’s home
Sarah and I have been members of a gourmet dinner club for years. It’s a good excuse to make and enjoy dishes we don’t normally eat, and a wonderful time to visit with friends we don’t normally see, like Jeff and Elyse.
Five months after Sarah and I attended the Long Island Medium show, Elyse was bubbling over at one of our dinners. She had recently attended a small group reading by a local medium, Verna Lisa.
Elyse wasn’t on the original list for that reading. A snow storm caused it to be rescheduled and one woman, originally attending, couldn’t make the new date. Elyse was invited to fill in and jumped at the chance.
So we weren’t the only ones to have had an incredible recent encounter with a medium! Elyse’s account of her experience gave all of us chills. We couldn’t get enough. So she offered to host a group reading at her home if there was enough interest. I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Yes!” A second chance to talk to my dad!
She contacted Verna the following week, and ten of us were scheduled for a group reading at Jeff and Elyse’s home on April 18th. I could barely contain myself over the next three months.
Friday, April 18, 2014 7:00PM
Back where we started, face-to-face with Verna
“Oh wow! He’s not gonna wait. Your father’s here!”
That took my breath away as she continued.
“I’m getting a “J” name.”
— “Yes. His first name is John.”
“He’s telling me that you’re one of four (children).”
— “Well I’m actually one of three.”
Then I paused. My mom had miscarried a baby girl before my oldest sibling was born. The details are lost in our family history, but she was spoken of often while I was growing up. I hadn’t thought of this for years. Looking back on it now, I realize, as a parent, and now a grandparent, how heartbreaking it would be to lose a child in any manner. So yes, I explained to Verna that I may well have been one of four in my parents’ eyes, and perhaps in truth as well.
Then Verna patted her chest.
“Did your father pass from the heart?”
“Because he’s telling me to tell you to take care of yours.”
Duly noted. I smiled and nodded yes.
“He’s telling me that you have his ring.”
— “Yes, I do.”
“No, he means that you have it here, with you now, in your right front pocket.”
Ok, well, that totally blew me away. I reached into my right front pocket and pulled out the black velvet pouch and produced the ring. The same pouch and ring I had taken to the Long Island Medium show. I held it up for her to see.
“Yep! That’s the ring! But I saw a darker stone.”
I placed the ring on my finger and showed it to her again. The stone appears noticeably darker when worn.
To say the least, everyone was giddy with excitement, including Verna. She said that we hadn’t even gotten started. My father’s energy was so strong. And she was so right. The hours flew by and my father, and others in spirit, including my mother and my wife’s parents, had a blast. So did we.
What happened over the course of that evening, together with the events that led up to it, radically changed my mindset and life trajectory. The shift from belief to knowing is powerful.
My father recounted events and inner thoughts of mine that no one else knew. And he delivered profound wisdom peppered with humor. A father-son talk that was so familiar to me, even after all these years. The entire group was riveted!
His final words of advice? “Do what feeds you.”
Radical changes had to occur for this to happen.
They did. And I am.
I feel that a parting note about Verna, “the rest of the story,” if you will, is important to speak to her credibility.
Verna and I didn’t know that evening that we would become good friends. She didn’t just show up, do a reading, and then disappear from my life. We stayed in touch. In part, because we connected so powerfully that evening. In part, because, as she walked up to our host’s front door, she had a related experience with one of her own family members in spirit. She shared that with me months later.
Verna isn’t just a medium to us now. She’s a friend with a special gift. Sarah and I have enjoyed her phenomenal Italian home cooking. We get together for coffee. I’ve helped her son think through his future. I’ve learned that mediumship runs in her family, as it often does. Some family members embrace it. Others want nothing to do with it. This gift can carry a heavy burden. And beyond all that, Verna is a gifted therapist and coach, and a wonderful human being.
The Wisdom of Waiting
Thirty years and definitely worth the wait. Dad was acquainted with Verna long before I was, meticulously orchestrating the events that led me to her and him. And he knew how it had to happen to have this powerful impact on me, knowing I’d move through it with an open mind and a willing spirit.
Thanks, Dad! I am so looking forward to a very long hug. :) But there’s work to do in the meantime, so I’ll keep doing what feeds me. And I’ll always trust that you’re beside me all the way, or perhaps slightly ahead, blazing trails. :)
Love you to the moon and back, Dad!
(But you already knew that ❤)