My mom passed away nine years ago and it has been a very long journey for my younger brother, older sister, father and many others including my Aunt Donna, my mom’s twin. However we were blessed with many signs from my mom like seeing a purple balloon or a rainbow on special occasions or in moments of need, which gave us a little sense of comfort that she was still near to us. But until my experience this summer, I truly didn’t realize how near she was.
In the beginning of this summer, my sister Stephanie, Aunt Donna and I sat catching up at Panera. We always start talking about the “What’s new?” but the conversation somehow always leads back to talking about my mom, which all three of us love. Today was different though in that Aunt Donna had an opportunity for Steph and me. “I was thinking that, if you wanted and felt comfortable, if you girls wanted me to set you up a meeting with Nellie this summer.”
Nellie was Aunt Donna’s friend who has an amazing gift from God. She is blessed with the ability to connect with, and communicate with those in heaven. I had previously heard many stories about my mom contacting Nellie and giving messages to all of us through her, but I had never personally witnessed any of the communication, nor had I ever met Nellie.
Stephanie, being as brave as she is, said “Yes!” right away. I was a little hesitant but because my older sister led the way, I said yes too. Aunt Donna started talking about what it would be like, and how good it would be for the two of us to experience but as she was talking my heart was racing thinking what did I just do? Do I want to do this? Will it be like losing her all over again? Will it be scary? But at the same time I begin to feel really excited to finally know for sure if all the signs weren’t just a coincidence. Is she really here?
Aunt Donna set up the appointments and Stephanie’s was the day before mine, which gave me a huge sense of relief. Her meeting was on a Saturday and mine was that Sunday. I happened to be out of town when Steph’s day had come but I texted her to see how it went. “It was amazing Kristen” was her response. I was happy but I always was thinking okay, but HOW was it? She decided not to tell me about it before my meeting with Nellie because she didn’t want to set any expectations for me. It drove me crazy but because I saw how happy she was, I trusted her.
I woke up in the morning and started anticipating my meeting with Nellie which was only hours away. I showered and picked out one of my new outfits, and felt so weird thinking that I was getting ready to see my mom. I wanted to look perfect. Digging through my drawers I put on my new red shorts with a skinny brown belt and had a black shirt tucked in. Then I slipped on one of my new pairs of sandals. Because I was going to see Nellie, my inner doubt became very suspicious of it all, how will I know if this is for real? So I started to look for a piece of my mom’s jewelry to wear, because I had seen on the show Long Island Medium that sometimes people who are skeptical set up tests to see if the medium would mention the jewelry. As I wordlessly hunted around my room I realized that my jewelry box was still up at school. I was really bummed out but running late so I left.
As I started to walk down the stairs to leave, my heart started pounding, not out of excitement but out of panic. I was having a panic attack and texted Steve, my boyfriend saying, “I can’t do this.” Luckily Aunt Donna had offered for me to stop at her house on the way to Nellie’s, as Nellie lives on her street, and I was relieved a little to know I would be meeting with her before. As I drove to Aunt Donnas I felt tears welling up in my eyes, What if she doesn’t come through? What if I don’t get anything out of this? Is this natural to be communicating with the “dead”? I walked into Aunt Donna’s house and she was as calm as could be. “Are you so excited? Your sister had the most amazing experience!” I looked at her and spilled my guts, “I’m just so nervous!” This is one of the many reasons I love my Aunt Donna, she was so reassuring and told me that she would ride with me to Nellie’s and walk back so I felt more comfortable.
I pulled up to Nellie’s house to find a man working on his car in the driveway. Okay this seems normal! My nerves began to subside as we walked up to the house. A warm smile greeted us at the door. “Kristen! It’s so nice to finally meet you. I am so happy that you are here and your mom couldn’t be more excited!” I looked at Aunt Donna and she smiled and said, “Have fun!”
Nellie led me into her house and said, “Kristen, everyone is here. They are so excited to see you again.” Everyone? Who? I felt my inner self roll my eyes in disbelief. Nellie and I walked through her living room to a comfy little screened in porch. It was a sunny warm day. This isn’t scary at all! In the middle of the porch was a little table covered in a teal cloth with candles on it. There were six chairs, one with a box of tissues in front of it. “That’s your chair” Nellie said as she smiled. I thought, “Tissues? I won’t need these I never cry” Little did I know.
Nellie sat across from me on the other end of the table. “Do you want to know where everyone is sitting?” My heart jumped. “Your mom is sitting next to you on your left, your mom’s mom is next” she skipped over her chair, “On the other side of me is your other grandma and next to her is your grandfather”. Then she went on to describe a little bit about her gift. She told me that she hears, sees and tastes things to communicate with people in heaven and sometimes the connection is very clear and other times she can only get bits and pieces. Nellie told me that I don’t even have to respond to what she is saying and I am supposed to just listen or help her understand if anything stands out to me. Then she started with my mom.
Nellie would look over at the chair to my left and pause, then relay it to me. She started, “Your mother is here and first of all she is just so proud of you. She wants me to tell you a few things just so you know how much she is around you all the time. So here are some things that she can tell you. First of all, you wanted to wear something of your mother’s today she is saying. She says you were looking for a necklace of hers to bring today? But you couldn’t get to it because it was far away?” I nodded, “I left my jewelry box at Penn State.” Nellie went on, “She said to not worry about that because your heart being here is enough for her.” Okay, maybe this is real. Nellie continued, “Do you have a shoe fetish? Your mother is showing me shoes? Did you just recently buy shoes?” My eyes widened, “Yes, I bought three pairs of sandals this week”. Nellie said, “Your mom was with you when you were picking them out. She is showing them to me, one pair isn’t the one your wearing right now but you wore them recently, they are brown, and have a lot of straps and a bunch of buckles on each shoe on the side.” Chills overwhelmed my body. She had perfectly described the shoes I had worn the day before. This is real. “Your mother is also showing me a thin brown belt and is saying that she really likes it.” On this same shopping trip I had bought three pairs of shorts that all came with a thin belt. “She just wants to reassure you that she is here, and watches you all the time.” Suddenly I became aware that Nellie, the “stranger” had disappeared, and I was just in a room sitting next to my mom.
My mom told Nellie a few songs that remind her of me. Now, she said she wasn’t going to give me any Bruce Springsteen songs because they were too obvious. One song was I Hope You Dance, which was a favorite of ours for years. This one didn’t surprise me. The next song was We Are Young because she sees me sing it with my friends and she wants me to take me “higher than the sun”. Which lead into the next song Brighter than the Sun. This song really made sense to me because whenever I listen to it I would think about her, Suzy Sunshine.
Then my mom continued to prove to me that is still is with us. Nellie looked up and started to giggle. “Your mom is doing some kind of motion with her hands, it’s like this…” and Nellie did a motion that looked like a lacrosse cradle motion. I smiled, “My brother plays lacrosse.” Nellie said, “But he didn’t always play lacrosse. This was a new thing for him. She loves to watch his games. Didn’t he just get acknowledged? He is really good she says.” My younger brother Billy is 19 and just started lacrosse in high school. His season had just ended and he received an offensive MVP award. My mom continues, “Your little brother isn’t so little anymore though. Isn’t he like 6’1″? And have huge feet?” I laughed. It was true.
My mom then started to describe something else to Nellie. “Your mom is showing me these two boxes. They kind of have a floral print and one is pink and green and the other is yellow and pink and they are locked away? Or put away? She wants you to know that whenever you go through those boxes she is with you.” Oh my God. I have two boxes that are exactly as described underneath my bed that contain memories, pictures, letters, birthday cards from my mom and others who have passed on. No one knew about these boxes except my best friend Sonya. “Your mom is always around you Kristen.” Tears.
“Now your mom’s mom is here too,” Nellie said. “Grandma Jean” I said with a smile. Grandma Jean was one of those grandmothers who was always happy and loving, but went through a lot that was never surfaced in her emotions. She loved kids and worked as a teacher’s aid and I feel that is where I got my strong passion for teaching and children. Nellie said, “First of all I know you feel guilty. Your grandma says that you always felt guilty about not visiting her in the nursing home. You were afraid and it was too much for you. But she wants you to know she forgives you for that and to not feel bad about it at all. She also said you couldn’t stand the smell of it there.” I couldn’t help but let out a loud laugh. How embarrassing that she knew that. But I felt a huge weight of guilt released off of my chest because my Aunt and dad were so religious about visiting her, and I never felt like I went enough.
“Now you and your grandma Jean have a strong connection. Your grandma wants you to know that she is so proud you are going into education. At first when you went to Penn State you weren’t sure but as soon as your foot hit the campus you decided to do education.” My very first day at Penn State I switched my major from Psychology to Education. “She said that you are worried about finding a job but to not worry because you will find one and it will be out of the blue and you will love it.” Might as well stop trying now! “Grandma Jean is saying that she already has been helping you. You prayed to her and she helped you find a job this summer.” This is incredible. I did not tell anyone, but in the beginning of the summer I was worried I wouldn’t find a nanny position because it was so last minute and I prayed to Grandma Jean to help me find something since she was so good with children and the next day I had an email about a summer babysitting job. It really was her who helped me!
“She wants you to know that she does not look like how she did during her final years on Earth.” My grandmother lost a lot of strength in her later years. But Nellie went on to say that she is not how we picture her and is full of life again. Nellie also told me that my grandmother never realized how strong a woman could be and she hopes we all know that. Nellie also left me with some funny memories such as “Your grandma still love to play cards she is showing you the Ace of Spades.” I distinctly remember playing game after game of cards with my Grandma Jean. She loved it.
Nellie shifts her seating and looks to the chair where my other grandmom was sitting. “Now, you don’t call your dad’s mom grandmom, you had a special name for her?” “Gammy.” I said. Gammy’s death was the most recent, which made the feeling of uneasiness come over me when Nellie began communicating with her. “Gammy already said that you should be thinking of the song On the Way to Cape May.” This was a tune that Gammy performed for us countless times each summer down the shore. “Did your Gammy like cocktails? She is sitting on the beach with a gin and tonic.” I laughed. It was typical of her to be enjoying herself that way.
Nellie looked over at me. “It was really hard for you to say goodbye to Gammy wasn’t it?” I looked down. Tears poured out of my eyes. “Because she was the only one you had a chance to say goodbye to.” More tears. I felt betrayed when Gammy died because we became so close after my mom passed and always talked about heaven and what it would be like, and I was so angry that she left so early in my life too. “She wants you to know that your goodbye meant so much to her. She was in her house and you walked over to her right side and you whispered in her ear and kissed her on the forehead.” That’s exactly how it happened. “It meant so much to her.” Nellie looked at me again and said, “Gosh Kristen you are so young to have to many people here, I’m so sorry.” And suddenly I was caught up in my own grief and cried harder than I had in a long time.
But soon enough I see Nellie smile again and say “What!” and she laughed. “Did your grandmother use to slip you money? She is trying to slip you a five right now! I am glad to find I guess they have money in heaven!” This restored my faith because Gammy had a way of making me laugh. And she still does. Nellie also laughed and said, “Do you ever look for something for a while and then all the sudden its right next to you again? Apparently Gammy likes to move your stuff around and mess with you sometimes.” I laughed again; I could totally see her doing that. We had such a fun relationship.
“Gammy knows that you have a really hard time believing in heaven, and you still do. She was very religious wasn’t she?” She was. “But she wants you to know that no matter what, if you are a good person you’ll get here. She is saying it’s all real Kristen and it’s wonderful.” I didn’t doubt that she was right.
Nellie moved on to the next person in line, Gammy’s husband. “You don’t call your grandfather ‘Grandpa’ either do you?” We don’t. “No,” I said, “He is our Big Bobby.” Nellie started moving her lips; “I am tasting a hot dog right now. Your Bobby is at the Phillies game. And he is not happy with the Phillies this season. Something about Ryan Howard. And he is singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I had not though about him singing that song in years but as soon as Nellie mentioned it, I heard his voice loud and clear. He always sang so loud and proud. Saying Bobby loved the Phillies is an understatement. There was no doubt in my mind that he was at the game. “He is saying that when he goes to the games he is THERE- hot dogs and all!” Heaven is not sounding so bad right about now.
Nellie talked about how Bobby was a strong man and a fighter. He had been his whole life. She said how Bobby hung on as long as he could, but saw himself becoming too much of a burden on people and knew it was time to let go. It sounded like he had a choice. Bobby had a series of health problems before he passed but Nellie said that during his final trip to the hospital he was already in heaven by the time they arrived. Nellie said that he loved us so much and we were all such a blessing. She also said, “He wants you to know that he is with Gammy again. I know you were worried about that for her. But they are together.” My heart warmed because seeing Gammy lose Bobby was one of the saddest moments in my life. I was so happy they were reunited because that had that one-of-a-kind love that people pray for.
Nellie looked back over to where my mom was sitting. “Your mom wants to talk about some heavier things, is that okay?” My heart sank. “Yes.” She began, “First of all, your mom wants you to know that when she died she was gone right away. As soon as she had her stroke she was lifted up into a white light. And right before she was, she saw a picture of you kids holding hands on the beach. You and your sister had on ruffled bathing suits” There was a picture in my mom’s bedside drawer of just that. “She also wants you to know that there is a picture in someone’s wallet that is wrinkled or ripped and what she looks like in that picture is what she looks like now.” My dad has a picture of the two of them in his wallet that is wrinkled. “Your mom says that when she passed it was so hard to watch you guys. You all would just walk around the house, numb. You were all too young. Billy was too young.” Tears. “But her funeral was beautiful. She looked beautiful at the funeral. And you all honored her again in a year or two?” We had a one-year anniversary ceremony for my mom. “Your mom said you spoke at the ceremony and it was so hard for you. You only had a little bit of writing but you were afraid you weren’t going to get through it. But you did and she said it was amazing.” I read the response oral at the ceremony. I remember holding back tears just until after I had read. I know she helped me get through it.
“Your mom and you were very alike. Did you used to get migraines when you were younger?” I jumped up. I hadn’t thought about that in years, but when I was a little girl I would get terrible migraines. My mom got them when she was younger too. She knew how bad they could be and even wrote down on my nurse’s card at school “Send her home if she has a migraine.” My mom was so protective and caring especially when it came to our health. In a way we bonded over the migraines saying how alike our bodies were. Nellie went on, “She said that you two have a lot in common with your health, but she wants you to know that it’s not going to happen to you. She knows you are scared that it will, but she assures you that it isn’t going to happen to you, it was the medicine.” I start crying. In the back of my mind that was a huge fear of mine. My mom passed of a stroke at 42, a very uncommon thing, but I feared because we were so alike that the same would happen to me. I felt like I could breathe again.
“Your mom is also thanking you for always honoring her.” Nellie talked about my dad’s wedding and how my mom is so proud of us. Nellie mentioned how I wore my mom’s necklace to the wedding and said some very nice words in my head before leaving for the church. “It meant a lot to her.” She also said she was so proud that my sister and I spoke at the wedding. This gave me a huge sense of comfort.
“Now Kristen, I don’t have to even tell you that the rainbows and purple balloons are your mom saying hello. Do I?” I smiled, “No, we know!” It was still nice to have that clarification. Then Nellie said, “Your mom said you believed that the balloons you released would go to your mom every time. But it took your sister until that last time you released them to really believe and she really felt your mom next to her.” This occurred in the Panera parking lot after we decided to set up an appointment with Nellie. (Little did I know at the time that my sister had told Aunt Donna that she had really felt my mom with her while she released the balloon. When I told Aunt Donna what Nellie had said, she jumped up “You did not just say that. Stephanie told me a few days ago that she felt your mom’s presence!” Heaven is here all around us.)
Then my mom began to bring up past memories of my childhood. She talked about making thumbprint cookies at Christmastime, reading Golden Books and Dr. Seuss books to me, watching Cinderella, and my childhood habits of singing, dancing and entertaining. Nellie started laughing and said, “Your mom is making the most ridiculous face describing you. She is sticking out her tongue.” I was the queen of funny faces as a child and my dad and mom always asked me to do them for the camera. They called it the Gongi face. Thanks mom and dad. My mom said for me to never change my youthful outlook on life. She also continued by saying her favorite place to watch us all is down the shore. Of course it is. She adored the Jersey shore so much that we bought a beach house in memory of her, Suzy’s Place. My mom said when we stare at the ocean or watch the sunset it is her favorite time to be with us. She also called me the “Sun Child” and said that I have always worshiped the sun.
Then Nellie made a puzzling face. “Your mom is showing me this stuffed bear. I call it a boo-boo bear because that’s what my son called his bear. I told Stephanie about it yesterday but she doesn’t seem to know. But you mom keeps showing it to me. Maybe Billy or you dad knows.” (After telling this to my dad later in the day he responded immediately, “I know what that is. It’s the bear your brother loved and he brought it to the hospital when you mom was there. He left it with her and she was holding it when she passed. Then he put in on her bed for months after she was gone.” I remembered it all as soon as he explained it. The memory broke my heart but also healed it a little knowing my mom recognized it.
My mom mentioned more recent things such as the color salmon. “Your mom is showing me salmon dresses and salmon roses”. My 8th grade dance dress was salmon and my junior prom dress that was a God-wink in itself (it was hidden behind my dressing room door in my size and fit perfectly) was also salmon. When Steve, my boyfriend asked me to prom he gave me salmon roses and I had salmon roses in my corsage the day of prom.
My mom also brought up more of the present. “Your mom is saying that she watches you do something you are not good at. You are holding a book, it’s really small and I can’t read the words but its short like ‘Math’. She says she knows it’s hard but to stick with it.” At first I had no idea but later when I went home I saw the “CAS” book next to my bed. OH! It’s my speech book! I was taking a summer speech class. I dreaded doing speeches, which was why I was taking it in the summer and getting it over with. She must have been watching me read the chapters and write my speeches.
“Your mom wants you to thank your Aunt Donna.” Nellie spoke, “She has been incredible to you three. You would not be in the same place if you had not had her.” This couldn’t be truer. She is such an optimistic person for someone who had lost her sister and has always helped us keep our faith. If it weren’t for her I would have never had this amazing experience.
Nellie began to say that the connections with my loved ones were beginning to fade. “But your mom wants to tell you one more thing. She loves you so much and she is always around.” I have heard this many times before but have never believed it as much as I do now. “She is all around you.” Nellie’s eyes shifted above my head. “She is hugging you right now and pushing back your hair. She kissed you on the cheek.” Nellie said she saw a dove and the connection was lost. As frustrating as it was to hear my mom was touching me and not be able to feel it, I didn’t feel what I had feared. I didn’t feel like I lost her all over again, I felt like I had finally found her again. I had been given an incredible gift from God, which was a glimpse into the window of heaven. I now have knowledge that not many people do and I thank God for that every day.
I then became aware that I was no longer in what felt like a room full of people, but sitting across a table with a woman I had only met 45 minutes ago. “Thank you, so much” was all I could manage. Nellie smiled, “No Kristen, thank you. Your mother is one of the best people I have ever met and has become one of my close friends. Her spirit is so strong. I am lucky to have met her.” I hugged Nellie and knew she meant it because that is what everyone would say after meeting my mom.
I walked to my car and my soul was beaming. I felt like there was nothing in the world to ever worry about again. I literally felt like I was just with my Grandma Jean, Gammy, Bobby and mom. I turned my keys, and the song We Are Young was playing from the very beginning. After telling Aunt Donna and my family about my wonderful experience it started raining, but it was that sunny rain that only happens once in a while. My sister and I ran outside and there was a double rainbow above my house. Now you’re just showing off.