This story goes back further than I realized. My last visit with Nellie was when I was in college at Penn State, but so much has changed since then. I had no doubt that my mother was with me guiding me through all of these changes. I had transitioned from old chapters of my life such as going out into the real world, teaching, moving across the country, changing careers… and created new chapters such as falling in love and getting married… We still received signs along the way, kind of like “check in’s” from my mom. “I’m still here, I love this for you, I am here for you.” She sent signs during my most lost times, and most found times. But this time of my life made me reach out to Nellie for two reasons. One, I wanted to share this experience with my husband, and in our relationship, we share everything together. I wanted him to be given the same gifts I was: to awe at how incredible it is to connect to loved ones and feel them around us. And two, I was about to enter the biggest chapter of my life, that was always a dream of mine… motherhood.
Travis and I rarely get to go back to Pennsylvania, we wish we could do it more often. It is even more rare that our trips back to PA are not overbooked with events, gatherings and always go faster than planned. This time we were going back for our baby shower. A conversation with someone at work lead me to the topic of my experience with Nellie. I realized how amazing it would be to visit Nellie and hear from my loved ones in heaven during such a precious time of my life. This lead me to text Aunt Donna, a friend of Nellie’s, and say “I know this is a long shot, but any chance Nellie is available to squeeze Travis and I in when we are home?” My Aunt Donna is my mom’s twin and was the one who connected us with Nellie years ago. She also who was our initial eye opener to all the signs my mom was sending to her twin and family. Aunt Donna responded saying “She is booked through 2019 but I can ask.” She texted Nellie and I went on with my day, realizing most likely it wouldn’t work out, especially with such a busy weekend and limited time being home.
That night I got a text from Aunt Donna. She said Nellie responded saying she was booked, but then two hours later her appointment for the Sunday we were going to be in PA got canceled and available. Nellie asked if we’d like the appointment. I was so excited and questioned my husband “Do you want to do this?” He smartly replied, “I think we have to.” We joked that we were being summoned.
We went home to PA and had a beautiful baby shower on Saturday. Sunday we drove to Aunt Donna’s to meet with her before we went to Nellie’s (since they live in the same neighborhood.) When we got to Aunt Donna’s we started talking going on three different tangents (poor Travis) ending with the topic of my grandfather, my mom’s dad. He passed away between my last visit with Nellie and now. We talked about how stubbornness and that he went through a lot in his life making him the way he was, a bit cold and unapproachable. We didn’t really have a relationship after my mom passed away, and Aunt Donna had very rocky times as well. Aunt Donna told us how she recently changed a poem written for him to have a more tone of “forgiveness.” Then we realized we were running late. Aunt Donna said “Wait I have your birthday present!” She had given me purple earring. I put them right in my ears because I loved them and my suitcase was stuffed!
Travis and I drove over to Nellie’s sitting in her back-porch room, it was so cozy, peaceful and calming. Nellie went through how she connects to our loved ones in heaven. She described it as “throwing out a family reunion invitation and whoever responds comes through.” She mentioned that she tastes, feels, hears through different songs, and see pictures of things that allow her to decode the messages that our loved ones will be sending. She began by looking at me and saying “you know your mother is here. She wants me to tell you thank you for wearing purple (my sweater, her signature color) and she said you just got something new adding to your outfit recently, is it your earrings?” Travis and I looked at each other in amazement, and so it began…
Nellie continued speaking for my mom, “She knows your pregnant, it’s a girl, and you are honoring her by giving the baby her name… but she said you tweaked it a little?” Our little girl’s middle name is Sue and my mother’s name is Suzanne. “She says you are as healthy as a horse, and to not worry about the baby’s size… she will be ___ lbs and __ ounces, with ___ eyes and ___ hair (Travis has big newborns in his family and we always joke about my ten pound baby to come…we will reveal this info if it ends up being accurate). “She is showing me the number 3” Our baby is due in March, March 1st.
Nellie continues to say “Your grandmother’s are here too” She said how my Grand mom Jean is here and she is tasting a bowl of vanilla ice cream… no wait chocolate.” (Aunt Donna reminded me that Grand mom Jean- my mom’s mom, loved black and white milkshakes.) “Your other Grand mom is here too. She died of cancer and I’m showing it not up here (pointing to neck) but here (pointing to her stomach).” (My Gammy died of stomach cancer.) “She says she admits that she gave up a little.” She died right after my grandfather. We all said she died of a broken heart and always thought her body just gave up because he was gone. “She said she was at home when she died and that your daddy is her boy.” My dad sang guitar for her and played old home movies while she was on hospice which was only for a day or two.
Nellie looked at Travis, “I’m getting Texas and a lot of food.” This made us both laugh. Travis is from Texas, as is his whole family, and they know how to cook. “Travis is your grandfather deceased? ” Travis’ father’s father. “He is sending me the song Moving on Up.” Travis got his promotion offer letter on Saturday, the day before. “He says you are the first of your generation to do something and he’s very proud of you.” Travis is the first to go to college on that side of his family. “You come from a long line of very smart men, but he says you’re the first to go after this and forge your own path and how proud everyone is of you.” “He says you look like your dad but you two are very different.” Travis and his father look so much alike, but like she said have very different personalities. “He says your father is a good man but has made big mistakes and he is sorry for that and wishes he could ‘kick his butt’.” It was truly amazing to me how spot on Nellie was in all of these relationships with people she has never met. Nellie mentioned that there were others there for him too, one being his Mamaw (his grandfather’s mother.) Nellie said “You have a great mom with a big heart and a strong person. She is a nurse, right? They say to look out for her, she can get caught in the cycle of things. He says she does what is right for her family but she cares too much experiencing stress.” Travis’ mother is the most caring person, and she IS a nurse and does try to look out for everyone even at the expensive of her own needs.
“Your grandfather says you have something of his… rosary beads? He doesn’t need you to use them religiously, but to know that when you hold them he is with you.” The only thing Travis owns of his grandfather is rosary beads that were given to him a few years ago.
Nellie looked back to me, “Your grandfather is here, your mom’s dad. He says you two were not very close and did not have a strong relationship. He says he was very stubborn and he wants to apologize.” This is the man we were just talking about in Aunt Donna’s kitchen and mentioning forgiveness. “He says he is sorry and he did love your grandmother too.” Then Nellie says “Your grandmother is pacing back and forth.” This made me laugh out loud. The two were divorced and my grandfather put my grandmother through alot but I was so appreciative of the apology and added humor of imagining my grandmother listening.
Nellie looked back to Travis, “Were you expecting someone else to come through?” Travis said yes. “He was someone you knew years ago, someone very young, not even 20 when he passed, I want to say 19.” Travis had a good friend from high school that was hit by a car and died at 19. Which I knew about and we immediately looked at each other with tears in our eyes.” Nellie continued “He died suddenly, was it a car crash, no he was hit. He was crossing the road and he says he thought he could make it because he was fast. He said he was fast, was he a long-distance runner?” Everything she said was accurate, he died running across a highway, and held a record at his high school for long distance track. “He is showing me he is not like you, he has different hair? He is pointing to his hair and saying he was different than you.” Travis laughed and said, “He was black.” Nellie says “He said he came to you in a dream. He didn’t say anything to you, and it was only once but that was him saying goodbye.” Travis explained to me later that shortly after his passing, he always thought that he might see his friend in a dream. He did have a dream once and, in the dream, Travis realized it was him and realized he was dreaming so he said “I’ve been looking for you” in the dream. His friend looked at him and said nothing and then he woke up. The dream was so vivid that he remembered it and his mom remembers him telling her about it too. Travis was so stunned that this was real, it really was him saying goodbye. Nellie said “I am hearing a crow, a big black crow. Does this make sense?” Travis said “There is a raven that sits outside my office window. My coworkers and I actually joke about it because it comes so often and looks in the windows at us.” Nellie said “That is your loved ones. She referred to his friend and his grandfather and said they just like to come by to watch you.” She told him “You have the gift of gab.” Travis is a training supervisor and talks most of the work day.
Nellie looked over at me. “Your mom said you live someone else now. You’re in Arizona. I see a lot of hustle and bustle and new buildings going up. Travis used to live in Tempe which has had a bunch of buildings go up in the last few years since we’ve been in AZ. We spent a lot of time in Tempe when we started dating. “She says when you stepped off the plane you felt so at home. She also says you two fell in love very fast, almost like you weren’t quite ready for him yet, but then you just knew. She says you know she sent him to you. She picked out Travis just for you.” “She is showing me that you have a good gig somewhere, it looks like a university, but she says it’s a good gig.” I laughed, I work in HR at an Aquarium in AZ. “She says you’re in business now, and she is happy you found something else you love and that you do love your work there.” I made a difficult decision to switch from teaching to HR and I do love my work.
“She says she was at the wedding. She says you honored her in some way, but it wasn’t just a memorial table, you wore something of hers.” My wedding ring was my mother’s ring. We used it as the ring to wed us. “She says there was a picture that was taken that wasn’t a professional one, but it shows a light coming through like an orb. She says that was her and she was there watching it all.” There is a picture one of our Arizona friends took on their phone and it was so beautiful, rays of light beaming from behind the tree right at the altar. “She also showing me something crocheted for you” Jeremy, Travis’ mom’s husband, gave us a crocheted blanket that his mother made for us with our last name on it as well as our wedding date. “Yes, Jeremy’s mom made us a wedding gift.” Nellie says “No she is saying this is something you didn’t get yet. But it is crocheted, and someone made it for you.” (Remember this!)
Nellie continued, “She says you were trying to have a baby but were surprised with how fast it happened.” Travis and I burst out laughing. Nellie says “Oh no! They see you just not like that don’t worry.” It was so crazy how emotional, but also comfortable and light this experience was. “Your mother says she will be there with you through it all. She says you have grey and white in your baby room, and a lot of elephants and stars on the ceiling.” Our baby room is white and grey, and we got a lot of elephant accessories from family. Travis also showed me we have very faint stars on the ceiling of our baby room from the previous renters.Amazing. “She is showing me yellow in there too.” Travis and I thought maybe this meant orange because we have an orange fox clock… we couldn’t think of anything yellow.
(Remember this!) “She said you are worried about space, but you will be fine. You have made your home a home and you need to still save a little for your house. She said take your time and to stop worrying about the next steps all the time and just enjoy your pregnancy. She keeps saying the word anxiety.” I call myself a “planner” but Travis calls me a “worrier”. I guess my mom took his side. Nellie said “She also says don’t be afraid to see the world. Travel and go to Alaska if you want to go to Alaska. You can still do those things don’t be afraid of doing it while pregnant or with kids. See the world.”
“Your mother says you do look like her though.” So funny my mother in law and husband and I were looking at baby pictures and I kept saying how much my sister looks like my mother, and brother looks like my dad, but I don’t look like either. “She said you have her eyes and cheek bones.”
Nellie asked, “Do you have any questions for anyone?” I said “we are so grateful to be here, what can we pass along to others who are not here? Any messages we should relay?” Nellie said “Well, your mother says Aunt Donna is always, always, always right.” This made me laugh out loud too. “Whatever she says is right and she is so proud of her writing. She said tell her to finish the book.” My Aunt Donna is a writer and has been working on a book of spiritual/faith poems. Nellie said, “I am seeing a W, Washington?” “Wisconsin” I said. Where my little brother lives. “She said she is proud of Billy and all he has done for himself. She is showing me a cradling motion.” He used to play lacrosse in high school, which she never saw. “She says your siblings are all over the map but to keep looking out for each other and to remain close.” Nellie continued, “She says your sister is also doing great. She is very proud of her. She has been going down a good path too and is very proud. She also says your dad is a great dad and she is happy to see him happy. She says Kerry is a good person and she respects her and you kids.” Nellie continued, “Your Grandmom Jean and your mom actually met the baby… baby McKenzie (Aunt Donna’s granddaughter). They say when McKenzie laughs it is because they are playing with her and tickling her toes.”
“Your mom says the last time you were here she liked your brown strappy sandals, but you have changed your footwear game recently.” It was unbelievable she brought up the same parts of our conversation last time. It was like we were picking up where we left off 5+ years later. I also laughed because in the last 2 years I recently finally became a heel wearer. “She said you need a pedicure though.” My feet were covered with my boots, but she was right, and I had actually said to Travis I wanted to get my toes done prior to the weekend at home… even though it is winter. In PA. “But now your mother is saying we need to finish so we can get you to the airport for your flight at 5:04.” Our flight that day was scheduled to leave at 5:05. And she was right we were cutting it close.
As we were leaving, Nellie stopped walking to the door and said, “I am tasting Vanilla Wafers, and pudding, is that banana pudding?” Travis started laughing “My Mamaw had the best Banana Pudding recipe and everyone tried but no one could make it like her.”
Travis and I left and immediately had to go to the airport to catch our flight. As we hit the long security line and barely were going to make it to the gate on time I said to Travis “Let’s get food.” He gave me a look of “we need to get going” and I said jokingly, “Relax we have the spirits on our side!” We got out food and our flight was delayed a perfect 30 minutes, just enough time to eat.
When we got back to Arizona we were blessed with having Shannon (Travis’ mom) and Jeremy there. We told them all our Nellie stories and when we mentioned “something crocheted” Jeremy’s jaw almost hit the floor. He said, “Open this present” and passed us a gift from under our Christmas tree. Inside was a crocheted blanket for our baby girl made by his mother, and it was in YELLOW.