When I made the appointment with the psychic medium hoping to connect with my young husband who had died from a disease that had stolen his mind before we’d had the chance to say the things we needed to say, I knew it would take less than three minutes to Google my name and find me and my story. I’d written so much about the last year of his life, about the first year of my young widowhood, that anyone, gifted with the ability to connect with the spiritual world or not, would be able to surmise the things I wanted to hear from the man who had been my best friend and co-parent and biggest cheerleader.
I knew I was going to be an easy target and, honestly, I didn’t care. Because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe I wasn’t as alone as I often felt; I wanted to believe we could say the things we’d left unsaid. I wanted something I couldn’t name, something vague and intangible but crucial to surviving my widowhood that I’d been missing for almost two years, and I was willing to suspend disbelief, suspend skepticism and good sense and rational thinking to get it.
I chose the date with intention. November 11—11/11—felt auspicious, significant. Things happened on 11/11. Connections with worlds that were beyond my understanding were made on 11/11. At least that’s what I chose to believe as I parked in front of the unassuming white house and got out of the car, knocked on the front door and waited.
Minutes passed and I rechecked the address, sent to me over Facebook messenger. I was at the right place, at the right time.
I returned to my car as a white SUV pulled up. A woman sat in the driver’s seat, talking—maybe shouting—into the phone. I paused, waiting for the phone call to end and for her to acknowledge that a stranger was parked right outside her house, unabashedly staring at her. The (heated?) conversation in the car continued and I began to doubt what I was doing there. Obviously I’d made a mistake, if not in address or time, then in choosing to believe at all.
I started the engine and put the car into drive. Less than a mile later, my Facebook messenger dinged. I pulled over to read the message. It was from the psychic medium, who was also, apparently, the angry woman on the phone.
“Hi. I’m here in the white car.”
After a few back and forth messages, I returned to the house, slightly more skeptical and unsure whether I was making a good choice, but no less desperate to believe that this stranger had the ability to give me that something I’d been missing for almost two years.
She told me she’d been finishing up a phone call. She didn’t acknowledge whether it was an argument and I didn’t ask. From my view through the windshield she had seemed angry while on the phone, her hand moving in tense up and down jerks with each inaudible point she made, facial features tensing with each word. But her energy outside the car belied none of that rage. The two women—the angry one in the car and the pleasant, slightly unapologetic one unlocking the door to the white house—seemed incongruous. I chose to ignore the disparity. I chose not to think she must be an excellent actress.
She led me into the basement of what she admitted was her parents’ home. I sat on a sagging couch and she sat across from me. A coffee table scattered with papers covered in scribbles separated us. Bright lights illuminated the stark, bare walls, and nothing felt magical about the space. I didn’t leave. Because I wanted to believe. I told myself one sentence, one good reference to something only he would know, would be all I’d need to believe.
She looked at the picture I gave her of my husband—of us at our wedding. If she hadn’t Googled me before, the photo provided context for the kind of words I needed to hear. I was setting her up to succeed, and I knew it.
She started doodling on the paper, her gaze faraway, on some unseen person or place off in the corner of the room. My heart sank at her first few words, words that seemed to come too quickly, without the help of low lights or candles or magic words…or anything to set a mood that would encourage a spirit to visit. There was too much real life in this space that I wanted to feel was bigger than the boundaries of real life.
She asked if my husband sat with his legs crossed, because that’s how he appeared to be sitting now. I told her I didn’t remember, and my heart broke. He’d been gone less than two years and I couldn’t remember if he crossed his legs when he sat or rested an ankle over a knee.
She said the word “goofy” and asked if my husband had been particularly goofy. I balked. He’d had a great sense of humor, sharp-witted and dry, but goofy? I didn’t know. Maybe I couldn’t remember.
I’d come to connect with my husband, and so far, had only come to find how much of him I’d lost. I wanted to believe in magic, but instead, grief, heartache, was beginning to churn up too much static.
She continued. There was something about a man named Ben, possibly Ben Franklin flying kites and electricity. She mentioned the number three and pizza. With each sentence, I desperately racked my brain looking for a way to connect her words with my husband. I wanted to believe he was in that too-bright basement with me, that it was that easy for him to be a presence in my life. Each time, I found a connection, enough to keep going, to believe my husband was speaking to me through her. Enough to consciously allow myself to be pulled deeper into the story she was crafting around me.
I’d read the articles about psychics and mediums, how they manipulate and read cues, how they make claims general enough to fit anybody or hedge their words with vague statements, waiting for the client to fill in the details. I was making a choice not to care, to give her the details to continue crafting a story, to allow the manipulations. I wanted magic to be real. I wanted miracles to be possible.
As the session progressed, we talked about my future. She asked me if a particular day was relevant and I told her it was. I’d been anticipating that day for a little over two weeks; it was the day my article was going to be published by a website that had more than 4 million followers—the biggest audience I’d ever written for. She told me my husband was proud of my writing, of all that I was doing as a solo parent and trying to rebuild a life. I teared up.
She told me he knew I was lonely, and that he was always with me. The idea that a young widow might be lonely wasn’t novel, was almost cliché, and yet I wiped the tear that I couldn’t blink away.
She leaned forward and said he was going to send someone into my life in the next two years to help with that loneliness. A knot rose into my throat and I asked whether he was angry that I was even considering someone else in my life. She got that faraway look in her eyes in the stark, too bright basement and said no, he wants me to be happy.
Trying to keep my voice from cracking, attempting to speak around the lump in my throat, I asked the question I’d come to ask, the one I needed answered if I was going to survive my widowhood: Will I be happy again? Truly happy, not just in bursts of moments, but in large swaths of time. Will I be happy, maybe not the way I’d been before he died, but in a way that felt genuinely soul deep, even if that happiness was always mixed with grief?
She looked at me, her expression soft, and said yes.
And I took a breath.
Our session was over.
I left with mixed feelings. All I needed was one sentence, one spark of evidence, that my husband was there—one specific word or reference or anything. I didn’t get that. I got words and references that came close, that brushed the surface unless I chose to pull them in closer.
The psychic didn’t quite convince me that my husband was there in the room with me; she didn’t fill in the space left blank by the things we’d left unsaid. But the truth is that maybe no one can. Maybe that’s the hole I’ll live with my entire life. Instead she gave me something else, that intangible something I needed to survive my widowhood, that thing that felt too vague to name that I’d been missing for two years. Hope.
Because I chose…because I choose…to believe.