Soon after my beloved son Richard died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at age 46 in September of 2014, my family and I began experiencing what we call Richard ‘sightings’. For us a ‘sighting’ is a coincidence or synchronicity that reminds us of him or causes us to feel his presence.
Richard was my only child. His death was my worst nightmare. It hasn’t been easy to move from my worst fear, pain, suffering, and anger, (constricting energy) to feelings of love, support and connection, (open energy). 20 years ago, I experienced another sudden tragedy when my stepson was killed in a head on collision of two trains in the Midwest. While that experience did not prepare me for this, it did prepare me for knowing what I don’t want to recreate…which was years of suffering, pain, isolation, anger and withdrawal.
When my stepson Logan died, I began a journey of self discovery through very painful multiple losses, including the loss of my marriage, my home, my neighborhood and my path. Positive memories of him and shared 'sightings' or mysteries that were occurring then such as the sudden extinction of a candle, or a hovering butterfly. The 'sightings' seemed free of grief and somehow felt very positive although curious. While short lived, they caught my attention because they were in such contrast to the pain. Years later, as the grief and losses receded into the fabric of my life, I was able to create meaning out of my experiences. I became an art psychotherapist to help others through grief and loss. My specialty was trauma.
Art helped me to express what was inside and later reflect on the images and learn more deeply about myself. In my practice, I share what I learned with others. Eventually, I became very busy, as the assistant director of mental health at a large non profit in NYC while maintaining a private practice.
Similarly to when Logan died, soon after Richard died, ‘sightings’ began. This time with social media that was non existent when Logan died 20 years ago, 3 nieces, 1 sister and I share ‘sightings’ via texts, photos and sometimes email. The ‘sightings’ have improved the quality of our lives by keeping us in a close loop, even though we are spread throughout the country. We all feel more connected to Richard who, we believe, still exists, though in non physical form.
What happens when we die? The study of near death experiences has been very helpful in helping me develop a perspective that coincides with my experience. While I won’t know what happens when we die, and won't until I die, I find that when I focus on love and positive feelings that I have for Richard, the channel between us is open and I can feel him. When I focus on the pain, sorrow and suffering, the channel between us closes. In the past several months, I am getting better and better at shifting out of pain and into openness, where I can feel his presence. I did not get to this place without battling doubt along the way…
When he was in physical form, Richard, was someone who was curious about life and the possibility of communication from the other side. He was known to watch the Long Island Psychic. Richard was someone who had a larger than life personality and an inner strength that those who knew him speak of often. In our family, we have said that if anyone could or would make himself known from the other side it would be Richard.
Most recently, I traveled to visit family and friends during Richard’s birthday week. The day I arrived in Chicago a double rainbow appeared as my family and I gathered.
The next day, I was traveling with my niece. We walked into a store to pickup bottled water. She noticed that SmartWater was on sale 2/$3. I went to grab 1. She reminded me that they were 2/$3 and “why not get 2”? So I did. In the store, I had fun with the water bottles, pretending their were barbells, lifting them up over my head. On the way to the car, a black crow landed on a parking lot light high above the car. Black crows have become a Richard ‘sighting’ for us because black crows have big personalities and can make quite a racket. I have seen a black crow at Richard’s grave site, there is one that wakes me up some mornings on the small island where I live, and there was this crow high above our heads grabbing for our attention. I said ‘OK, Richard, I see you.' My niece and I stood there for a while engaging with the bird until it flew away. We laughed at ourselves, got in the car and felt better. She was driving me to a subway station for a trip into the city where I had an appointment with a body healer.
Earlier that morning, my niece and I were talking about how sad Richard's daughter was to discover that her Chinese astrology animal was an ox. She is five years old. She would have preferred being a monkey like her daddy (Richard) or a rabbit like her mom. In the car with my niece, I looked at one of the the SmartWater bottles that I just bought. It was lying in my lap with the reverse side of the SmartWater logo facing me…I saw an image of a monkey and the following words: Monkey Think. Monkey Do. I thought of Richard again. I had never noticed an image or writing on the reverse side of the SmartWater logo although I have had the water many times. Even so doubt was creeping in. Maybe it is creeping in for you as you read this. I thought perhaps they had a monkey printed on every bottle as a company symbol. Nonetheless, I photographed the image.
I got on the subway train feeling a sad about Richard. Tears started to well up in my eyes. All of a sudden, I felt Richard’s presence with me. I felt his arm around my shoulder. I could hear him saying in my mind, “It’s going to be alright, mom. Don’t worry. I’m with you.” I felt a peaceful feeling wash over me. Later that day, I opened the second SmartWater bottle that I had purchased. In place of the monkey was an elephant symbol and a different saying. I texted the image to my Richard ‘sighting’ group. That was a ‘sighting’.
The next day, I asked my sister to take me to buy some items including water. I turned every SmartWater bottle around to locate a monkey. There were none! I could say that the experience was a coincidence but it feels better to think that his energy was with me. He didn't make the monkey icon appear but rather he or his memory helped me to be open enough to be curious, open enough for a possibility to present itself and open enough to allow a peaceful feeling to replace pain. I allowed myself to hold doubt at bay long enough to share in the delight, joy, laughter, love and sharing between all of us in the 'sightings' group.