At one time, words and magic were one and the same...
"Your grandmother is very happy that you visited her grave...
and that you went back a second time to spend time there..."
My head spun around! What?! How could this stranger know about that?!
I had, in fact, just returned from North Dakota the previous weekend,
and although that was not the purpose of my trip, that is exactly
And now this ruggedly handsome Harley biker, a visiting medium
at Lily Dale Spiritualist Church in upstate New York, a place
that I had never been before, was describing the events exactly
as they happened!
I am ever the sceptic in these situations, but this man was remarkable...
incredibly clear and accurate.
"Your Grandmother is wearing an apron.
She's got flour on her hands-up to her elbows.
She is a small woman, very lively. I see her making pies.
She's dusting her hands off, saying ‘Some people might feel sorry for me working in the kitchen looking out the window on these beautiful days,
but I know what I’m doing.'
She is full of energy...a little package of dynamite!" he added.
"She tried to teach you how to make the pie dough but you made it sticky
every time. You were trying too hard to make it perfect.
The more you worked it, the stickier it got. Soon it wasn't good for anything.
You have a hard time letting go of things and people, trying to make everything too perfect. You can’t get anything done that way...and that is the mistake you are making in your practice. (my massage therapy practice)
You are trying to fix people but you are trying too hard.
Just like the pie dough...you fix them until they are stuck to you.
When you’re making dough, you add just enough flour and no more.
But you keep patting more flour into it. Overworking it.
Just give each one the little that they need, a little pat of flour and send them
on their way. Just pat them up a little, get them walking upright and send them along.
That is all they need that day.
When you try to do too much at one time, they lose their strength,
they get sticky and begin to stick to you. It's not good for them or for you.
That way they can be made useful. What you are doing is not useful.
You are still patting. Keeping you so busy...smothering them.
In the end, nobody gets pie… "
"You are afraid that they won’t get all the attention that you never got."
"Wow... Say that again please," I stammered.
That was the essence of the dilemma...
My mouth dropped opened in surprise. I was dumbstruck!
This was all true! She had gone straight to the heart of the matter.
I could feel oftentimes that I was off-base in my dealings with people,
but I just couldn't quite figure out what I was doing wrong.
But, put this way, it was clear as could be!
Grandma, who I only saw a handful of times in my early childhood,
has had an unexpected and potent impact on my life.
Though our time together was brief-measured in mere weeks,
I was to find that love reaches through space and time in ways unimaginable.
This is our story...
My maternal grandparents were German settlers who had emigrated
from Russia around the turn of the century.
They farmed some hardscrabble land in North Dakota, where they had
13 children, 12 of whom lived. My mother was 3rd from the eldest.
Grandpa foretold his passing one fall after the crops were put up
The following spring, he cut his arm on some rusted barbed wire
and developed tetanus. My mom was just 12 when the tragedy occurred.
Grandma understood these things, as well, though she may have thought
that kind of knowing had more to do with the devil, and so they kept
such things to themselves.
Grandma was a German Lutheran....devout to the core, industrious
and unswerving. She managed to finish raising all those children
through the hard times.
Beyond those few stories, I knew very little about her.
Perhaps it doesn’t really matter, but sometimes you want to know
about the blood and the memories that course through your veins...
the ghosts that flit through your life…
Even before I knew about any of these things, I had deep recurring
leanings toward all things Russian.
In my 55th year, I still do.
The next generation left the farm, married and produced their own broods.
When Grandma retired, she hatched a plan for her later years.
She would spend a month in turn with each of her grown children
and their families.
That was her retirement, her way to see the world.
It gave her life purpose.
She would move in, help with the cooking, the housekeeping
and the raising of her grandchildren.
It seemed like a great plan. She began her rotation and all went well.
The month spent with each family deepened their ties.
The children got to sample the most wonderful homemade German
cooking and baking.
In a rapidly changing world, they experienced their ties to the past,
both religious and cultural.
Grandma was staunchly old-fashioned in her views and strong-minded
in that German way. But she was kind and loving, too - though at times
her stern look could send shivers down our spines.
Eventually it was our turn to host Grandma.
My folks were a little nervous prior to her arrival.
Now our family lived at some distance from the others and my folks
were living very much as young moderns of their time.
Grandma feared they may have strayed from the fold
and saw it
as her Christian duty to rectify a few things.
But she landed in good spirits and our month began.
Her thick German accent took some getting used to.
Her ways were a bit peculiar to us, as well.
She was generally serious and, as I said, quite old-fashioned.
She cast a few disapproving glances around the house and mentally noted
what changes needed to be made. My folks grimaced.
But soon we were underway, making our adjustments to Grandma's presence.
High on her list of improvements was instilling a little more religion
into the household.
Mom had done the unthinkable when she converted to Catholicism
in order to marry dad. But, as far as I knew, nothing was said.
The damage had been done.
Grandma concentrated on the essentials instead.
She made arrangements for us to spend far less time in front of the TV
and began to give us little Bible lessons in the place of ‘I Love Lucy’.
That didn’t play well with the family.
Some earnest words were exchanged, some late night discussions ensued
and before long, we had TV privileges again.
Grandma’s response was to boycott the TV room in the evenings.
She retired to her curtain-partitioned room next to the TV room.
From behind the curtain, we heard the soft murmuring of the Psalms
in German. Of course, she was praying for us.
My folks were horrified!
They took up arms against this onslaught of old-time religion.
They turned the TV up to drown out her prayers.
That only intensified things. Her nightly prayers grew stronger
and soon we heard tears mingled with her prayers.
Before long, religion was barred from all conversation with us kids.
Tempers flared, things came to a head and Grandma was asked to leave.
I felt my parents were over-reacting.
We liked grandma and we knew she cared for us. She just had her ways.
I was about 10. That was the last time I saw Grandma in this life.
That is, until the Vision...
Many years passed. We had no more contact with Grandma.
I never quite forgave my mother for the way in which they handled this.
I remember that a kind of knowing came over me that day...
Something descended...like a cloud of knowing.
I knew that a similar action would be visited on my mother...
and that I would be a part of that lesson.
Heavy for a young one.
My first lesson on karma...
As time went on, I realized that my parents were adamantly opposed
to everything connected with God, even though they maintained
a veneer of Catholicism.
We were sent to mass each week,
but my folks stayed far away.
I knew that I would have to find my own way on that subject.
And I missed Grandma.
Life went on.
As adolescence approached and life took on new aspects,
her memory was crowded out.
Soon after grandma moved out, my dad started to molest me.
My mom ignored the warnings until it was almost too late.
My folks divorced, I moved out and the family fell apart.
I finished high school and prepared for college.
Life was about to get more challenging...
Drugs were coming to our little town for the 1st time...1969.
My best friend disappeared without a trace just before graduation,
only to reappear 3 months later on my doorstep at 4 am.
Sadly, she had gotten mixed up with drugs.
She had a young man in tow. He had overdosed and she had taken
him for help. He had been turned away from all 3 emergency rooms
in our town..
She knew that I was going to study medicine and psychology.
She pleaded with me. Would I take him in for a day or two?
I nursed him through the come-down, after which he begged
to stay just a little longer...and a little longer.
After a week, there was no removing him without the threat of suicide.
I was in over my head.
Turned out he was one of those troubled preacher's kids.
Very bright and charismatic
on one hand, but controlling,
manipulative and abusive behind closed doors.
Soon after, he and his clergy parents forced me into marriage.
I was trapped...morally, physically, psychologically.
Over the next 3 years, as he was on and off drugs,
deteriorated and he became dangerous.
I survived several attempts on my life and I began to wonder
if I was going to make it out alive.
Every day became a desperate and exhausting effort to maintain
as I tried to hang on and help him.
I was going under...
In those last dangerous weeks, help came by way of an elderly couple
from his family's church...Jake and Lyndal.
I will never forget them...
Lyndal spent her adult life in a wheelchair after contracting polio as a child.
Jake was her kind and devoted mate.
They sensed what was going on and took me aside to offer some wise counsel.
Their advice was sage indeed.
This was a 'till death do us part' and 'wives, be submissive to your husbands'
kind of church.
No exceptions allowed...especially if you were married to the pastor's son.
They invited me to their home one evening for coffee and cake.
The evening began with "Now, we wouldn't advise sharing this with the pastor,
but this is what the Scripture says about marriage and divorce..."
They showed me the scriptures in an honest way.
They gave me the insight and support I needed to leave him.
Their dark secrets had been kept too long...
Three days later, circumstances took a decidedly worse turn
and I miraculously made my escape. Everything happened so fast that
I never had the opportunity to tell Jake and Lyndal goodbye.
I ran. I went into hiding for safety. I hitch-hiked as fast and as far as I could.
He was in hot pursuit. I crossed the border into Canada and tried to merge
with the crowds of hippies. Months passed where I couldn't spend more
than a night in any one place for fear of him finding me and trying to take
my life again.
Finally, when I was desperately tired and could run no farther,
an unexpected series of events occurred.
I landed in a fishing village in Nova Scotia for the night…
pretty much at the end of the North American road.
I was exhausted and, give or take a few miles, I had nearly run out of land.
I was out of options...
I crashed for the night at a hostel, woke at dawn and rushed to leave, as usual.
But some inner urging made me stay a 2nd night ...and then a 3rd.
My nerves were frayed and I needed to leave, but I felt strangely compelled
to stay in that place.
On the 4th morning, everything changed.
As I prepared to leave, I was offered a job.
A few hours later, I was offered a house to stay in...rent-free.
That afternoon, I met an old woman who was spinning wool at a craft shop.
We shyly befriended one another.
Over the next months, she and her husband became like parents to me.
Finally a place to rest after all the months of running.
A long, deep and transformative healing experience began for me in that place.
Nothing was like I expected...
When I left, I felt guilt-ridden and cut-off from God, but in fact,
that was the farthest thing from the truth.
I began to experience a relationship with the Unseen.
I started over...on a more direct and sane foundation.
I needed to unlearn so much of what the church had imposed on me.
I began to learn from the Source.
I felt the Presence with its all-knowing and yet loving awareness
pervading my life.
And what a life it was turning out to be!
I was living on a beautiful island between the mountains and the ocean.
A new culture, way of life along with a colorful cast of characters...
all worked their magic.
A sense of peace was returning.
Little by little, I began to take up life again.
As the sadness and heaviness lifted, I began to have some incredible spiritual experiences. There was everything to learn...
Some kind of purpose was emerging...a fresh connection to God and life.
I was living a fantasy life compared to the dull, work-worn American
lifestyle that I had felt trapped in before.
My horizons were definitely expanding.
One afternoon, I walked along the beach near my house thinking about
all the ways my life had changed. It was unimaginable that just a year ago,
I was a devastated, abused wife running for my life.
And now, every day I walked this peaceful expanse of shore in freedom
and safety. I had a home and everything that I needed.
Friends, a home, good work, healing...
That day I remember thinking to myself 'Clever girl!
You've done well for yourself! If my old friends could see me now!
Wouldn't they be impressed?!'
A bit of self-flattery, I must admit.
I strolled on the shore that day gazing at the surf and sea birds playing
on the currents of air.
My gaze drifted up, following a gull's flight.
As my eyes reached the clouds, I suddenly saw the most amazing sight...
There, in the clouds, stood my Grandmother and Lyndal!
My first waking vision.
They were standing together arm-in-arm like the best of friends,
and they were beaming down at me with radiant smiles.
They were tangible...nearly as solid as you and I.
I stood transfixed in amazement!
My first thoughts were a jumble of things...
'Grandma! After all these years! Oh my gosh! It's her!
Lyndal! She's standing! What is she doing out of her wheelchair?!
She's standing as straight and healthy as...!'
I didn't know what to think!
Then the thought 'What are those two doing together?!
They don’t know each other...
Do they!? I really don't think that's possible...'
Then...the women began to speak to me.
"Little one, you did not get here by yourself.
This place of safety, this new life, this healing...all of these good things.
No...you did not get here by yourself.…but you were prayed for."
I dropped to my knees in the sand and wept as the realization sank in.
And I had just been thinking about how clever I was...
I was prayed for….
Is that how things worked?
Prayer was the one thing those two women were known for.
They were what the old church folk used to call 'prayer warriors'.
But how could they have known any of the things that had happened to me?
They must have passed, I thought...
This was a strong corrective.
My self-flattery was pretty misguided.
The revelation humbled me... I was undone.
I wept for a long time...
When I looked up again, they were still there-standing in the clouds.
The air around them sparkled with light.
They were not finished with me...
A few moments later, the rest of their message came to me:
" …and the most important thing you can do while you’re on this earth
is to pray for people."
This was a complete re-orientation of my life...
That event changed my perspective on everything.
It opened my eyes to a realm that I hadn’t known existed.
The sight of those women, so clear and recognizable,
was impossible to explain by any means familiar to me.
Their power and presence were immense...and completely unsuspected.
They were, in most people's estimation, helpless old women, well past
their prime, who gave themselves to the dubious work of prayer.
Most of us consider our do-ing more important than our praying,
prayer being far less effective.
Here was a very different view of things...
I had been given a glimpse of the secret hidden workings of life.
As I had reflected back on the events of that remarkable year,
I had often felt as though everything had been set up
and that I had been maneuvered into place.
There was so much to wonder about...
The vision itself left me with several questions...
First, there was Lyndal standing...free of her wheelchair.
I turned the question over and over in my mind.
Only in heaven, I finally surmised.
Second...How was it that Grandma and Lyndal were standing
arm-in-arm together like old friends?
I searched my memory. To my knowledge, it was a physical impossibility.
Grandma lived in North Dakota while Lyndal never left her home
in Washington state.
This was all so strange! I struggled with it for weeks.
Suddenly, nothing was as it seemed.
I pondered these things continually, with little success.
I racked my brain, trying to make this fit with what I had been
given to understand.
But the theology I was taught could not encompass this experience...
This forced a new kind of understanding to form in my mind.
But there was more to come...
Finally...and it was some months before I was ready for the last piece
of this ever-widening puzzle...(I was not prepared for so many shocks
at once)...it came to me softly one day that I might want to question
my assumption that Grandma and Lyndal were dead.
'What?! Of course they were! They had to be!'
'Are you certain?' came the inner reply.
I sputtered...and then I stopped. No...I was not.
My mind reeled...
I knew I would have to find out-to verify the facts...
I was still in hiding, but I found a way to make discreet inquiries.
When my queries were answered in the affirmative,
I thought, 'Oh my God! They are both still alive...and well!'
Every single theological table in the temple was now overturned!
Who are those women, really? Angels? Higher Beings in human form?
But they had lived real lives...
In fact, they were still living them!!
Was everything I thought I knew about so-called reality up for grabs?
It was now....
What about their message and its implications?
The church has so failed in its mission that prayer is treated dismissively. Prayer has somehow become the busy-work of the doddering and old-fashioned. I think we struggle with the intangibility of prayer and yet,
I had evidence of its reality.
I had been so sure that I was all alone in my pain and struggles.
That was far from the truth.
The strong love and oversight that came from Grandma and Lyndal
It put a foundation of love under me in a world that can be cold and uncaring.
WE are prayed for...
They gave me my real mission in life...prayer...as the most important work
that I could do.
That was the least valuable work to my way of thinking.
I wondered if they, while in this life, understood all that they accomplished.
You know, since that time, I have never looked at a little old prayer person
in the same way. I have a much healthier respect for those old ones.
There's no telling what they're up to...
Clearly, things are not what they seem...
Perhaps we are all more than we appear to be...
I try to take a deeper, more meaningful look at everyone I see now,
for within us all there lies much that may be dormant or unseen.
Perhaps the greatest force on earth is the caring of the human heart
when it is coupled with the Force which IS love...
I present these events without modification and without explanation
We rush to judgment too quickly.
Sometimes we do well to sit with paradox and let it teach us
in it's own time and way.
When we do that, something very different emerges...
Debra Robinson / firstname.lastname@example.org