Two years ago, on a cool October afternoon, a friend called to tell me about an extraordinary woman.
“Jana has the most amazing gift,” she said. “She can communicate with people who have passed on. She wants to make this her life’s work. Would you be willing to do a phone session with her?”
I hesitated. A lot was going on in my life, and even if she did
have this remarkable gift, I didn’t feel compelled to speak to anyone who had passed on. Still, I was curious.
“She wouldn’t charge anything,” my friend added, sensing my hesitation. “She’d just want you to tell other people if you thought she was the real deal.”
I figured I had nothing to lose, so I scheduled an appointment for later that week. I phoned Jana on a Thursday. I was in my home office, sitting on the futon with my dog, Scooter. I placed a pen and a pad of paper by my side in case I wanted to take notes.
“Hello?” she asked, picking up after only one ring.
“Hi. This is Irene Kendig, Cindy’s friend.”
“Hi. I’ve been waiting for your call.”
“Is this still a good time?”
“Perfect. Thanks for agreeing to the session.”
“No problem. Your work sounds fascinating.”
“I love it. I share what I hear from those who’ve crossed over.Why don’t you give me the first name of someone with whom you’d like to connect?”
Crossed over. I’ve always liked those words. It’s as if people who’ve died aren’t dead at all, as if they’ve paid their toll and crossed a bridge, as if they’ve gone from Manhattan to Staten Island, and not from life to death.
“Beba,” I answered. “I’d like to connect with Beba.” I didn’t tell Jana that Beba was my mother or that it had been three years since her death. Jana repeated the name, mispronouncing it. “Beebee,” she said. “Let’s see if she’s here.” An awkward silence followed.
“That’s Bee-buh . . .”
“She’s here . . . Beba? She has a big personality; she’s not someone you could easily ignore. She’s wearing a hat. She’s in her late fifties or early sixties and has dark hair and pale skin.”
That sounded like my mother. Although she had died at the age of seventy-four, she prided herself on her youthful appearance. Her face had almost no wrinkles. She spent a fortune on facial creams.
“Does she like to play cards?” Jana asked. “Because she’s playing cards. She’s laughing; she says she’s winning.”
I was shocked. Some of our most intimate conversations had taken place over games of gin rummy.
“Does this sound like Beba?” Jana asked. “I want to make sure I’ve got the right person.”
Astonished, I nodded my head, and she must have felt it because she continued speaking.
“She has a daughter?”
“Uh-huh,” I mumbled.
“Does her daughter have children?”
“She says her daughter doesn’t consider herself a good mother. She says that’s nonsense. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Beba?”
My thoughts flashed on my son, David. I’d given birth to him when I was nineteen, and I still hadn’t gotten over feeling guilty and inadequate as a mother.
“Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Beba?” Jana repeated.
I didn’t know what to say, since I hadn’t expected to connect with anyone.
“So . . . how are
you?” I blurted.
I had no idea that would be the first of many questions, nor could I have known how the answers would change my life.
During that first hour-long session, I connected briefly with four loved ones. Each of their personalities came through in a way that was unmistakable, unequivocal, and irrefutable. By the end of the session, I knew with certainty that my loved ones were still very much alive. It was mind-boggling.
The experience came full circle a couple of days later. I was reading an excerpt in Time
magazine from Barack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope
. Obama writes about an exchange with Sasha, his youngest daughter.
“What happens when we die?” Sasha asked her father. “I don’t want to die, Daddy.”
Barack hugged Sasha and said, “You’ve got a long, long way before you have to worry about that.”
Although his answer had seemed to satisfy Sasha, Obama wasn’t sure he’d said the right thing. “I wondered,” he wrote, “whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn’t sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang.”
Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of my own son, Josh, who’d asked me the same question twenty years earlier when he was three.
“I don’t know what happens when we die,” I’d told him. “And I don’t know if anyone knows.”
He didn’t like my answer, and frankly, it wasn’t reassuring; yet we have a relationship built on trust and I’ve never regretted my response.
I phoned Josh after my session with Jana to share what I’d heard from his grandmother, Beba. I reminded him of the question he’d asked me twenty years earlier and asked if he remembered. He did. “Well,” I said, “today I have a different answer to your question. I know with certainty that we go on.”
Before meeting Jana, I’d had my share of spiritual experiences that pointed toward life after life, but I’d always had my doubts. Unless I could actually connect with someone who’d made the transition—and lived to tell about it—how could I know for sure? Well, now I do know. Everything inside me has shifted to accommodate this truth.
Three days after my first session with Jana, I phoned to schedule another. Since that time, I’ve been on a quest, asking questions of those with first-hand experience about the process of transitioning from physical to non-physical reality. After more than a year, and on an almost daily basis, I’m as comfortable having these conversations as I am talking with the neighbor down the street. The result is a series of conversations with seven loved ones, all sharing their unique experiences and perspectives.
Jerry, for example, was a deeply spiritual man whose desire to be of service to God began in childhood after a transcendent experience. Jerry was confident he was moving toward loving expansion. Jared, the second person you’ll meet, had been in chronic pain for a number of years before transitioning at age thirty. Beba, my mother, was fearful that there would be nothing after physical life. My friend Bill committed suicide in his mid- thirties. Vince was a seventy-something artist and freethinker, curious and open about what was to come. Zaydeh, my grandfa- ther, transitioned suddenly from a heart attack forty-three years ago; and my Aunt Paula, a strong-willed, adored-by-her-family octogenarian, died in her sleep.
Each conversation begins with the same question: “What did you experience when you released your last breath on earth?”
Prior to these sessions, I was ninety-five percent sure we continued on after transitioning. Now, I’m one hundred percent sure. While five percent may not seem like much, experientially the difference is monumental.
Knowing with certainty that I’ll continue to evolve after transitioning from my physical body inspires me to live my most loving life—now. Knowing I’ll review my life and experience how I’ve affected sentient life around me with every breath I’ve taken and every word I’ve spoken, makes me want to live more consciously, graciously, and respectfully—now. Knowing I won’t cease to exist, I am empowered to live courageously—listening to and acting on my heart’s desires—now. Knowing I am an eternal being living in a beneficent universe, I am open and available to the miracle of each moment, and my moments are filled with peace, trust, and joy—now, now, now . . .
When people ask me what my book is about and I tell them it’s a series of conversations with seven people who’ve died, they sometimes ask, “Aren’t you afraid?” The question always comes as a surprise, since my sessions with Jana have been inspiring, uplifting, and have always con- nected me more deeply with my own loving nature. Afraid of what?” I ask.
Their answer is usually based on a biblical idea that it’s verboten to speak to the dead because it creates a distraction from the work they’re doing. This fascinated me, so I decided to ask my Aunt Paula about it during our next session.
“Aunt Paula, a religious person recently shared a concern with me. He said it’s written in the Bible that we should not contact those who’ve transitioned because it’s a distraction from the work you’re doing. Do you agree?”
“It’s impossible not
to communicate with those we love, for it’s the love that draws us together.”
“Why would it be written in the Bible?”
“These were creeds written to protect followers from being misled by charlatans, that is, people who were taking advantage of those who were grieving.”
“But that doesn’t answer the question of why it was considered a disturbance to the work that spirited beings were perceived to be doing.”
“It was based on the misconception that we in Spirit are more powerful or more important than you in physical form. And just as a child hesitates to knock on the office door of an adult for fear of interrupting and being reprimanded, the spiritual leaders were also afraid of interrupting or disturbing beings whom they perceived as more powerful. These fear-filled creeds were created during a time of misunderstanding about the Spirit world. The instructions you referred to reflected the times in which they were written. The broader, more comprehensive message is that we are all equals.”
“I appreciate your insight. I heard you say that the instructions reflected the times in which they were written. Can you offer an analogy?”
“If you wanted to mail a letter today, and you tried to follow instructions written in the 1800’s, you’d be waiting for the Pony Express.”
Death is a taboo subject in our culture, so it’s no wonder that people are afraid. When I was learning to lead corporate training sessions, I was told never to bring up the subject of death unless I wanted to lose my audience.
As you read these conversations, I encourage you to listen with your heart. The heart hears the whisperings of the soul bet- ter than the mind. Check in with yourself and see if what you’re reading feels true. Notice how it resonates with you. My sense is, you’ll find these conversations do more than provide insight into the hereafter. They illuminate life.
My purpose in writing this book isn’t to convince you of an afterlife. In fact, I don’t want to convince you of anything. I am inspired to contribute to a universal paradigm shift that fundamentally impacts the way we choose to live by clarifying the underlying misconceptions we have about death. Let’s start with a conversation. As Zaydeh, my grandfather said, “When a child’s afraid of the dark, the loving thing to do is to turn on the light and explore the room, discovering together that there’s nothing hiding underneath the bed or in the closet.
Jana and my loved ones have turned on the light and explored the room with me. We’ve looked underneath the bed and peered into the closet, and in the process, love has rushed in and filled the places once occupied by fear.
Irene Kendig, author of Conversations with Jerry and Other People I Thought Were Dead: Seven compelling dialogues that will transform the way you think about dying . . . and living