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Well, I think that this title is self- explanatory; my chapter title goes along the same line as my book title Secrets of the Monarch. The significance lies in family/friends and how we affect each other's life. This canbe from parent to child or many other family connections.
In my case, I was passed a torch or a "job" to do from Domini for her unfi nished business among the living.
Many of you have read in my books Don't Kiss Them Good-bye and We Are Their Heaven about my childhood friend Domini. I met Domini when I was fourteen years old at our school bus stop in front of North High. That moment led to a friendship that later made us roommates and even bonded us through my writing this book. When we were teenagers (Domini was two years older than me), we went to see the movie Beaches together and she asked me then to promise that if something happened to her, I would be a part of her little girl's life and tell her stories of who her mom was.
I gave Domini a hard time about the bizarre thought that she wouldn't be here, but then I relented and I agreed to the pact. I was young and it was hard to imagine one of my friends ever dying before her hair had turned gray. I was eighteen when Marissa was born, and I remember holding her for the first time, my friend's little girl. She had bright red hair and baby blue eyes that looked like her mother's.
Around that time I took Domini to the doctor and she had a cyst removed from her ovary. I told Domini that she needed to take better care of herself or she'd pass away around the age of thirty. Domini didn't even flinch; she trusted what I said but continued to live life her way -- that was Domini. Marissa was my first real attempt at changing a toddler's diaper, and I put it on her backward. I was a youngest child, so I thought that Happy Meals were somehow the universal antidote to make the young stop crying. (Obviously I've got different parenting skills now!) I met Joe two years later, and Domini's life and mine took different directions.
Years later I had a strong urge to locate Domini, and I set out on the internet to find her. I ended up finding Marissa's dad, Dominic, Domini's ex-husband. After all my detective work I finally got in touch with Domini, and she told me that she was pregnant and remarried. Sadly, a year after I found Domini, she died from melanoma at the age of thirty-one. While she was dying she reminded me of my promise to her all those years ago as we watched Beaches, the promise that I'd made her concerning Marissa. When Domini died, Marissa was only eleven years old.
Now fast-forward five years. Joe and I were sitting on our patio talking about Marissa's up-and- coming sixteenth birthday party. I looked up because something had caught my eye. Domini was leaning against one of our patio pillars, smiling at me. I was so happy to see her because she showed herself to me only once or twice a year. I figured that she had come because it was around her birthday, Dominic's birthday, and also Marissa's; they were all born in November.
Even in death, Domini had the same sparkling eyes, her hair was down, and she wore a black skirt and top with shoulder pads, which I recognized as one of hers from around 1988. Bright white smile -- check; devilish air about her -- intact; the look in her eyes as though she knew something that I didn't -- yep, it was all there per usual. I explained to Joe what was going on and he laughed. He knew Domini too, and we both missed her. I noticed that she was wearing a pair of my old black pumps.
I said, "Domini, why are you wearing my shoes?"
Her smile turned serious and she said, "I just wanted to see what it's like to walk a day in your shoes, Ali."
She then disappeared as quickly and abruptly as she had come. And what the hell did she mean by that, anyway, a day in my shoes?
Well, I was grateful for the visit from Domini, and I was quite sure that whatever Domini meant by her words would reveal itself to me later. Marissa's sweet sixteen was approaching and I wanted to do something special for her. Immediately I saw a picture in my head that would include Marissa and her parents. I called Dominic and asked him for a picture of himself and Domini and Marissa when Marissa was a baby. He found the perfect one. I decided to have the picture scanned onto Marissa's birthday cake so that Marissa could see her mom at her party, and Domini would be front and center. Marissa decided that she wanted her party at a roller-skating rink, and that I could do. I love skating! Her party was going to be at the Great Skate Roller Rink that I used to compete at when I was a kid. I thought, "How cool is that!" I was feeling a little overzealous and I rented out the whole rink just for Marissa. I had kept my promise to Domini to be there for Marissa, and her sixteenth birthday party was going to be the day that I could really feel I'd kept a big part of my teenage vow. Was it even possible that Marissa was sixteen and my friend Domini was dead? It all seemed so impossible, but I'm not the only person in the world to feel this way, I know that.
Marissa's party was a very happy occasion, but there was a feeling that something or someone was missing. I unveiled the cake to Marissa and, as you can imagine, she drew her hand gently to her mouth, and in that moment of celebration Marissa looked as though she was seeing her mother for the first time in five years. With tears in her eyes, she said, "I know my mom's here."
I nodded my head. "Yes."
I watched my daughter Aurora and Marissa speed-skate into the photo booth at the skating rink and giggle as they took pictures together. It was just as Domini and I had planned when we were teenagers, as many young girls do. We were going to raise our girls together and they would be friends like we were. I flashed back again to the characters in Beaches. The two friends who were going to set the world on fire as kids on the pier taking a picture together in a photo booth just like the one our girls were sitting in now. These are the pictures that they would keep forever. I thought, "How ironic is that?"
Our girls came bolting out of the booth, racing back to the skating-rink fl oor. All I could think was, "Man, I miss Dom."
People think that because I'm a medium it doesn't hurt to miss people who have died. But that's not true. I have a deeper understanding that they are still here, but in a different form, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss the way things were before they died.
I was leaning against the wall away from the group because my having had the honor of slicing the cake and then serving it to the kids was emotionally difficult for me. Marissa called out, "I want the piece of cake with my mom and me on it!"
I said, "You got it, baby!"
Seeing my friend on the cake as a tribute to her daughter was haunting and heart wrenching. I was also very proud to be the one who could make this day happen for Marissa and Dom. I composed myself, and I sort of cursed nature for giving me tears and a heart that could ache. Joe walked up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He seemed kind of excited and said, "Allison, I know what Dom meant about standing in your shoes. Domini meant that sheis not heard or understood by all because she stands in the shoes of the dead, and so do you. Today you stood in Domini's shoes when you acted in her place for her daughter. You planned the party, served the cake, bought Marissa the special birthday outfit to wear, and reminded her that she is loved. So today you stood in each other's shoes."
A wonderful smile spread across my face as it resonated within me that Joe was right. When Domini was alive, she couldn't fully understand what it was like to see the other side and live with it, because it was a part of me that she couldn't experience. After her death, she was able not only to see the other side, but she became a part of it as well, just after her death instead of in her life like me.
Wow! His analogy made sense and I knew that he was right. Pretty good, Joe!
I was too close to Domini to get her riddle, but Joe wasn't. Boy, I am a lucky girl to have a husband who can see outside the proverbial box!
Just when I thought I had weathered my emotional storm, the DJ played "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, which as my readers know is Domini's calling card. This was particularly funny because Marissa had requested that the DJ strictly play alternative yet top forty-type music like Green Day and Avril Lavigne, a sort of skateboard punk music, if there's such a thing. That's what it sounded like to my adult ears, anyway. Well, disco was a far cry from that, so I asked Dominic if he had requested that song. He shook his head, and part of me wanted to revert back to my teen years and call Domini a not- so- nice name -- in jest, of course, with a shifty grin on my face. Instead I smiled. I knew that Domini was just making sure that we knew that she was a part of Marissa's special day. Listening to that song at the party it seemed to go on forever in slow motion, but it finally drew to an end.
I was in a daze and the party was winding down. Many hot dogs, sodas, pizzas, and teenage songs later, Marissa's birthday had achieved the status of an unforgettable party. She was beaming with joy and importance, and I loved it. There's no doubt in my mind that my bright party ideas were not completely my own. Domini always loved a good time, and that day was a long time coming. Domini had passed me the torch that involved being there for her daughter when she physically couldn't, and I gladly ran with that torch. That day it also became clear to me that Domini had passed her love of life and her belief in life after death on to her daughter Marissa.
Domini Strikes Again!
I often talk to people about the unbelievable amount of power that the deceased have on the other side and that things are not always as they seem.
Domini died on April 2, 2001, and it had been almost six years since she had passed away; one week shy of six years, to be exact. Although Domini and Dominic had divorced and she had remarried, Dominic took care of Domini for the last few months of her life. Her new husband quickly left the picture when she became ill, and Dominic reentered Domini's life.
There was a local radio contest in Phoenix that I had heard of two days before it ended. The prize was a new car, and the object of the contest was to see who could get the most celebrities to call in to the radio station. Had I known that this contest had been running for almost two weeks, I wouldn't have agreed to help Dominic try to win the car for our Marissa, who had just turned sixteen a few months prior. I called in as many markers as I could to get celebrities to call in to the station, but there were other contestants who had impressive celebs call in too, so it was a steep competition and they had a two- week head start.
I had such an all- consuming passion, drive, if you will, to win this contest because I felt like Domini was pushing me to help Dominic with everything I had. It was almost as if she were fueling me to do this. I knew that Domini had never had a new car, and I could feel that she wanted Marissa to have what she hadn't because that's what parents who love their kids all want for them, whether it is material comfort or emotional affection. I knew that Domini was "pulling the strings," and I talked to her and told her that she'd better do everything in her power to help me from the other side because I am only one person and I was getting a late start in the contest. I didn't know how late until the day they read the winner's name on air.
I was able to get the Arquette clan to call in, which didn't surprise me because Patricia has such a big heart. Even though she was busy on a media tour she still cared enough for Marissa to take the time to call in for her. Patricia had lost her own mom to cancer, so she empathized with Marissa on a deep level. I was able to get a few others to call in, and I crossed my winner was read on the air, and it was not us. On one hand I was relieved that it was over, but on the other hand I felt like I'd failed Domini and Marissa both, and the anniversary of Domini's death was just three days away.
Joe and I went out to lunch to clear our heads and fill our stomachs. While we were at lunch, Joe's cell phone rang. Apparently, while on her media tour, Patricia Arquette had mentioned the contest to a fellow actor who was touched by Marissa's story. This woman had also lost her mom to cancer at a young age. By the time this fellow actor had called in to the radio station, the contest had ended and she was disappointed. Joe turned to me with a blank look on his face. So I asked him, "Who was it?"
"Allison, I have a phone number for you to call. It's the personal assistant's number. She works for a celebrity and she wants to talk to you."
For my readers who are wondering why I don't name the celebrity, understand that she doesn't want credit for her good deed, she's humble. I'm also quite sure that she doesn't want to buy the whole world a car, and I can understand that too. I called the assistant, who was a smart, upbeat young woman. She told me whom she represented, and then she blew my mind.
"Mrs. DuBois, my boss wants me to buy Marissa a car."
"What? Are you kidding me?"
"No, I'm serious. What kind of car was given away in the contest?"
"It was a 2007 Mitsubishi Spyder convertible," I said with I'm sure the most shocked look on my face as I absorbed the magnitude of the gesture of kindness. I was stunned that this was even happening but grateful. I also gave kudos to Domini. So many events had to take place in order to make this moment possible that I know Domini literally had moved mountains.
The car would be delivered on April 2, the six-year anniversary of Domini's death. The timing was uncanny.
Let's look at the series of events that had to occur in order for Marissa to get this car. The radio station had to have the contest and the prize had to be a car, or it would have been pointless for Dominic to enter and pointless for me to help. I had to hear about the contest by listening to the station that was having it. The timing of Domini's death had to be important to me so that I felt compelled to do this for her and help Dominic round up celebrities to accomplish this. I had to know Patricia Arquette. She had to care about me enough to do this for me. She had to be on the morning show that day of all days to try and get a particular fellow celeb to call in for Dominic/Marissa while there was still time. Patricia and her fellow actor both lost their moms to cancer and they empathized with Marissa who lost her mom when she was only eleven years old. So many things had to happen to bring that car to Marissa and let her know that she mattered to these two very accomplished women who were also mothers, whom Domini succeeded in touching.
I always say that if the deceased need something to be done for a living loved one, they will work through living people to get the desired result. Those of us who listen to the deceased with our hearts and minds take part in letting their existing souls affect our lives in a positive way and guide us down the right path for us and those we love. In a strange way, a reversal of roles, if you will, allows the deceased see those who listen to them as sort of "angels on earth," because we help to carry out their emotional wishes in helping others, so it's really special to have a chance to take part in an event that changes a life for the better. Domini worked through me to love her daughter and inspire others to pay attention, because the dead are able and willing to continue loving us through their efforts and energy.
I was informed that the car would be delivered to Marissa's house with a big red bow on it and a note from Patricia and her fellow celebrity attached to the windshield. That day would be memorable not only because my friend Domini had died that day or because her daughter was receiving a huge token of affection from two powerful and loving women.
On the way to the surprise for Marissa, I received a phone call. It was from my good friend Johnjay, who is a morning show host for KISS-FM, the station that held the contest to win the car. He informed me that his dad, whom I affectionately called "Big John," had just died. I was floored and deeply distraught for Johnjay and his family. His dad reminded me a lot of my own, whom I missed so much; they were both vibrant ladies' men and they were the life of any party. There were some things that just didn't add up around Big John's death, so I told Johnjay to make sure to "treat it like a crime scene" just in case, becauseyou can never really go back once the evidence has been tainted. Sometimes it's one variable that cracks a case wide open, and we want to make sure that the scene is well preserved. So the day that I didn't think could get any stranger had done just that. Now Big John shared his day of passing with my friend Domini and now the day held even more meaning to me. I stared out the window and tried to imagine how my friend Johnjay was feeling, and then it occurred to me that I knew exactly how he was feeling.
Johnjay reminded me weeks later about us having lunch together in Pinetop, Arizona, the December prior to his dad's passing, which was about three months before his dad's death. "Allison, you grabbed my arm when we were leaving and told me to make sure that my dad got his heart checked out."
I recalled the moment he spoke of and mentally noted that the medical examiner had told Johnjay's family that Big John had died of heart disease, but at the same time I didn't want Johnjay to feel at all responsible for his dad's passing. Kids have a way of carrying guilt when they lose a parent. I saw Big John's passing a lot like my own dad's. It was "not preventable"; sometimes no amount of intervention will change what was to be.
There were some interesting similarities in our dads' deaths, almost like mirror images of each other. Our dads died almost exactly six months apart, my dad on September 22 and his on April 2. My dad's sign to me has always been 222, and if you look at the dates, it's 222. Those of you who have read my previous books know how important those numbers are to me. My dad died in Arizona on September 22, 2002, while I was at my cousin Vanessa's wedding in California. I had to fly home to make the arrangements for him. Johnjay was in Arizona and his dad was in California, so his flight was the reverse of mine. Johnjay had just moved into a new house in Phoenix and was still unpacking boxes. I had also moved to a new house in Phoenix and my dad died three weeks after I moved there. Neither of our dads ever crossed our threshold while he was alive. His dad passed from heart failure as did mine, and neither one of our dads had previously had heart problems. They were both found in the same room of the house the next morning by their girlfriends. His dad was Dutch and married Johnjay's mom, who's Mexican; my dad was Hispanic and married my mom, who was German. I told Johnjay that we should go to my Halloween party as the "ambiguously Mexican duo" because neither of us looks Latino, but we both looove the food! So we have very similar backgrounds. Our dads were both very cool, and our friends often commented that they wished they'd had a dad like ours. I'm one of two kids, a boy and a girl; so is Johnjay, who has a sister. Johnjay and his wife, Blake, have three sons and Joe and I have three daughters.
A painful day for people is the day they spread their loved one's ashes. Johnjay decided that since his dad's favorite number was 7 he'd spread Big John's ashes on 7/7/07 at 7:07 P.M. In June 2007 I was touring Tokyo for Medium, We Are Their Heaven, and Don't Kiss Them Good-bye. I was in a trinket shop looking for gifts for friends, and I spotted a dragon key chain with a glass ball grasped in its claw with the numbers 777 behind it on the supporting paper. I thought, "looks kinda touristy," but with Big John's urging I purchased the key chain for Johnjay. When we returned home, we set off for the mountains to our cabin. I left the key chain on Johnjay's windshield, as he was also up there vacationing with his family but not at home.
Later, Johnjay called Joe very excited. "Joe, you're never gonna believe this! I spent all day looking for my dad's key chain and I can't find it. I went out to my car to see what you guys left me, and it's the identical key chain that was my dad's that he brought home from Tokyo years ago except it has the numbers 777 behind it. Can you believe that?" Just one more example of how the deceased work through the living to touch their loved ones. Big John found a significant way to send a sign to his son that he's all right and still very much with him.
Johnjay and I parallel each other in many ways and our lives seem to mirror each other on many levels. It's comforting, in a way, to know that I have a friend where our families just click. There's no real explanation; we were brought together for a reason. I met Johnjay when he interviewed me two and a half years ago for his morning show, and the rest is history. If you've been lucky enough to cross paths with someone who makes you feel "at home," like you'd known each other your whole life, then you've been blessed. This goes for his or her ability to irritate you as well as sharing a comfort zone.
So back to Marissa. I finally arrived at Marissa's house with Joe and our eldest daughter Aurora, who had grown up with Marissa. She wanted to see Marissa's face light up too. We positioned our Ford Expedition so that it would hide the new car, which was headed down the street toward us. It was a breathtakingly beautiful candy apple red 2007 Mitsubishi Spyder convertible that had the grown- ups feeling a bit envious. We parked it in the driveway and placed a poster board with a collage of Domini's photos on it in the passenger seat. I tucked my card to Marissa adjacent to the one sent by the gift givers, and we waited for Marissa to get off her school bus. We knew she was in for the shock of her life. Our friend Randy Stein from KISS- FM was there to record the moment to play back for their listeners. Marissa's dad was as happy as I'd seen him in the six years since Domini's death. Two nice guys from Chapman Chevrolet on Bell Road, who were responsible for covering tax, license, and registration were there with big grins on their faces and sweat on their brows, but they didn't mind because a girl was about to get the surprise of a lifetime.
Finally Marissa's bus pulled up and she saw the group of grown- ups in front of her house. She looked nervous, which I can understand. She had a friend with her and I started walking toward them and I waved. She said, "Oh, I didn't know it was you."
My response was, "Oh, yeah, I only used to change your diapers and I've known you your whole life. I can understand how that could happen." I was just giving her a hard time; she was pretty far away when she got off the bus and it'd be hard to identify anyone at that distance. Why do grown-ups like to embarrass kids by pulling the "diaper" card, anyway? Arrgghh. Now I'm one of them!
I began explaining to Marissa why we were there. "Marissa, you know how we tried really hard but we didn't win the car from the contest?" She nodded. "One of Patricia Arquette's celebrity friends," I said as I turned her toward the car, "bought you an identical car."
She began crying and obviously was in disbelief. I went on. "They both lost their moms to cancer at a young age and they wanted you to know that they know what you're going through and that you matter to them."
There wasn't a dry eye among us, and I knew that my friend whom I missed so much and I had worked together just like old times and achieved what seemed impossible. We videotaped and photographed Marissa receiving her new car so that we could send it to the two women who had been so unbelievably caring. Marissa looked at us and said, "This is the happiest day of my life."
Taking in that her mom died on that day, only something so selfless and from women who understood Marissa's painful loss could make April 2 become the "happiest" day of her life. Aurora jumped into the passenger seat next to Marissa, and as I took their picture, Dominic said, "Allison, it looks like you and Domini. When you met you were about the same age; she was sixteen and you were fourteen."
Tears welled up in my eyes as I noticed that, wow, they did both look exactly like their mothers; life had come full circle. I'm sharing this story for two reasons. One, because we see so much bad on the news that sometimes we lose sight that there are good people in this world who really do care about the people around them. For us it was the philanthropist who gave Marissa the car, the dealership that covered expenses, and the family that Marissa will always have that loves her. Two, to demonstrate the love and power that the otherside has and bestows upon us every day. Look what Domini went through to orchestrate this and the lengths that Patricia and her friend's moms and countless others who've passed went through to touch a child, be inspired, believe that they are not gone.
A footnote. Where one circle had been completed, I now had someone else that I had to be there for until he too can feel his dad again. The circle had been completed on April 2, and the torch had been passed that day from one child who had lost a parent (Marissa) to another child who had just lost his dad (Johnjay). Marissa left a message for Johnjay on Randy's handheld recorder saying that "she knew how he felt" and offering condolences and friendship. It moved us all, because it came from a sixteen-year-old girl who was not angry at the world for taking her mother but instead wanted to help others to understand that our loved ones never truly die. They continue to be with us whenever we need them, as her mom was with her that day. Copyright © 2007 by Smarter Than They Think, Inc.