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To Heaven and Back
Most days are the same for me. For the past thirty years I've sat in my office with the sun pouring through the window and talked to the living and the dead. By outer standards my day-today life may seem boring or even conventional: work, walk the dogs, eat and sleep. Yet, my real life is lived in the wonder and richness of the spirit realm. Most days I talk to more dead people than I do people alive in the physical world and this is fine with me. I've never met a dead person I didn't like. Even those who have been lousy parents, drug addicts, mean drunks or self-centered and cared only about themselves. Once they are dead, the flimsy illusions fall away. They wake to a more beautiful and loving self than they ever imagined.
From my vantage point as a medium I regularly witness heartfelt connections and the generous healing love of spirit. The dead have a lot to say to those they watch over and the family and friends they left behind, and I feel fortunate they trust me to help them say it.
For as long as I can remember I have been able to see and talk to spirits. When I was seven months old I had a near death experience and made a brief visit to the other side. When I stopped breathing and turned blue my mother called the fire department. On the way to the hospital, a fireman revived me. According to my mother, I was not breathing for what seemed like a long time and she was sure that I was gone for good.
I never thought much about what happened until I started giving professional readings. My first office space was on the ground floor of a rather plain-looking office building. When Marcella, the unofficial divine mother of the area, invited me to share an office space with her, I jumped at the opportunity. Marcella used the larger of the two rooms, while I had the smaller one. Before we rented the space, my office was likely used as a closet. It had no windows and I could barely get two chairs and a small aquarium in it, which at the time seemed essential. Marcella had been in the new-age healing business for a long time and I felt fortunate to be able to share the space with her.
One afternoon Marcella saw me leaning over a sink in the ladies bathroom gasping for air. As far back as I could remember this had been a problem. Sometimes my throat would tighten and constrict while I ate or if I was stressed. However, this was also equally likely to occur for no apparent reason. I never knew why or when this might happen and could go for a long period of time breathing normally, and then seemingly out of nowhere, I would find myself struggling for air.
As uncomfortable as these episodes could be, I never lost consciousness or felt as if I was in serious danger. My breath always came back to me. Doctors couldn't find anything wrong and over time I became accustomed to the odd intervals of wheezing and feeling my throat close up.
When Marcella saw me hunched over and gasping for air she looked concerned. Placing her warm hand on my back, she waited for my breath to come back.
After I explained to her that I was fine and that this happened every now and then, she seemed eager to help.
"I think we need to do some breath work," she said. "This is most likely caused by some kind of energy blockage, probably an emotional issue."
With as much as I knew about energy and the chaos of my past, I didn't doubt that this was true. I always knew that there was likely something motivating these episodes that I might want to investigate.
"We can release and heal whatever it is that is causing this distress. You can't let this go on," she said.
The next afternoon, I lay on a soft bed in Marcella's dimly-lit office. Seated by my side, she told me to close my eyes.
"Breathe deeply," she said. "I'll breathe with you."
Her deep inhales and exhales seemed a little overly dramatic. However, my breath fell in unison with hers. As I continued to breathe, a wave of heat moved through me starting at my toes and I tossed aside the blanket that lay on top of me. Marcella had her hand on my arm and it felt odd as I wasn't used to this kind of caring attention.
Inhaling, I smelled an herbal aroma coming from the aromatherapy diffuser. I tried to identify the scent, but couldn't. The sweet and nutty smell was probably a homemade mixture. I was thankful that it wasn't sandalwood which can be highly overused in these kinds of situations. Realizing that my preoccupation with determining the scent was keeping me from deeper relaxation, I went back to focusing on my breath.
With this my thoughts began to become more distant. The low lights and subtle new-age instrumental music that faintly played in the background gently rocked me into relaxation. I had to hand it to Marcella, she knew how to set the scene; I couldn't resist the pulling inward and my conscious mind began to softly drift.
Slowly inner movement, like the barely audible sounds of distant rumbling thunder, started to awaken from deep within. A faint glimmer of dormant awareness, something within me buried away, wanted my attention. A force was being dislodged and as it became stronger it took on a life of its own. I knew that I could no longer hide from it. At the same time I tried to listen and follow Marcella's instructions, as she began to breathe short sharp breaths.
"Breathe with me, fast breaths," she said.
Lying on her bed with her arm on my shoulder, I fully trusted Marcella. She had a vast array of healing modalities and techniques at her disposal. I knew she wanted to help me and I was grateful to her for this.
However, as I continued to breathe short breaths, I questioned my decision to go through this process. Beginning to feel the uncomfortable sensation of my throat tightening and panic creeping up from an unknown inner hiding place, I wanted to either run away as fast as I could or nonchalantly go to lunch as if none of this was happening.
Instead, I felt a rolling storm of sadness, terror and grief well up within me. It was powerful and I knew I couldn't control it. As it gained momentum my body started to quiver, then shake, and the slight nudge of inner alarm, that I often heard and felt but continually pushed back, came rushing forward with a force that could not be denied. A moment later the intensity of the grief reached my mind and heart and I began to cry. This was not a polite whimper, but a messy nose running, help me get the hell out of here kind of sobbing.
Along with the intensity of emotions, I began to feel surging sensations in my body and see images. Some of what I saw and felt appeared in fragments and quick and repetitive scenes that I simultaneously felt and knew the meaning of. Over and over the images, feelings and thoughts emerged until I couldn't deny what I was simultaneously witnessing and experiencing. Still I couldn't accept it and I didn't want to acknowledge what had happened so long ago. Like the waves of the ocean driven by a storm, wave after wave of awareness, emotion, sensation and resistance moved through me. Until finally the truth took a defiant stance and I let the illusions fall away.
"She wouldn't do this," I said, while squirming on the bed and gasping for air. "No, no, no, she wouldn't do this," I kept repeating.
"Who wouldn't do what?" Marcella asked.
I didn't want to ever answer her. I wanted to forget all of this, sit up, leave and get on with my day. Yet despite my denial, the scene continued to unfold and it revealed layer after layer of fear and sadness.
Trembling and weak, I felt the past trauma and at the same time I watched it from a bird's eye view. As the pressure of a pillow was clamped tight down on me, I squirmed and struggled. I saw myself, a little speck of a being, fighting and I felt the will to survive. The pillow was bigger than I was, and as hard as I tried I couldn't breathe.
I was overwhelmed with the awareness that I was being suffocated. Still I refused to accept what was happening. Yet this long-buried memory from the past was too strong. Denying this truth was like trying to hold back a tornado and at the same time ignore that it was ripping through your home and destroying everything in its path. My soul was being torn apart by an inescapable force, and I couldn't breathe and get away. The raw abscess of my past had just revealed itself and demanded acknowledgment.
"What's happening? Tell me what is happening," Marcella again asked me.
I didn't want to tell her and I couldn't breathe or talk, anyway. Then all of a sudden, I felt myself surrender and give up and everything changed.
I was no longer fighting a losing battle, it was over. I was someplace different where it was still and peaceful. I was hiding behind a lady, a very tall lady, with a blue and gold dress on. I was trying to stay as quiet as possible, because I didn't want her to notice me. She was familiar and I felt warm and safe with her and I wanted to stay with her. However, as quiet and hidden as I tried to be, I knew that she was aware of me.
"I will be really good. No one will notice me," I told her.
I desperately wanted to stay with her. She never spoke a word, but I knew that I had to go back.
"Please anything else," I pleaded with her. "Let me be here with you ..."
Then I saw the dim and fading outline of a man and I knew that he was a fireman. I could smell his sweat and his breath. It wasn't unpleasant, just strong and I felt that he wanted to help me.
All of a sudden, Marcella touched my shoulder and I was back on the bed.
"Sherrie, what's happening?" she asked.
I told her about the tall lady and the fireman, and I lay there quietly. As the images, sensations and feelings stated to fade, I felt dizzy and empty.
"This really sucks," I thought. "Where are the angels, spirit guides and light beings that I have come to rely on? Shouldn't they be helping me right about now, and coming to my aid?"
Hopeful that a loving and wise spirit influence would come forward to soothe me and disperse the unrelenting revelations and pain that coursed through my mind, heart and body, I sent out an SOS to the spirit realm. Immediately, I felt the presence of one of my spirit guides. Unlike the warm and comforting energy of some of my guides, this spirit was a bit detached and a more say-it-like-it-is kind of guide.
Wanting to be comforted, I waited in expectation, but no warmth came my way.
Instead I received the intuitive message that, "It is your choice to suffer."
Surprised and confused, this message pissed me off.
"Oh, really, this is my choice to be suffocated as an infant," I thought.
Then another message, "You chose your family for the opportunities that they offered; the lessons are important."
I wasn't in the mood to hear this and decided to talk to Marcella instead. Slowly I opened my eyes still wet with tears and sweat. Looking down at me, she had a somewhat bewildered expression. There was a blanket rolled into a ball near my head, and as I moved, a few strands of its yellow yarn landed on my face. New-age music continued its constant soothing, but useless, beat in the background.
Still not wanting to talk about what just happened, I said nothing. Marcella in her gentle voice asked, "How are you?"
"My mother wouldn't suffocate me," I said.
"Do you think that maybe it feels that this could have happened, but it really didn't."
I looked at Marcella and she looked at me. Snotty nosed, still in denial and defending my mother against the cruel raw truth, I thought, "You have got to be kidding. This isn't something that I made up."
We both knew the truth, but neither of us was willing to go any further with it at that time.CHAPTER 2
Early Visits from the Other Side
The daughter of a Northern Italian immigrant, my mother had three older brothers and grew up in Queens in New York City. Both musicians, her parents met while playing music at a wedding. Her mother played piano and her father the violin.
My mother's upbringing taught her how to politely drink martinis in the afternoon and to dress for dinner. In stark contrast my father grew up in a lumber mill town in New Hampshire, close to the Canadian border. After high school he joined the army, and while on leave in Florida one summer, he met my mother who was there vacationing with a friend.
Enamored by the vast expanse of sandy beaches, my mother changed her name from Amabel to Sandy that summer. Until the end of her life this is what she was called. After a brief courtship, she married my father and he finished his time in the service.
During the first year of their marriage my older sister Sandee was born. A few months later my mother became pregnant again. When it came time to deliver the baby, she knew something was wrong. As hard as she tried she couldn't push her out. Upon closer examination the doctor became alarmed and summoned help from a specialist. A few hours later they discovered that the baby had an open spine and was hydrocephalic.
My father chain-smoking and pacing in the delivery room was worried. The birth was taking longer than expected. As he watched doctors and nurses go in and out of the delivery room he waited for news, but none came. Eventually, a doctor with a concerned look on his face and not the happy smile my father had been expecting sought him out. He explained that there was a problem and that my father needed to decide whether or not to try and save the baby or my mother, as only one of them could survive the birth.
However, in my father's version of this event, he dismissed the idea that there was ever a choice.
"The doctor needed my consent to go forward with a necessary procedure," he said. "Before I was asked to make a decision I told the doctor to save my wife."
My father didn't share much else and it never seemed like he wanted to talk about it.
They named the baby Dawn Marie and a month after she passed back into the light of the other side, my mother was pregnant again.
Not aware that she had lost the baby, people who she encountered while out and about at places like the bank and grocery store would stop her and ask, "Are you still pregnant?" or "Is that baby ever going to be born?"
Her due date was close to my father's birthday and my mother drank castor oil to induce labor and have the baby born early. She wanted a special birthday gift for my father, and after an easy labor, I was born. My mother told me that after the tragic loss of Dawn Marie, it was like the baby Jesus himself had arrived. I don't think my mother ever loved me more than at my birth. Whatever Jesus similarity she saw in me was short-lived. Two years later my brother was born, and two years after this, she brought home another brother.
I am not sure what came first, being told that I had a sister in heaven or seeing her blond curly hair and angelic face, and feeling her presence as soft light. Like a sibling who gets to go to Disneyland or an exotic and exciting destination, I thought that Dawn Marie was lucky to be in heaven. She got to be with us whenever she wanted, but was spared the cold weather, baloney sandwiches and the chaos in my home. She was happy and peaceful and I didn't know anyone else who felt this way. I relied on her as you would a big sister and called on her in times of need. Usually I pleaded with her to help calm my mother down. Prone to unexpected outbursts that often included yelling, throwing things and slapping, hitting or pushing, it seemed to me that only unseen intervention could stop her.
The Loved Spirits
My mother seldom spoke of her family, unless they were dead. Those on the other side were more loving, cherished and closer to her than the living. Despite the grief my mother expressed when she talked about those who had passed over, she was soft and warm when she spoke of them. As she gazed into open space recalling her dead, I looked with her and often saw and felt the spirits she spoke of. The dead were good, the living not so much.
My mother's favorite dead person was her mother. The stories of how Dawn Marie and my grandmother passed over were told and retold. Yet every time the raw sting of their deaths hung in the air like it had just happened.
The story of my grandmother's passing always began with a recounting of how her father left her for another woman when my mother was a teenager. Not long after my mother and grandmother moved into an apartment together, she collapsed and died of a heart attack while my mother was in the bathroom getting ready for church. My mother believed that my grandmother died of a broken heart.
"My father betrayed her, that's what killed her," she said.
The loved dead also included Matty, her favorite brother. A fireman, he died at a young age from an injury he sustained while fighting a fire. His fireman's hat was kept in our hall coat closet, almost as if one day he would come in and ask for it.
There was also Aunt Mary-Ann, my mother's best friend since childhood who was like a sister to her. After my grandmother's death my mother moved into Aunt Mary-Ann's home where she stayed until she graduated from high school.
When she came to visit, my mother was more relaxed and even a bit playful. One morning during breakfast while stirring her coffee, my mother said, "Aunt Mary-Ann died last night. She was sick."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "I've Never Met A Dead Person I Didn't Like"
Copyright © 2018 Sherrie Dillard.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I Raised By Spirits, 1,
Chapter 1 To Heaven and Back, 2,
Chapter 2 Early Visits from the Other Side, 9,
Chapter 3 Dark Family Spirits, 18,
Chapter 4 Spirits as Family, 23,
Chapter 5 The Intruder, 30,
Chapter 6 Angel Dog and Demon Dad, 34,
Chapter 7 Ghosts in the Church Basement, 39,
Chapter 8 The Spirits Whisper of Freedom, 42,
Part II Saved by the Spirits, 47,
Chapter 9 A Visit with a Priest, 48,
Chapter 10 Hitchhiking On the Psychic Highway, 52,
Chapter 11 Watched Over, 59,
Part III The Spirits Are Full of Surprises, 65,
Chapter 12 Ghosts from the Past, 66,
Chapter 13 In the Flow of Precognition, 69,
Chapter 14 Psychics Lend a Helping Hand, 73,
Chapter 15 A Religion of Love and Poverty, 79,
Chapter 16 The Big Letting Go, 86,
Part IV Is This Holiness?, 91,
Chapter 17 I am an Apparition, 92,
Chapter 18 When the Spirit is Divine, 96,
Chapter 19 Another Saintly Visitor, 101,
Chapter 20 Shoes from an Angel, 106,
Part V Spirits On Skid Row, 109,
Chapter 21 Thanksgiving with the Spirits, 110,
Chapter 22 The Other Side Gets Chatty, 113,
Chapter 23 Encounter with Evil, 118,
Chapter 24 Meeting the Guru, 122,
Chapter 25 More Than Spiritual Love, 125,
Part VI Spirits of Another Land, 129,
Chapter 26 Mayan Spirits, 130,
Chapter 27 The Indigenous Saints, 138,
Chapter 28 Marriage in the Ruins of Palenque, 144,
Part VII Many More Psychic Miles, 151,
Chapter 29 Empathic Stress, 152,
Chapter 30 The Spirits Warn of Fire, 155,
Chapter 31 Murder and the Spirit Mother, 157,
Chapter 32 A Grandmother Spirit Welcomes Me Home, 160,
Chapter 33 Troubled Teens and Mother Mary, 164,
Chapter 34 Psychic Lessons, 171,
Chapter 35 Epilogue, 181,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sherrie Dillard’s most recent book stirs emotions of astonishment and admiration for how she courageously overcame her adversities and became an incredibly giving, caring person to people living in shelters and camps, all while learning to listen and depend on her spirit guides and angels to lead her psychic development. You won’t want to put it down until you read the very last page. Many thanks to Sherrie for sharing such a personal and tender life story, and for spreading so much love in the world.
Sherrie Dillard's memoir is a quick, engrossing read. Her tone makes it easy to feel like you are having an intimate getting to know you conversation. This is a bit of a double edge sword though, like all getting to know you conversations, a lot of depth is left out. I would have liked to know more about her experiences and the people she met, both living and dead. I read I've Never Met a Dead Person I Didn't Like in nearly one sitting and enjoyed slipping into the author's world.