We live in a world of near-universal acceptance that once our lives on the earth come to an end we continue to a greater world. Whether that destination is called "Heaven," "Nirvana," or simply "The Other Side," tradition teaches us that there is, in most cases, a fairy-tale ending to life, a place where joy and harmony reigns supreme. Yet, as this book attests there is still more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophies.
George Anderson is considered by many to be the greatest medium living today. After more than 50 years of hearing from souls who have transitioned to the world hereafter, he is constantly reminded by those who have passed that our preconceived notions of this life—and the next—aren’t always accurate. The nine stories in this book illuminate times when unusual circumstances such as sudden death, unresolved emotions, abusive relationships, and painful family dynamics, make it necessary for the dead and the living to find new doors to healing.
In session with Anderson, survivors and those who have passed meet again in encounters that are profound, bittersweet, highly-emotional and sometimes, downright, funny. What we learn is that there are little-known spiritual treasures—and lessons to be learned—about heaven and earth that can restore, revitalize, and make new what was once broken.
Life Between Heaven and Earth is an inspiring, thought-provoking, path-changing work, one that affirms that no matter how complicated a circumstance is, resolution, peace and acceptance can be found in deep and remarkable ways.
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About the Author
ANDREW BARONE is executive director of the George Anderson Grief Support Programs and a cofounder of the Foundation of Hope, an organization that helps bring the comfort and solace of bereavement programs into communities across the United States and around the world. A former classical pianist, he has dedicated his skills and life experiences to helping others gain a better understanding of matters related to loss and dying, and to furthering the acceptance of mediumship as a bona fide grief therapy. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Walking in the Garden of Souls and George Anderson's Lessons from the Light.
Read an Excerpt
Peggy and Denis O’Connor
Just a few minutes before we were to meet, I was told the subjects of this session were Elaine and Joe Stillwell. It was a nice surprise, since I hadn’t seen them for a few years. It would be nice to get caught up, I thought.
As I stood to go to the conference room door to greet them in advance of their arrival, my thoughts immediately went to the chairscomfy, swiveling, leather armchairs that I can, and have, sat in for hours. I knew Elaine and Joe would get a kick out of the chairs. Many things had changed over the many years since I started working in earnest out of my house in Deer Park, Long Island, after taking a chance and leaving my job as an operator at the New York Telephone Company, including the furnishings. More than thirty years ago, Elaine and Joe had come to a small group session held in my home. Money was tight, so things were as basic as you could get. The room in which I held sessions was unfurnished, except for a framed print of a schooner (which the home’s previous owners had left hanging in order to avoid having to repaint the wall that had faded around it), a table lamp that gave off a hideous glare, and the beat-up armchair in which I sat. My clients sat on borrowed folding chairs, sometimes for hours, to hear from their loved ones and to reconnect with the souls they had lost. The leather chairs were certainly an upgrade.
At our first meeting more than thirty years ago, I realized I already “knew” Elaine and Joe, without ever having met them before. I remembered reading in the paper about a terrible accident in which two young people, a brother and sister, lost their lives. They were driving back from a concert at the Jones Beach Theater when they attempted to cross a small drawbridge. They must not have realized that the single flashing light on that darkened road meant the bridge was on its way up. Their car hit the rising portion of the bridge, killing one sibling. The other, who was critically injured, died four days later at the hospital.
The story resonated with me because I knew the area where they were killed. During the day, it’s a beautiful sun-soaked drive through dunes and gorgeous water views. But at night, that beautiful ride becomes a daunting labyrinth of dark stretches and sudden turns on a poorly lit highway. It always surprised me that more people didn’t meet tragedy driving through that desolate area at night.
The siblings were Elaine’s children from her first marriage. The souls identified themselves in the session as Denis and Margaret, a formal name the young lady quickly changed to Peggy. They talked about their closeness and an unusually deep friendship for sister and brother. They insisted that although the bridge was poorly lit and the drawbridge signal nearly impossible to see, the accident was nobody’s fault. But then, Denis, the older of the two, said something extraordinary that made me sit up straight in my chair. He told us that Peggy had died instantly in the crash, but he had lingered. He explained that while he was in a coma, Peggy came to tell him that she had passed on, that she was going ahead of him to the hereafter. Denis, fearing not only that he could never live with the pain of losing his sister but also that he would have to bear the responsibility for her passing, decided that he wanted to go with her. After clinging to life for three days, Denis passed, following his sister into a world of joy.
I was young at the time, still in my thirties, and it was the first time in hundreds of sessions that any of the souls had dared to tell me they had a choice: to stay on the earth or go on to the hereafter. It took me a second to comprehend what was being said. Although the souls had told me many times that there is a day and an hour we will pass on, sometimes it is possible to rewrite the script, to bend the rules, to literally change what I had been taught by the souls was a one-way ride. In the past, the souls had been very resolute on this point. We live, we pass on, we continue forward to the hereafter on a specific day and at a specific time. It all seemed so tidy. But this new information generated more questions than it answered, especially for me. Is fixing what dumb luck seems to have broken something the souls are able to do? What about the life journey? Wasn’t that plan etched into us even before we were born? It was simple, Denis told me. They weren’t rewriting their lives, they were just moving the goalposts a little to bring each other peace, while also still providing the life lesson for those left on the earth.
I almost thought this information would be too much for Elaine to bear. I thought she would cry out at the injustice of losing two children simply because it was an easier road for Denis to walk. I looked into her soft eyes, and all I saw was peace. She knew. As a mother, she knew it had been as it had had to be. She told me afterward that that was Denis’s way, and that, although it was painful to know his life could have been spared, she understood his decision to go on with his sister and loved him all the more for it.
So I had found out that choice is a wild card, and circumstance is apparently moveable when the souls need it to be. This was news to me, and a bit of a wrinkle in my thoughts. The souls had usually been straightforward when it came to why we live, why we die, and what we are to learn in both circumstances. But this became one of several asterisks in their narrative, a new concept: that the souls, due to our needs or theirs, can change the journey for us here or change the resolution for us in the hereafter simply because there is a greater good at stake. It was a real learning experience for me as well as for the Stillwells, and something that has helped bond us as friends for many years.
When we began writing this book, I tried to think of the times in which the circumstances in sessions were somewhat extraordinary and challenged what we had learned or been told about life here and hereafter. This was the first time I realized that, between these worlds, anything is possible for the souls to experience what they need to, so that they can proceed on their own life’s journey; and everything is possible when you are dealing with the interface between our world and theirs.
Some thirty years had passed since I first met the Stillwells and heard Denis’s incredible revelation. We thought it would be interesting to bring Denis and Peggy back and see if their original assessment of their lives and their journey held true, and if, perhaps, they had any nuances they could share with us. To me, the session that follows shows how much they had evolved in their own soul growth as well as how much they were continuing to impact Elaine’s and Joe’s growth here on the earth.
This is Elaine and Joe’s story, in their words:
An incredible journey opened to me following the tragic, sudden deaths of my two oldest children, twenty-one-year-old Denis and nineteen-year-old Peggy, in a car accident on a rainy summer night, August 2, 1986. Peggy died instantly and Denis died four days later, following brain surgery, the day after we buried Peggy. Even in my state of shock and fighting the utter weariness and agony that assaulted my body, I was consumed with a passionate energy to tell the world how much I loved these children. I poured my heart and soul into preparing their funerals and writing their eulogies with every ounce of strength I could muster, thinking that would be my last gift of love to them. As the last guest and all our caretakers left after Denis’s funeral, my husband, Joe (stepfather to my children), and I sat there in the living room, staring at each other, thinking, Where do we go from here? How do we get up in the morning? How do we sit at the table with two vacant seats, soon to be three when my remaining child, Annie, leaves to begin her freshman year at college? How do we bear the utter quietness in our house after living with the constant din of telephone calls, stereos, and chatter? How do we face the world again? These were all frightening, overwhelming, almost paralyzing thoughts in those dark first moments of unimaginable grief. I didn’t have a clue or a plan for how to survive, but unbeknownst to me, God did.
Peggy and Denis were just a year and a half apart in age, and only separated by a year in school. From the playpen up they were always together and enjoyed the same neighborhood pals and school friends, becoming the “Inseparable Duo.” Denis, the firstborn, the big brother, the only son, named after his father and grandfather, curly blond hair, piercing green eyes, sunburned nose, and infectious smile; he made his own mold. Social studies, history, the Civil War, Germany, English literature, cooking, and concerts were his special interests. Fishing, surfing, skiing, and camping fed his love of the outdoors. Swimming, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse filled his life with that competitive zest. But music was his spirit! He had a charm that could move all ages, a wit that could keep you entertained for hours, a smile that could not be forgotten, and a love of life that would make you feel how great it was to be young. He had belonged to the fraternity of lifeguards since he was sixteen, risking his life for others every day. And this giving of self was evidenced in the very last act of his life: the donation of his organs to save or better the lives of others. Friends were his anchors, Samantha was his love, Peggy was his pal, and Annie was the one he loved to tease.
Denis loved life, being on the go, traveling, getting together with friends, talking till the wee hours of the morning. He was a loyal fan of football pools, the Mets, the Islanders, Notre Dame, and the horse “My Boy Dennis.” Surf shirts, crazy hats, and sunglasses were his trademark. He was surrounded with golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, stereo tapes, records, and whatever else he could fit into his car.
Following high school graduation, he took an extra year to knuckle down, get back on track, and apply himself to his studies. After graduating from Nassau Community College, he was excited and eager to be heading to Northeastern University in Boston a few weeks later, to major in International Relations and pursue their work-study program, “on the eight-year plan,” as he called it. After his accident we honestly thought he would recover from brain surgery in time to be there shortly after the semester began, but it was not to be.
Peggy was a beautiful free spirit who enjoyed colorful outfits, dangling jewelry, and big pocketbooks. She truly relished life and loved being Irish. Music and rhythm were part of her vitality. Expressing her thoughts verbally or in writing was her forte, and choosing just the right card to send you was her specialty. She had a knack for expressing exactly how she felt in a concise, humorous style that endeared her to you. She bared her soul to Denis, shared her soul with Annie, and spoiled our dog, Mickey, who was her shadow.
Peggy loved parties, staying up late, baking, shopping, celebrations, Christmas, balloons, crepe paper, and tradition. She was loyal to the core and had an innate sense of fairness. She was a good friend. She made her share of poor choices, but could always say, “I’m sorry.” She tested the rules, affected by her father’s long-term health issues and her parents’ divorce, but got through “teenage syndrome” in one piece. Attending the University of Dayton, living in “The Ghetto” there, being a member of Lambda Nu sorority, deciding on a psychology major were joys to her. Whether babysitting; dog-walking; working at the A&P, Nassau Beach, or the Nassau County Probation Department; or just being your friend, she joked and laughed and made you feel the happiness in her soul. People responded to “Peggy O’s” twinkling green eyes, her impish smile, her famous dimple on the chin (devil within), and those unforgettable freckles! None of us will ever forget her sensitive, fragile, beautiful, loving spirit that enhanced our lives. When Peggy died, I immediately comforted myself by believing she was in heaven with my mother, for whom she was named. It made my heart feel so good to know Peggy was not alone and that she was enthusiastically welcomed by my mother. When Denis died, I knew they would both be overjoyed to be reunited, and that notion actually gave me strength to get through the double loss.
Even in my pain, missing them so terribly and surrounded by their possessions, I knew right away that I wanted my children to be proud of me as their mother, living life and not hiding under the covers. I wanted to use that special love I had for them, spread it around and not waste it. I wanted them to be remembered forever, not erased from memory, but I had no clue how that would happen, how they would eventually become known from coast to coast.
In those early days of grief I operated as if by remote control, grateful for my job as a third grade teacher. I returned to work three weeks after burying two of my children because it was the opening of the school year, and you had to be there to set down the rules and the goals for the class to “be yours.” It gave me motivation to get up in the morning, structure to my never-ending day, and loving children and colleagues to keep me nurtured, busy, and needed. Little eight-year-olds keep you on your toes all day. I put one foot in front of the other each morning and tried so hard to make sure Peggy and Denis would be proud of me for wanting and trying to have a meaningful life again. When I didn’t give homework on Denis’s birthday, the children all yelled, “We love Denis!” How could you beat that? Returning to work was a big door to open.
As months went by, I was bolstered by the books I read, as I eagerly looked for answers to my pain. Learning that others had survived the death of their children gave me inspiration and encouragement for the journey out of the Valley of the Shadow, as they called it. When every book I read mentioned the value of The Compassionate Friends, a national organization for bereaved parents, I was anxious to find such a group near my home, but there was none. So I asked my husband, Joe, if together we could start a local chapter in our hometown. Fourteen months later, in 1987, leaning on each other, we founded The Compassionate Friends (TFC) of Rockville Centre. We held our first meeting on October 9, which happened to be the feast day of Saint Denis. Do you think that was a sign? I did. Definitely another door.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Doors Of Heaven And Earth 11
1 The Revelation 21
2 I'm Going To Stay Where I Am Me 45
3 A Good Actor 61
4 The Good Samaritan 79
5 I Should Have Known Better 99
6 The Fairy Godmother 125
7 Good Medicine 147
8 You Are Here 173
9 Once Before I Go 209
Epilogue: The Wheel Of Life 245