“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” ~ Marge Piercy
One night, in the middle of 2010, I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. It was late, and we had been asleep for some hours. The room phone rang, waking us up. When I answered there was no-one on the end of the line. I hung up, groggy and disoriented, turned over and went back to sleep.
The phone rang again.
Again I answered it. No-one there. I hung up, cranky to have been woken a second time.
For the next two hours the phone kept ringing. Of course there was no-one on the end of the line. In frustration my husband pulled it out of the wall.
Then my cell phone rang. In the middle of the ocean. Miles from having any sort of reception. I fumbled for it and then gave up in disgust as once again there was no-one on the line.
And then had a realisation.
“Someone’s trying to contact me,” I said to my weary and shaken husband. We both knew what I meant. A psychic thing.
“I’m going outside to do a meditation,” I told him. Wrapping a robe around me I went out onto the balcony and perched on a sunlounge. Soon I was deep in meditation, asking for guidance around what had just happened. Nothing came for a long time, and I pulled my robe closer as the air cooled before dawn.
Suddenly in quick succession I saw a single vehicle accident on a country road as a series of jolted images – sliding, rolling, slamming into a tree. It was so real I could smell the metallic tang in the air, the dust, and the blood. It was as if I were in the driver’s seat, and then somehow I was standing there, beside the mangled car. Steeling myself, I bent to look through the window.
A moan came from behind me. I whipped my head around.
I knew his face, but I couldn’t place him. He looked so lost, so broken, and I found it very hard to breathe. It came to me slowly. He was the husband of a client. I’d never met him, but I’d seen his photo, maybe two years before. The same man was standing on the road. With a sickening feeling I understood. He was dead.
I don’t do dead people, I thought to myself, feeling panicked. Come on guys, I don’t DO dead people.
It all went black. Like the lights going out in a cinema. My husband was shaking my shoulder. “Come on honey, you’re freezing. Come inside and have a shower. We’re meeting for breakfast in half an hour.”
I shook my head. “I can’t do it. Can you meet them?” We were supposed to be breakfasting with friends, but I was hollow, shaken and distressed. And I knew I still had unfinished business somehow.
Ben gave me one of those looks. Loving, understanding, unhappy all at once. “You okay?” he asked.
“No. Neither am I. That was the freakiest thing. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. A car accident I think.” I felt terrible for Ben. Here I was on holidays and I was still working, my world affecting his, intruding on what was supposed to be a well-earned break.
After Ben left I took a warm shower and then dressed and settled back into meditation again, propped up in bed with the blankets over my legs. This time my entry back into that strange space was unsettlingly quick.
The man was where I’d left him, pacing up and down on the baking bitumen beside his wrecked car. “I need you to call my wife,” he said.
My heart began racing. Nicole, none of this is real, I told myself. ”You’re dead,” I said stupidly to the man.
“Yes.” He calmed down. “But it’s okay.”
In fact he was calmer than me. I was still feeling the horror and trauma of his passing.
He put his hand on my shoulder and a warmth flooded through me. “Call my wife. Not about me,” he added, “it’s about our daughter. Our youngest daughter. Please. It’s urgent.”
I nodded yes. What else could I do? A picture flashed into my mind of a tiny baby girl, perhaps a year old. She was shallow breathing in a small crib. I felt a fluttering flooding feeling in my chest.
“My daughter’s dying,” he continued. “It’s her heart, she’s got a hole in her heart. I can see it now. She was sleepy all the time, and losing weight, and our family doctor said she was fine. But we still thought there was something wrong. She just wasn’t thriving. She was fussy and wouldn’t eat. And then she began to have blue fingernails. So my wife took her to the hospital. The doctors there sent her home. They said she was just cold.”
“Please,” he said again. ”I can’t reach her. I can’t reach my wife. I tried, and then I thought of you. You have to call my wife and get her to take our daughter to the hospital. She needs to go right away. She needs to make the doctors understand. My wife will listen to you. Call her!”
I snapped back into my body abruptly, my open eyes trying to take in our room. Lurching off the bed I opened my laptop, scrolling through my old emails. Finally I found her name and the contact details she’d submitted via my website. I checked my cell phone. There was one bar of service. I stepped back out onto the balcony. There was land sliding by us. My signal managed to get a little stronger and I dialled the number with a shaking hand.
It was one of the hardest phone calls of my life.
But because of a father’s love and persistence a little girl was able to have open heart surgery, and now can lead a healthy life.
I spent the rest of my day sitting on the balcony, looking out over the ocean and being grateful for solitude. My darling husband told our friends I was unwell, and gave me the space I needed to pull my head back together.
And the next day Barcelona opened her arms to me, and I gave myself over to her healing charms.