Is THIS the apocalypse?

I sometimes wonder if the fascination with zombies is because the truth is we are “the walking dead”.


What do I mean? I see so many people who present a facade, but when I look behind the mask, I see a wounded being. I see people grasping for material things, self-medicating on alcohol, drugs & sex, to divert themselves from looking deeper and discovering the beautiful Soul within. I believe until we know that we are divine beings walking around this Earth in our physical bodies, we are zombies. How do I know? I was once one such being. But then, I discovered meditation. I slowed down, quieted my monkey mind, listened to the still voice within and discovered love beyond description.


What if Covid has given us an opportunity to slow down, to not just stay-in-place but also to go within? What if it is a time to heal those wounded parts we’ve carried around so long that have held us back from life and love? Not the romantic love you see on The Bachelor, but rather “unconditional love.” The kind of love that allows you to see that everyone, every man and woman, is your brother and sister.

What if this is our time to WAKE UP from the sleep of living unconsciously? What if this is our time to let go of the past that no longer serves us just as the caterpillar lets go of its old form to transform itself into a butterfly? What if it is time to create a new future from all that we have learned and what we are still learning about our connection with our Higher Selves?

I believe that it’s not about creating a Utopia, but I do believe it is about creating a NEW PARADIGM, a new world where we are whole: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced. This is MY vision for this time and place in the evolution of humanity.

Will you join with me to hold the vision, to go within and embrace your Soul, to love unconditionally ALL beings and this amazing world?

The Legend of the Hungry Ghost

5th century, B. C. E.

Qing Ti loved her life of luxury, being waited on hand and foot, giving an attending parties galore and buying everything she fancied. Her one disappointment in life was her only son, Mulian, who gave up his wealth to become a disciple of the Buddha. Mulian gave up more than his riches and position. He turned his back on his filial duty to care for her. She was humiliated by his decision and despised Mulian and every fleabag monk who came begging at her door. She died surrounded by servants and extended family that waited to discover what she left them while Mulian and his fellow monks sang chants to help her spirit journey to the Afterlife.

Mulian was no ordinary monk and disciple. He was one of the most accomplished of the Buddha’s disciples in various supernormal powers developed through meditation, including being able to use mind-reading for such things as detecting lies from truth, transporting his body into the various realms of existence and speaking with ghosts and gods. He had gifts that the Buddha knew could help others. In fact, it was his gift that caused him to leave his worldly comforts and joined the monastic life.

Mulian chanted with the other monks to ward off evil spirits and to appeal to the guards of the Afterlife to receive Qing Ti’s pirit. He watched as his mother met the guardians and was directed through various stages in the afterlife. He paid attention as his mother entered the Tenth Hell. The tormented cries were unbearable for her and no matter how hard she tried she could not manage to lift the morsels of rice to her mouth. Her stomach rumbled but the rice fell to the floor.

Mulian empathized with his mother and yet he stood back waiting. When at last she saw him, she hid in shame. Now that she knew what it was like to be hungry; now that she saw the light that radiated around him, she understood why he had to abandon his privileged life to live the life of a monk. She turned away in dismay but he assured her that he did not judge or condemn her in any way and that he was there to help her. His compassion overwhelmed her and for the first time in what seemed like a very long time she did not feel hungry.

The Buddha of the Tenth Hell sensed Mulian’s compassion for his mother and the beginnings of Qing Ti’s repentance. In celebration, he allowed her and all the other spirits to be free to journey to earth to partake in a feast with the understanding that those who could receive without greed would be allowed to go on to the next level but those who continued to hoard and still what was offered were destined to return.

Every seventh lunar moon month the gates of hell are opened, and the hungry ghosts are free to roam the earth. Even today, you can see food offerings at grave sites or on altars outside monasteries or homes in Chinese communities around the world. If you are fortunate to witness the celebrations, you may feel a cold breath on the back of your neck or every hair on your body stand on in. If you are lucky, or not so lucky dash depending on how you look at it dash you might see or talk to a hungry ghost.

Many people consider these beliefs mere superstition I was one of those people, that is, until my conversations with my father’s ghost showed me that he was hungry for more than food or objects.

To celebrate the Festival of the Hungry Ghost, download a free copy of my book from September 1st through 2nd. Click the link below.

Conversations with a Hungry Ghost: Memoir of a Reluctant Medium

I Remember Grannie

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I realized it was a god-send I lived with my maternal grandmother when I was nine years old. I might have completely lost my connection with spirits if she had not told me she saw them also. Looking back, I realized she was a healer, a medicine woman, a shaman and a psychic. She knew when to give me something to detoxify my liver, she drew splinters out of my feet with bile from a bile gland (saved after a cow or pig was slaughtered). It hung on the back porch until it was needed. It worked, too. She talked to the spirits that walked through her house and she read tea leaves or coffee grounds.   She was a simple, hard-shell Southern Baptist no-nonsense, teetotaler, ‘don’t cut your nails on Sunday or the devil will be with you all the week’ kind of a woman who made the best biscuits this side of heaven and gave the best hugs even when she smelled of sweat and dirt. I wished I had paid more attention to her. I wonder what my life would have been like had she mentored my gifts. I regret the opportunities we missed but I will never forget my grannie.

Towards the end of her life, my mother asked Grannie to write down as much as she could remember. The Wood and Eason families (my maternal grandfather’s and grandmother’s families) tried to piece together the crazy quilt of our genealogy records. I noticed errors galore about our immediate family and wondered if others noticed similar errors about theirs. I decided I wanted to be remembered for who I am and not some erroneous entry on a list of names. I guess I am like my grannie in that way.

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Genealogies are interesting to some people, but as Grannie said, “I don’t no [know] the Birth death or marriage of all of these so guess it don’t matter much.” What I wish Grannie had recorded was how she felt about her life which began in 1887. I’d like to know what she felt about the early ripple effect of the end of the Civil War and what it was like being a teenage girl in the South at the turn of the nineteenth century. I want to know how old she was when electric lights, telephones and indoor toilettes were used in her home. I want to know how she managed during the Depression and two World Wars. I want to know how she felt being the third of eight children and the mother of nine. I’m curious about why she ran away from her home to marry my Grand-Daddy and what her relationship was like with her parents, her husband and her children. Most of all, I would like to know how she learned the “medicine woman” ways, when she first saw ghosts and where she learned to read coffee grounds. I want to know what she dreamt about doing – if she had time for such dreams. Surely, she had a dream or two.

I realized that I don’t know much about my Grannie, but what I do know, what I do remember is this. I remember her smell more than her appearance. Although she passed away many years ago, every now and then, I get a whiff of a fragrance in the air that reminds me of Grannie. It’s not a fancy perfume or eau-de-toilette. It’s an earthier odor: the smell of sweat mixed with body oils, turned earth or the dust of freshly sifted flour. I remember the sounds of her whistling or the crack in her voice as she sang a hymnal off-key as she went about her chores. I still recall hearing the shuffle of her feet around the house and in the barn; the soft swish of her skirt or apron as she padded around the kitchen from one stove to the other or to the sink or the biscuit cupboard; and the creak of the screen door and the bounce when it closed behind her as she returned from milking the cows. It’s amazing how the memory of sounds and smells can stay with you over the years.

I remember Grannie’s apron – soft from wear with touches of flour on the corners where she gathered her apron to wipe her hands – those wrinkled, brown-specked hands. She called them liver spots. They dotted her face and legs too. Her apron covered the soft mounds of her breast which seemed to rest gently on her tummy. I remember being nestled into her pillowy mass – my cheek pressed against her apron, her earthy fragrance filled my nostrils.

Her hands were nimble whether she was teaching me how to quilt, tracing the lines as she read her Bible, milking cows, wringing clothes through the old wringer apparatus on wash day or pinching off biscuits.

One leg had a huge purplish-brownish thing that reminded me of the South American continent. She said it was caused from iron poisoning from where she was hit by the edge of a plow.

Even with her glasses, her sight was failing in her blue eyes. She didn’t hesitate to ask me to thread her needle or to remove a splinter from her hand. But she had another way of seeing the world or, I should say, the “other side.” She saw the ghosts that walked through her house as well as the ones that visited the gristmill near the pond. She wasn’t afraid or perturbed by them which was a good thing for me because I saw them too. One cold night as we sat around the wood burning stove drinking sassafras tea, I confessed to Grannie that I was afraid to go to bed because people stood by my bed at night. “Oh, don’t pay them no never mind,” she said, “They’re just here to see me but they’ve gone and forgets where I’m sleepin’. They’re relatives and they give me messages, but if they ever scare you, just you tell ‘em ‘God go between me and thee.’ They won’t hurt you.” I never told anyone that they followed me wherever I lived. They did scare me, especially when they touched me with their icy, cold fingers. For years, I repeated the words Grannie told me, slept with my light on and the Bible Grannie gave me on my chest, my crucifix necklace over the sheet pulled up to my chin and put my mattress and box spring directly on the floor.

Grannie had a routine after lunch. She’d sit a spell in the front room. She’d take her well-worn Bible down from the shelf over the sofa and pick up where she’d left off. Florence and I would wash the lunch dishes and sweep the floors and then we’d settle in the front room and beg Grannie to let us comb her hair. I’d take the pins out of her hair which was usually braided into one or two braids and then twisted into one or two buns. Her hair was thin but not too fine although not as coarse as mine. It was mostly white but with gray hairs throughout. I remember how she’d sweat in the summer. Her hair would be wringing wet and smelly, but as I unwrapped the braids and combed the hair – wavy from being in the braids for so long – Grannie’s hair dried somewhat. I brushed and combed not quite a hundred strokes like someone – I don’t remember who – said in the movies. We watched the soaps: Days of Our Lives or General Hospital or As the World Turns as we went through this ritual.

The lines in Grannie’s face seem to soften. I wondered what she must have thought about her three half-breed grandchildren being plopped on her at her age. She should have been sitting back enjoying life but there she was taking care of her invalid husband and three kids under the age of thirteen, and the cows, chickens, pigs and garden. If she ever resented it, I never knew.

Grannie’s hairs parted easily with the comb exposing the pinkish skin on her scalp. Each section was divided into three rows held apart by my fingers. Her hair was easy to braid and easy to wrap into a bun – securing the edges with special bobby pins, the wavy ones that make a “V” shape.

When I finished her hair, she slouched down on the sofa: sometimes one leg would be up on the sofa but the other one would be down with her foot on the floor. Her stockings – a strange fleshy color, probably support hose – usually covered the deformed leg. She had a way of pulling the knee-high stocking up to straighten out the wrinkles and, then, she’d twist the top around her index finger until the stockings were tight. She deftly twisted the excess under the top edge. It formed a blob, but she didn’t seem to care. It made me nervous to watch the veins in her legs bulge and to think about her big, brown spot.

A nap was the next order of the day. I curled up on one of the chairs with my Nancy Drew or Mary Stewart book or I’d read a magazine, turning the pages softly and quietly while Grannie slept. Sometimes my sister, Florence, and I would peruse the Sears catalog and dog ear the pages of the things we liked. I guess we hoped someone would pick up on the hints. We didn’t fully realize how poor we were as we made our wishes known. “I like that one.” was followed by “No, I like that one.” or “Me, too.” Sometimes, we napped also. Grand-Daddy napped a lot. It was how we whiled away the hot summer afternoons when we weren’t gathering things from the garden, shucking corn, shelling peas and “putting up” vegetables and fruit for the winter months. I remember shelling butter beans until my thumb nails hurt, pricking my fingers when we picked blackberries, stirring the seeds from the side of the pot back into the fig preserves, straining cooked tomatoes through a sieve and churning butter.

Grannie had a way with farm animals. She had a special call for the cows: Cooooooooooet aaaaaaaaaattttt. The cows came around quickly when she called. She had a gentle but firm touch with her cows even towards the ones that would try to kick after they got set up in the feeding stall. She knew to position her milking stool as far away from Bossie’s rear end as possible. No big “cow eyes” would keep her from doing what was prudent and practical. After securing the cow into the stall with a stock, she washed the cow’s utters with warm water before she sat down on her milking stool, milk bucket tucked between her knees, which were covered by her long skirt and apron. A hand pushed into the bag of milk imitating the calf’s actions. I can still hear late-afternoon rain during the Dog Days of Summer on the barn’s tin roof and smell the feed freshly thrown in the trough for the cows. I remember Grannie jump up quickly if the cow decided to take a dump in the middle of the milking, cover the pail with her apron and walk over to the square blade shovel. Grannie matter-of-factly scooped up the hot, steaming pile of dung and threw it into her worm pail. She picked up the rag in the bucket of warm water she had used to wipe off the cows utters before milking and re-wiped them before she sat down again to finish her milking. The cats knew to come around during milking time because they might get a squirt of fresh milk. Grannie tilted the teat sideways and hit the cat’s mouth with the aim of a marksman. The cats loved it and the grandchildren squealed with delight. We wanted to try our luck at squirting milk to the cats, too.

I remember my cow, Pinky. I called her that because she had sort of a pink haze to her coloring. She was half Guernsey and half Charlais. She wasn’t a great milking cow according to Grannie, but she produced good butchering calves. Red was Grannie’s favorite milk cow and you could see a difference in the color and consistency of her milk versus Pinky’s. It didn’t matter because Grannie mixed them together and began the process of curing the milk.

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I love old country pitchers because they remind me of the cream stage of the curing process. Grannie strained the fresh milk and poured it into shallow pails which were covered with straining cloth and put them in the refrigerator. She checked the previous day’s cream pitcher and skimmed off the crème de la crème into a separate pitcher. That’s the one we used to make whipped cream. There was nothing like fresh – and I mean really fresh – whipped cream for Grannie’s home-made from scratch chocolate pie or fruit cobbler. Then, she checked the previous day’s pails to see if cream had formed and skimmed the cream into the pitcher. I don’t remember which pitcher or pail we used to make butter but we saved that chore for the afternoons so we could watch the “soaps” while the butter was churned. The “thud-thud-thud” sound of the dasher hitting the milk in the crockery churner was a familiar sound of my youth and the days I spent with Grannie. We didn’t use fancy butter molds but rather we made a mound of butter that we used generously with hot biscuits. The buttermilk that was left after the butter was churned out of the milk was saved and used to make biscuits. We did not make cheese as a milk by-product, but Grannie did have another low pail of milk that she stored in the “safe” (an open cupboard that was protected by screening). In the room temperature, the milk in that pail went sour as it fermented into a congealed mass called “clabber”. It smelled to high heaven, but Grand-Daddy loved to dip his cornbread into a plate full of clabber mixed with honey. I was happy to mix old bread into the clabber pail and feed it to the chickens.

I am surprised that I have so many memories of my time with Grannie. I could go on and on, but the telling would not be complete without remembering walking or riding in a rickety old wagon in the woods or remembering Grannie’s biscuits.

As much as I used to dread it at the time, one of my fondest memories was walking through the woods. There was no set routine, but I knew what it meant when Grannie picked up her walking stick that hung next to the pouch of a bile gland on the wall of the back porch. As if on cue, I picked up a small bucket and a smaller walking stick and followed behind Grannie. Sometimes, we walked up the hill behind the pond – tapping the sticks along the ground to scare off any critters, especially snakes, or to clear the cob webs in front of us. Other times, we just walked along the clay road in front of her house. When it had rained a lot, we walked in the ruts or balanced on the ridges created by the tires pushing the clay into deep ruts. We’d pause by the gum tree where Grannie took her pocket knife out and made a cut into the bark. Sap oozed out of the cut and gathered into a blob while she grabbed a young branch and cut the tip off. She feathered the cut end of the branch with her knife and then dipped it into the sappy blob. She handed the branch to me as if offering a Popsicle. “Go ahead. Chew on it. It’s Mother Nature’s toothbrush. It’s what I used as a child,” she said. And, sure enough, it tasted fresh like chewing gum and the woody brush felt good against my teeth and gums.

Sometimes, Grannie hitched her mule to the wagon and we’d climb up on to the wagon seat. We’d ride down to the far end of the cow pasture. “Be sure to wear your hat,” she said before we headed out. “There are flying squirrels and bats down there and they’re hard to get out of your hair.” Her hat was a wide brimmed straw hat with a cord that fastened under her small chin, but sometimes she wore a floppier cloth version. She stored them behind the kitchen door next to her aprons.

The woods at the end of the cow pasture had tall trees and plenty of open space where the cows could rest in the shade. It seemed to be a favorite birthing spot for the cows. I remember watching a cow give birth on the pine straw bed under the trees. I remember the wet calf poke its head through the placenta casing as the mother cow pulled it from her calf and licked her newborn. Within moments the calf was up on its feet and instinctively calling to its mother. The mother cow mooed back, and the calf nuzzled the mother’s belly until it found the milk bag and utters. A wobble in its stance was quickly adjusted into a firm position. The calf nudged its nose into the milk bag, wrapped its mouth around the teat and sucked until milky foam oozed out of its mouth. Birth and death are natural parts of life on the farm.

No memory of Grannie is more vivid than seeing her at the biscuit cupboard sifting flour in her biscuit pan. The sifter and biscuit pan were both the same width as the flour bin, about 15” in diameter. When not in use, they rested inside the top of the flour bin. I’ve never seen pans quite like them. Instead of the usual type of sifter that has a beater which turns the flour over and over in the sifter; Grannie scooped out flour from the flour bin into the sifter pan which rested above the biscuit pan. Then, she shook the pans from side to side. The flour ended up in the biscuit pan and crumbles of hardened flour stayed in the sifter pan. Her skirt swayed from side to side during the process accompanied by a soft swishing sound of the skirt and the sifting action. I remember Grannie standing there with flour all over her hands kneading the biscuit dough together into a soft ball; then, squeezing a smaller ball out of the dough, patting it from hand to hand until it flattened before she dipped it into a pre-heated pan filled with hot oil. She turned the biscuit over exposing an oil glazed side and went back to the bigger ball. She repeated this procedure over again until the baking pan was filled with shiny biscuits. Even though she didn’t use any measuring tools as she mixed the oil and buttermilk into the bowl of flour she had formed with the back of her fist, the amount of dough was perfect leaving no waste. A few moments later, the air was filled with the odor of freshly baked biscuits and my thoughts raced ahead to sitting at the farm table with a hot biscuit loaded with butter and strawberry preserves. I’ve tried many times to make biscuits like Grannie’s, but I haven’t been successful yet. I’ll keep trying until I get them just right . . . until I can be a master of biscuit making.

It might seem like a tragedy to find yourself left on a milk farm with two old people two thousands of miles away from your father and a hundred miles away from your mother, but the way I see it, it was a blessing in disguise. It was a hard life and yet all the work helped me find healing in ordinary ways. It was a boring life by today’s standards but the time alone gave me time to think and dream and to talk to the spirits that followed me everywhere . . . even under the oak tree on the Hudson’s farm where I sat one day after picking cotton. The hundred foot spread of the tree’s umbrella and the roots that sculpted the ground beneath it with flowing, organic lines talked to me. Spirits sat with me on the logs under the tree where other little girls played house and I dreamed of designing houses like Frank Lloyd Wright. My sixth grade teacher told us Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America’s foremost architects/designers, had died that year and although I did not know how I would do it, I knew I would be a unique designer, too.

Grannie lived to be ninety-seven years and twenty-six days old; most of those years were on the farm. Could it be that working on her farm is what kept Grannie going for so long? Was it the constant work or was it the closeness to nature?

I cannot cook a meal or clean my house or walk in the woods without thinking about my Grannie and wondering if she taught me about nature – not just about the animals, plants and the woods, but also the nature of things — just by being in it. I wonder if that is why I feel peaceful when I am chopping an ingredient for a recipe, or washing the dishes after the meal; or why I seek a spot in nature to remind me of the order of all things.

I used to wish I had paid more attention to what she gathered on our walks in the woods and how she used herbs and potions to heal. I wish I had learned her gardening ways and I wish she had taught me how to use the Farmer’s Almanac to help my plants grow and how to keep my body healthy. I wish I had talked to her more about the ghosts that walked through her house and stood by my bed and about the things I saw when I stared into space so intently that people would say to me “Earth to Carole”.

I have come to believe that Grannie had gifts as a healer and a seer because she was so close to nature and to God and that was something that she could not teach me so much in words. I smell her unique odor and hear her whistling the gospel “Amazing Grace” and I know that she has become one of my friendly ghosts.

It was the not knowing about Grannie as well as the knowing that inspired me to write my story so that my grandchild could read the pages and peruse the pictures and have a sense of who I am long after I am gone. I want to be more than some tucked away photograph or a name on a genealogy list followed by a few “facts”. I want my grandchildren to know my struggles and how I rose above them; my fears and how I overcame them; and my dreams and which ones came true. I hope they’ll find in my story a wealth of feelings and a priceless legacy.

What I have learned about blood lines goes beyond the family tree I’ve traced on my mother’s side of the family that go as far back as the 1600’s or the roots on my father’s side which go back to the Yellow Emperor of China. Contrary to what most people believe, I believe that I chose my families for a reason. As strange as it may seem, I have learned that whatever my lineage, I have an opportunity in this lifetime to create my destiny. Even if I do not experience the effects of my choices in this lifetime, I know that my actions in this lifetime are creating my future life experiences.

Like my father, Grannie came to me in spirit to teach me what she did not when she walked the Earth. I realized even when she was alive, she taught me in miraculous ways. I believe she knew even in doing mundane things, I would learn very profound lessons. To this day, I find mundane chores a way to become “centered” and to allow my connection to spirits and the Universe to happen easily.

Rooting for Truth – A Legacy Lives On

Rooting for truth has taken a new dimension for me. Two years ago, I found a nugget that turned out to be a gold vein. The veins grew and grew until I traveled to Beijing in October where I was able to meet Lei Zhangbao and his family. He is a direct descendant of Yangshi Lei, eight generations of architects for the last eight emperors.

Thanks to Liu Hao from MyChinaRoots for helping me with the research, setting up and translating for me at our meeting, and 20181028_132338-1helping me at the Tsinghua University Library.

You can imagine how excited we were to visit the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace, places that Yangshi Lei designed and built. I can hardly wait to write a book about this branch of the family tree who is listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Registry. You’ll have to read my book to find out why.

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Next, back to Taishan and what we discovered at the villages.

Celebrating Love

I want to take a moment to thank my very dear friends for asking me to talk to their son, who passed over this week. Talking with him was a reminder to me that there is perfection even where our ordinary consciousness sees imperfection and all the opportunities we have to love unconditionally.

It will take me a while to put into words all that he is showing me, but I wanted to share the music I hear surrounding this beautiful old soul, welcoming him to the other side.

 

I love the words from this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

It is part of the human experience to feel all kinds of emotions when a loved one passes. Honor those feelings and know that love does not die. Love is eternal.

 

“Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.”

In memory of my father – Louie Hung On, my grandfather – Louie Mow, and my great-grandfather – Louie Fat. As merchants, they were more fortunate than many Chinese who came to America. However, when I read the documents from the National Archives, I witness how they were treated. One hundred thirty-six years after my great-grandfather came to this country, I remember.
 
Now, I understand why my father was so secretive about his journey from China to the United States. In part, it had to do with the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed on May 6, 1882. Today is a day of remembrance, lest we forget.
 
I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors and all of the Chinese who came to America and claimed their rights for freedom and justice. They helped make this country what it is and the United States is better for their contributions.
May 6 remembrance day
Apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act

On June 18, 2012, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution, introduced by Congresswoman Chu, that formally expresses the regret of the House of Representatives for the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed almost total restrictions on Chinese immigration and naturalization and denied Chinese-Americans basic freedoms because of their ethnicity. This was only the fourth time that the U.S. Congress issued an apology to a group of people.

Rep Judy Chu

“Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.” George Santayana

Join me on the Jamie Dawn Show – 12Radio – May 3rd @ 11:00 a.m.

I’m looking forward to joining my friend, Professional Psychic and Intuitive Life Coach Jamie Dawn on her 12Radio Show on May 3rd.    It reminds of the time I was on an NPR show where my host introduced me as “an interior designer who has designs on your interior,” and the woman who called in to say that reincarnation was nonsense. I’ve had to deal with worse, so I told her that this was my experience and I did not expect anyone to believe it or not.
I’ve come a long way since then. I finally finished the book I’ve been working on for so many years and understand why it took so long to write it. I understand that the woman who called the NPR show is on her path and I am on mine as we all are; I understand that everything is in Divine Order and it’s all about love.
I’ll share stories from the book, Conversations with a Hungry Ghost: Memoir of a Reluctant Medium, and about the process of writing and publishing it, about the spiritual journey that began when I accepted my gift as a medium.
Jamie Dawn Radio Show_X
I hope you will join Jamie and me live and call in with your questions. It’s always fun when we get together. You never know who (from the other side) is going to show up.  Just in case you cannot make the live show, it will be recorded and both Jamie and I will share it on our websites.

Ching Ming 清明节

In celebration of tomorrow and Ching Ming, a sacred ceremony to honor ones ancestors, I want to share a short/short story.

Some folks are so afraid of ghosts that they do not even like to think about them, and then there’s me. I have to confess that I was afraid of ghosts too until I began a series of conversations with my father’s ghost/spirit after he died in 1990. But now, not so much because the conversations with Dad and others have taught me a lot about life as well as death.  Those conversations inspired the following story about a conversation between a ghost and two fellow ghosts.

Ching Ming 清明节

April 4, 2000

Colma, aka The City of the Dead, south of San Francisco, CA

Sunlight broke through the fog sending rays of light onto the copper lid of the coffin. Jimmy Lei stood there as if frozen. He watched as the family left the cemetery but still he could not move.

“What a waste,” he said as he looked at the elaborately carved granite double headstone and, then, at the well manicured grounds.

‘Well, will you look at that?  What are the odds?” Ming Li tipped the pointed end of his fedora to the tombstones on each side of Mr. Lei’s gravesite. He adjusted the handkerchief in his breast pocket so that his initials were prominent.

“I don’t believe it,” W. G. Fong replied.

Jimmy said, “Who are you and what . . .” he stopped before he could finish. The man on his right died on April 5; so did the man on his left. “Wait just a minute.  I died on April 5th, Ching Ming, the day I should honor my ancestors. The last time I saw my parents was in 1931. I was a new father and widower in less than two weeks.  I had to leave my newborn son to return to America.” He looked around and saw the remnants of the Ching Ming rituals, evidence that others did indeed honor their ancestors.

“What are the odds that three people buried next to each other would die on the same day? Well, I’ll tell you. You have a better chance of winning the lottery,” Ming, who loved to gamble, said.

Mr. Fong recognized his family’s floral arrangement, the wreath with red ribbons inscribed with details about the deceased. His family, known for its beautiful calligraphy as well as its floral work, merged the Western tradition of placing flowers at a funeral with the Chinese tradition of an announcement scroll. “He must be Buddhist. See there. The words on the banner ask permission to enter into heaven and I heard a woman mumbling a Buddhist prayer as her fingers counted the beads on her mala.”

“What are you talking about?” Jimmy said.

Ming said to W.G.  “He still doesn’t quite get it.”

“Don’t be so hard on him.  You were the same, Ming.”

“Don’t remind me.  It’s as if it were yesterday instead of fifty years ago.”

“At least, you were used to this country. I wanted to go back home to die or at least to be buried. I had no one here.  In China, I had family who would honor me. I never dreamt that Huang Er, my brother’s second son, would come to the States and make good with the money I left him. I was a second son also. I knew he would be neglected in favor of the number one son. I knew Huang Er had talent but I see now that he also had ambition. He turned my little florist shop into a chain of fancy shops. When he dug up my body from the old Chinese cemetery, and had it moved here, I felt like a king. I guess it paid off to leave him my small fortune.”

“Old Uncle, you’re too old-fashioned.” Ming said. He patted the shoulder of W.G.’s mandarin jacket causing W.G.’s wispy white hair to fly up like a spider’s web disturbed by an intruder.

“Yes, but it is still an honorable thing to pay respects to your ancestors, whether you are a Buddhist like him; a rice bowl Christian, like me; or an Atheist, like you. Shou Shen, brother, Shou Shen.”

“Shou Shen – Filial Piety. You’re talking to an orphan, W.G., but I lived my life right. I did not need a parent or customs or a church to tell me right from wrong.”

“How can you be so sure you were abandoned? China was in chaos between the Japanese invasion and the fighting between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao’s Communists. Can’t you find it in your heart to forgive them, Ming?”

“So, you did learn a thing or two from the Christian priests.”

“Yes, but, then, why am I still here? It’s now seventy years. Why didn’t I go to the pearly gates?”

“W.G., I think it’s something more than a coincidence – this April 5th thing. Hey, Jimmy, what’s your story? Why are you here and not in the Buddhist heaven?” Ming said pulling at his eyebrow hair that persisted on sticking out.

Jimmy looked forlorn. He tugged at the well-worn buttonhole of his favorite cardigan. “I made the preparations:  the roasted pig, the whole fish and chicken, the paper money and petitions to the guards of heaven to burn in the altar, the family blankets, and a band to ward off evil spirits. I did it all. You tell me. Why am I still here?” He knew these last-minute compliances to rituals could not make up for years of neglect. He knew that he had not sent money back to China, squandering it instead on gambling, drinking and women. He shut out those words – Shou Shen – because he knew he had not paid the proper respects to his ancestors. He knew now that the ticket into heaven was not words on a piece of paper, nor dutiful submission to a long list of rituals. He knew that he would have to pay dearly for his deeds in his next life.

“I was wrong,” he admitted to his new neighbors, “but I have another chance to get it right.” His broad nostrils flared, making them look even broader and his eyes even smaller. He tugged at the buttonhole like a child caressing his “blankie.”

“What are you talking about?” Ming asked.

“We are all still here – because we are stuck until we realize our karma. W. G., you would call it “sins.” I thought I got away with my deeds. I have to accept what I did wrong and make it right. I know that now. You think it’s too late but I do not think I’d be here talking with you now if it were too late.”

“If there’s a way to leave this place, I want to hear about it. Maybe, it’s time for me to look at my life. I thought I did the right things but now I’m not so sure. It was the ultimate gamble,” Ming confessed.

W.G. held his head down as he tried to hide the tears that ran down his sunken cheeks. “I went to the mission so I could eat. We were so poor.  I’d do almost anything to get some food for my family. I ate the rice in the rice bowl and I hid pieces of vegetables and meat in my clothes to take home to my family. I worked in the kitchen just so I could steal the scraps of food left on plates.

“I listened and pretended to pray. I tried to learn the English language. Of course, they taught it to us by reading the Bible. I wanted to learn the language so I could be a “Gold Mountain” man. After I came to America to find my gold, I discovered the truth. Gold was not everywhere as the traders told us. I worked hard and sent money home to China. I guess I learned enough about sinning to feel bad because I just could not believe in their Jesus. I was not a good Christian man but I did love my family.”

Something in them changed as they shared their stories. They developed an inexplicable bond with one another.

*********

April 5, 2001

Colma, CA

“Look, our families are coming,” W.G. said. My nephew is an old man now but he looks young. He has a good family and a good heart.

“As many years as we’ve been here, our families never came at the same time,” he said to W.G.

Jimmy Lei’s family passed the first tombstone. Jenny said, “Hey, guys, he died the same day as Goompa.”  Lily set the basket on the ground and, then, sorted out the incense, papers, and Jimmy’s favorite foods while the neighbors swept the gravesites and added fresh flowers.

“Hey, this guy over here, Mr. Wai Gauy Fong, died on April 5 also – but in 1920 – and Mr. Ming Li over there died in 1940. I bet they would have great stories to tell if we could talk with them. This is weird.  I have a feeling this is not a coincidence.”

“Let them figure it out, either in this life time or the next. If we can, they will also,” Jimmy said to his new friends. “Are you ready to go now?”

“Where are we going?” W.G. and Ming said in unison.

“I’m not sure but I think we need to cross that arched bridge. It wasn’t there before but I feel we need to go over it. Remember, the Buddha said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

As if on queue, they took that step together.

Conversations with a Hungry Ghost

I’ve been a little preoccupied lately since my return from the Rooting trip to China, but it’s all good because I finally finished the Kindle of my book, Conversations with a Hungry Ghost: Memoir of a Reluctant Medium. It will be released March 25th. The print version will follow soon afterward. Watch my Events page for upcoming talks and the book launch party.

Here is the link to preorder at Amazon.

I created a Gallery page to my site to collect photos about my book as there are too many to include for an easy download to a e-book and more than I’ll include in the print version. The Gallery is a work-in-progress and I will continue to add photos.

Release poster for ebook