The question of what happens after we die has always haunted me. It haunts most of us non-hippies who have no clue about chakra flows. Reincarnation sounds nice, unless you come back as Lindsay Lohan's future child. Heaven seems cool, too, especially if we get to choose our own heaven. Mine would involve a big comfy bed, endless uninterrupted TV and a constant flow of flautas. Still, heaven is not Earth, no matter what Belinda Carlisle says. I can watch TV and eat in bed here and still see my family and friends.
Being put in the ground or in an urn and that's it, you're done and dead, feels too final. I don't like that it's happened to people that I love, and I'm not super-excited that it will one day happen to me. This is why I found myself sitting in a spiritualist church tucked away in a Mira Mesa business park waiting for a medium to contact spirits in the great beyond.
I walked into the Celebration Center for Spiritual Living on Thursday night for the bimonthly event Messages with Love from the Other Side, lead by the clairvoyant Rev. Roby Warren. I sat down on one of the many cushioned chairs set up in front of a carpeted stage swathed in brown curtains and decked out with a black baby grand piano, multiple candles and a comfy chair at center stage where Roby sat and sipped a cup of tea. Roby's a white Oda Mae Brown ready to dole out an "Alex, you in danger, girl," if need be, a calm presence dressed in the embellished ethnic peasant top and billowy pants requisite of holistic types. After leading the room in a prayer, Roby opened up the floor to questions. I raised my hand first and asked her the most obvious thing.
"Can you say for sure there is life after death?"
She smiled and answered, "Science states that nothing ever dies. It just changes shape. I believe we don't die. We just change shape. There's plenty of research on this out there. You just have to find it. But is there life after death? Absolutely!"
Roby then told the story of a child that recalled a past life as a World War II fighter pilot and talked about her earliest experiences with spirits surrounding her bed at night eager to talk. She'd even experienced instantaneous healing of a broken leg that she assures is medically documented. These were her proof bombs.
When it came time to bring out the ghosts, Roby assured us that there was nothing to fear. No lights would flicker, and no pea soup would shoot out of her mouth. She stood up, shook her hands through her wild auburn hair and began pacing the stage to "get the energy going."
The first person who came through was the father of a man named Gordon, whom Roby identified
as a short, gregarious person whose happiest moments were vacationing with his family on the East Coast, like the Kennedys. "He's showing me the Kennedys," she said. Gordon validated that his family did indeed spend summers in Cape Cod just four miles from the Kennedy home. She closed his reading by relaying this message from his dad: "Would it kill you to put on a suit?"
Every person there got a chance to speak to a lost loved one and found solace in hearing that their father was proud of them or their mother wants them to dance more.
Roby eventually had me come forward. "Say your name three times into the microphone," she ordered. I awkwardly whispered the magic incantation of "Alex, Alex, Alex" and waited. Would it be my dad? Our old family dog? My heart pounded, and I suddenly couldn't swallow my saliva. I grew up in a very Mexican family—ghosts and black magic and superstition are no joke. Once, an indigenous medicine woman convinced my mom that my brother had a spell placed on him by his evil ex-wife, and the only way to save him was to put his photo in a jar accompanied by a raw egg and stick it in the freezer. She was to whisper expletives to it every night until it burst. He eventually got divorced, and the unbroken jar went in the garbage. Most days, I'm not sure what I believe in, but there's a pretty weird foundation that's been laid down for me.
"I have a grandmother here for you," Roby said, "someone who showed love through food. I see a dinner table full of food." This was clearly my maternal grandmother, Pancha, a woman who died eight years before I was born; I've heard countless stories about her. Roby said that our family, even those we've never met, still watch out for us throughout our lives, and Pancha was keeping a close eye on me. And my vagina.
The Reverend said Pancha's the one whispering in my ear every time I'm about to do something "naughty." Apparently, she felt the need to "protect my virtue." So, I came to Mira Mesa to find out that my dead grandma thinks I'm a slut and is to blame for every cock-blocking moment of prudishness I've ever had. Well. Alright then.
The nicest message of all was hearing that my grandmother was proud of my accomplishments and considers me her "gem." Funny, since I'm named for the Spanish translation of a precious stone, Alejandrina. I'll take all this not because I'm 100-percent convinced it's true, but because it made me feel connected to someone I always missed despite never knowing. Even if she kept me from getting laid.
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