Over the course of writing my book these past two years, I asked the question that a lot of grieving people ask: “Does consciousness survive death?” It’s a question with no definitive answers, but what has really stood out to me is just how much research has been done by people of science.
One book that impressed me was “Surviving Death,” by investigative journalist Leslie Kean, a book that is dense with in-depth examinations of claims of various phenomena and includes 400 end-notes. Leslie also wrote the New York Times bestseller, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.” (Earlier this summer, you might have read that New York Times story about navy pilots and their observations of flying phenomena they could not identify. Leslie was one of the co-authors of the article.)
This past summer, I was working on final revisions of my book. One late night in June, I sent a little prayer into the universe before I closed my eyes. “Caitlin/ guides/ whoever” I said, “if you’re really out there, please send me a sign that I’m on the right path with this book.”
In the morning, I checked my email and this was the first thing I saw.
I didn’t remember signing up to receive notifications from Laura Lynne Jackson, and had never before received one, but I knew who she was–a certified, highly respected medium who is so in-demand that she closed her waiting list once it became years long.
I’d read Laura Lynne’s first book, an autobiography called “The Light Between Us,” and found it to be well-written, intelligent, enlightening, and comforting. Now she had a new book out called “Signs.”
I went down an internet rabbit hole that week, and saw that both Leslie and Laura were going to be part of a panel exploring the science of consciousness and the afterlife at the Omega Institute in upstate NY in September.
The panel piqued my interest. It would include two scientists I’d read about: Julie Beischel, Ph.D, and Mark Boccuzzi–a husband-and-wife team who run The Windbridge Research Center in Tucson.
When I eventually publish my Caitlin book and speak to its many themes, one topic I want to address is the current state of research in the field of after-death studies.
So I registered for the three-day Omega conference, which occurred over this past weekend.
Friday was a gorgeous late summer day and I really didn’t feel like leaving home. I’d recently been to some very disappointing events, and I really hoped this was going to be worth my time. As I drove west on the turnpike, I decided to talk to the universe again. “I really want this panel to be useful,” I said. “I want it to help me be able to spread some of the messages in my book. Spirit guides, Caitlin–if you’re really out there, please be in Rhinebeck with me.”
After a little while, I saw that a ten-wheeler up ahead of me had a big image of a bear on it. As I passed it, I saw that it was a logo for a company called Brown Bear Moving Company, which I’d never heard of.
Huh, I thought. I’d once been told my spirit animal was a brown bear and even though I have no idea if spirit animals really exist, the idea of the bear always felt right. Caitlin had even needle-felted me a little brown bear in 2014, who sits, always, on my desk. I am looking at him as I write. He’s my little mascot.
About an hour later, I pulled into a rest stop out in western Mass. When I came outside, I stopped short. The truck was parked, long-ways, right in front of my eyes.
Okay… Maybe it was a sign, a good one.
When I arrived at Omega, I parked my little car which I call my snazzmobile, and which looked ridiculously snazzy in that rustic environment. I also had an embarrassing amount of luggage for two nights (But it was supposed to rain on Saturday! And my cabin was in the woods and would probably get cold at night! And I am currently taking a class and might have needed my computer and books! And I’d read that their linens left a lot to be desired so I’d hauled my own!)
I checked in and made my way to my little cabin, past smiling, relaxed, natural-looking folk. A young woman with flowers in her hair and around her neck. A man on a porch playing a guitar and singing.
I felt out of place and texted a friend. “I don’t fit in anywhere,” I wrote.
She wrote back: “You don’t have to!”
So simple, but revelatory. I don’t have to fit into any neat slot. I never have.
✨ The Panel
The panel met over three days and was as informative and well-run as I’d hoped it would be. Not one moment dragged. The Windbridge people talked about the challenges of working as scientists in a field that lacks regulation and about their efforts to run lab studies with repeatable results, to publish in peer-reviewed journals. They emphasized that their aim is to “reach the people who would approach through an intellectual door.”
They spoke of the complications of proving theories of consciousness–materialist, brain-focused versus non-local theories. They reviewed evidence for survival of consciousness obtained from remote viewing research. They pointed out that part of the problem of testing, which their experiments must account for, is the existence of psi capabilities (as in perhaps a medium is telepathically obtaining information from a living person or other source as opposed to from a discarnate).
What was clear is that many many people have experienced unexplainable phenomenons. “There is a whole suppressed world out there,” Dr. Beischel pointed out. “People with experiences they feel they can’t talk about.”
Leslie Kean spoke in detail about children with provable memories of former lives (which the University of Virginia has been studying for decades), after-death communication experiences, and mediumship readings.
Julie and Mark described how they developed a protocol to test mediums through a five-fold blind process.
And Laura Lynne Jackson was there. It was clear that since her newest book hit the New York Times bestseller list this summer, a lot of people were there for her. She explained that she rarely does group (gallery) readings, and only does three private readings a week, because for her, doing a reading is like taking the LSAT and running a 5K on the same day. Mark pointed out that she would not be giving any private readings but at the end of the session on Saturday, she would do a gallery reading for one hour, and on Sunday would lead a guided meditation for all.
As far as mediums go, since Caitlin’s passing, in addition to the signs that come to me nearly every single day, to the point of comedy, I’ve had a couple of experiences with mediums that were powerful and remarkable (Karissa Eve D. & Sirry Berndsen). I also happen to have someone in my own family, Caitlin’s Irish cousin Sinead, who has clairsentient abilities and has exhibited them since she was a child. I am fortunate to be able to know, for sure, that such people exist, even if I can’t explain it.
I have also come to believe that, like all things human, some mediums are really really good at what they do. Others wish they were so good. And some don’t even try. They cheat. No question, there are frauds out there. There are people on YouTube who will gleefully explain how they have duped people. A recent New York Times article examined a teams of professional skeptics who debunk the fake psychics and mediums they call “grief vampires.”
But to date, two institutions in the United States have laid out protocols for blind-testing people who identify as psychic mediums: Windbridge and an organization called Forever Family Foundation, a non-profit organization “whose aim is to further the understanding of Afterlife Science through research and education while providing support and healing for people in grief.” From the Windbridge site:
Laura Lynne Jackson is one of the few mediums on those lists. In fact, she’s on both lists. She has donated a lot of time to grieving families via the Forever Family Foundation.
My gut sense told me that Caitlin would never come through a group, gallery-style reading, for two reasons. 1) Caitlin was essentially pretty private 2) She would be all about letting someone who might be more in need get one.
Plus there were 80 people there and they all wanted a reading.
But as the weekend progressed, even though I knew it was unlikely that I would get a reading, I increasingly really wanted one. On Saturday it was raining and as I looked out at the leaves, dripping with dismal rain, I thought, Caitlin, you need to come through and validate this book for me. Just this once. After all, I’m grieving as much as anyone.
Saturday, 4pm, arrived. Time for the gallery reading. Laura Lynne began to speak. She is intelligent and very well-spoken, a former longtime high school English teacher who is comfortable and in control in front of a group, emitting an energy that is focused and warm at once.
First she spent about 15 minutes describing how she worked–explaining that she has no control over who comes through and that when she’s pulled in one direction, it’s not a mistake, it’s not meant for someone on the other side of the room. She emphasized that if a person didn’t get a reading, it didn’t mean that his people didn’t love him, or weren’t there. She said we are all capable of communicating on our own, if we are open to it—she was adamant about that, and explained that she would share some techniques to do so the next day.
Finally she began, and did a very good reading for one attendee, which took about 15 minutes. Then she went to the very back of the room and spent another 15 minutes doing another powerful reading. Both were obviously very healing for the people involved.
It was now twenty minutes to the hour’s end and the idea of me getting a reading was now really a long shot.
But I did.
She turned and walked down the center aisle, her arms outstretched, hands clasped, fingers pointing in my direction. She said it was someone’s child, female, she was being shown a crab, that might mean Maryland? I shrugged. It might have been me, it might have been the woman behind me who had also tentatively raised a hand. Then she said, “SpongeBob?” and I started to laugh. SpongeBob was a very big long-time joke between Caitlin and me, ever since we saw Bob l’eponge movie posters all over Paris in 2004.
Laura says she “sees” on screens inside her mind and although she was looking at me, her eyes were focused inward. Then she came around and stood in front of me.
We weren’t allowed to tape the gallery hour, for obvious privacy reasons, but two very kind strangers took notes for me during my reading.What they and others remarked on, later, was how Laura’s manner transformed, and in an astonishing way.
“Did that seem like your daughter?” one woman asked. “Because her whole manner changed!”
“I felt like I saw your daughter, like now I know what she was like, how wonderful she was,” another woman said.
Laura did seem to embody Caitlin. The feisty, funny, “okay, I’m here to take charge” Caitlin. In fact, as Laura relayed information to me, she used the same mannerisms and way of speaking that the other medium, Karissa, uses when “Caitlin comes through.”
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✨ The Reading
Here are a few of the things Laura Lynne said:
She’s very very intelligent. Very high level. Classy. Impeccable manners. Very high level. And this is not bragging.
She has a deep appreciation for art.
She speaks 3 languages.
There’s someone with her… very old. A family member. An LN name? (I say that Caitlin’s grandmother Ellen, nicknamed Eileen, just passed in August.)
You’re brave. She’s watching you. You are challenging yourself to be open. You’re opening your heart and mind but you’re a critical thinker. You’re analyzing all this–she knows this medium thing is out of your realm.
She would not normally come through in a group like this. And she’s saying she does not need Laura to come through to you. She’s doing Laura a favor by coming through. (Laura laughs.) You can do this yourself yourself, you know. You’re a medium.
This will all be known. You will write about it. You’re here to get her message out.
You have a plan. Something will come from this. Something you’re working on.
You will be interviewed on TV. There’s more to come with this.
She’s interested in poetry, literature.
She has 2 degrees? (She had plans to study for a master’s, I say.)
Well she’s done it on the other side. We all have jobs on the other side.
She’s thanking you for taking care of her. She had an illness. A progression. Does this make sense?
I love you. This is not goodbye. Your soul taught her soul a lesson. (Laura’s eyes well up at this point, and she says she does not usually cry.) She did suffer at the end and you might ask why did she have to suffer? But at the end, she let go of her pain. There was beauty at the end. You taught her a lesson of unconditional love. And that took so much strength.
Okay, she’s saying she’s done now, and there’s someone she wants to thank.. a J name. And again, she is saying I’m lucky she came through.
At this point, Laura sort of strutted toward the podium. “And now she’s doing a mic drop.”
Laura mimicked the mic drop and everyone laughed.
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A funny thing is, I have an emoji Caitlin made of herself doing a mic drop. I even used it on this blog once.
That was really good. Felt good. It was now five o’clock and as I walked back to my cabin, talking to another woman, we encountered a groundhog. Right by our cabins. Not even budging when we got close. I started to laugh. “Groundhogs are very significant in our family,” I said. “I’ve never been so close to one. This must be a sign?”
The groundhog stayed right there, at our feet.
Later, I ran into Laura at the bookstore. I didn’t want to be one of those people who crowds her but I did say, in passing, “Thank you again, that was great.”
She said, “Can I give you a hug?” She hugged me and said, “Your daughter’s on a mission. She’s got big energy.”
That’s what I keep hearing.
Certification takes resources that are in short supply, and neither organization is currently testing mediums, so although not being certified does not mean that a medium is not legit, do your research if you book a reading somewhere.
You may be tempted to not use your real name (and I had suggested this in an earlier version of this post), but the good mediums recommend that you do use your real first name–no last name needed–because it can distract them when there’s a nagging sense that this has happened. Sinead has said this same thing–that she just needs a first name.
Also, be sure to use an email address that, while certainly can be non-identifiable, is one you check regularly so they can contact you if there’s a schedule change. That way, you can keep the reading as blind as possible and help to allay your doubts or skepticism.
Also, Skyping and phone calls work as well, and often better, than real life. Laura Lynne says that she prefers to do readings on the phone with her eyes closed.
✨ Old emails from Caitlin:
8/13/2014 – Subject: Definitely worth the money
11/19/2014 – Subject: All I want for Christmas is this
Her scrapbook from that Paris trip: