James Van Praagh put his hands up the level of his shoulders and began moving his arms, rotating one forward in front of his face and then the other. “She’s doing this,” he explained as he leaned into the microphone. “Was she a swimmer?”
“No, but I am,” I replied, my head bowed as I spoke into the mic I had been handed. I was still wiping the tears from my cheeks.
“She swims in Walden with me,” I continued. “I know she does.”
“Yes, she’s swimming,” James added before moving on to tell me other things he couldn’t possibly know about my deceased daughter, her love of animals, how full of joy and laughter she was. I held the mic close to my heart, listening intently, peering down at the words I had just read aloud, a stream of consciousness flowing from my divine self onto the page.
It was the second last day of a five day workshop with James Van Praagh, a world famous spiritual medium. Although the focus was not on doing “readings,” but rather on increasing our ability to understand the nature of the soul, when I burst into tears having shared my ‘letter’ James responded. “I have to tell you this, your daughter is standing behind you. She is playing with your hair.”
It was during the reading that followed that he told me about the swimming.
I couldn’t wait to get back into Walden. There had been times this summer when I suspected Jesi’s presence while I was swimming; strange swirls of water when no one was present, when the absence of a breeze left the water surface as clear and still as crystal.
The first time it happened I was nearing Thoreau Cove. I was apprehensive, startled, scared even, but since that time I began to believe it was Jesi playing tricks on me, the way she loved to joke around when she was alive. I started wanting to feel the swell of water around my shoulders or my thighs and enjoyed looking up to confirm it wasn’t another swimmer, that the water was a mirror reflecting my loss and filling it with her spirit. I would say to myself “oh, it’s just Jesi” and instead of feeling fear as I had the first time, I would feel a sense of comfort in her presence.
Now James was confirming what I had thought to be true. Jesi, who loved to come to Walden with me when she was alive, though she was not a great swimmer, now loves to swim with me.
With the colder than usual fall nights Walden’s water has been dropping in temperature, almost daily. When I returned from the workshop I wondered if, being away for six days, I would be able to tolerate going back to swimming. But wanting to sense the closeness with Jesi overcame my fear of the cold…
Swimming down the right side of the pond I think about Jesi being beside me. I hear her laughter, I see her arms circle above the water as I watch my own. I sense the rhythm of her mirroring me. Sometimes I picture her hovering just above my body, laughing mischievously or roaring outrageously with glee as the waves buffet at me, throwing me off course. Sometimes I sense her silent company, simply being and supporting my journey. Sometimes, between the breathing in and the blowing out I hear her voice in the bubbles I make as I move through stillness. On an abnormally warm 70 degree day this week, I swam around the pond. On the south side, the colder, more secluded side which doesn’t see the sun, I asked Jesi for protection. I had been in longer than usual and although the air was warm, the extra immersion time was taking its toll on my bare hands.
Very soon I know the pond will be too cold for swimming and I will have to hang up my wetsuit for the season. It’s always tough to give it up, to find another pursuit which fulfills so many needs, but like the pond, I know Jesi will swim with me next year. And in the meantime, I know she will be with me wherever I am, though it is magical to envisage my spirit child stroking alongside me in the middle of Walden.