|Just One More Minute|
Photo by Tracy Duran
Tracy Duran Collection
At first, no one notices the woman as she walks into the room. One might think she was one of the many lost spirits in this room; however she is the one who actually speaks to the spirits on behalf of the living. She patiently waits in the line to offer her condolences as she overhears the hushed tones and soft cries of grief. She's always had a hard time in these situations since she can feel everyone's emotions. Being empathetic, she can feel the sadness tenfold and it makes her body hurt. She can also feel the emotions of those whom passed on yet those emotions are equal parts happiness and sadness. Happy that they are not in pain and are able to see loved ones who previously passed away. Sad seeing their living loved ones crying for them.
“It's too bad these people don't realize that going to the other side isn't such a bad thing.” she thinks to herself. She is the only one in the room who knows the truth.
Every time she walks into a funeral parlor, she feels and smells what only certain mediums do. She feels the static energy and smells sulphur, reminding her of a burning Fourth of July sparkler. She rubs her arms to try to dissipate the static feeling. She tries to turn her mind off so she is not distracted by the other spirits trying to get her attention. Sometimes she wears ear buds with Procol Harum blasting to help keep the vibes blocked. Wearing earbuds at a funeral is not a good look however. One might think she could ignore anyone in her path but she can tell the difference between the living and the dead. The dead do not blink. While she waits, she keeps the song, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” in her head but she still hears, “She was so young,” “The doctors have no idea why she died; it was natural, if you can believe that,” “I'll bet that she committed suicide but no one is telling us.” She laughs to herself and some people stare at her for the indiscretion.
She gets closer to the person she is here to see, the young lady's husband Jeff. He is sitting by himself in an oversized chair, looking blankly toward the casket with his wife laying within. Some visitors come to him and place a hand on his shoulder. Some lightly squeeze with genuine affection; others offer an uneasy pat. None say a word but he understands their intent. The woman finally finds her moment to approach him.
“Very nice music. Was it Victoria's favorite?” she asks. Throughout the parlor, a soft, somber operetta is being played. Still staring blankly, Jeff says in a whispered tone as if to not disturb his bride: “Una Furtiva Lagrima.” It was one of her favorite songs.”
She places her hand on his shoulder and looks toward the beauty in the adorned casket. She says softly along to the haunting music, “The beating, the beating of her heart I could feel, to merge my sighs with hers...”
He slowly puts his head in his hands, then absently reply, “They told me not to play this because it's such a sad song. She always told me it was a good song. I never listened and I never cared. It was her thing, not mine. Now it's all gone. She's just...gone.”
She knelt down next to him and rubbed his shoulder to console him.
“It is a good song, Jeff, one that has stayed with her for a long time. One that never left her and never will. She is always in your heart and she hopes this song will stay with you to remind you of her,” she assured him.
He turns to her with tears in his eyes and says, “She told me she never told anyone but me. When she was younger, she would be embarrassed to say she liked this kind of music and not what the others listened to. It wasn't exactly...cool.”
She looks at him with a smile in her eyes, “I know.”
Jeff looks toward the casket again, then finally looks at the woman. “I'm sorry. It's strange; I haven't talked to anyone here except for you," he said. "For some reason I feel like I can trust you.”
“You can," she replied. "Here, take my card. When you're ready to talk, we can talk. She wants you to talk.”
He looks at her quizzically, then looks at the card.
“Gabrielle” was printed on the one side, the other side read a phone number and below read, “Healer, Tarot Reader, Medium.”
Jeff stood up to ask if this was some sort of joke but she was gone. Yet he could still feel the warmth of her hand on his shoulder and a sudden feeling of electricity flow through him. His body shivered and he slipped the card into his inside jacket pocket. He looked around, then sat back down in a daze. Other people came to him to see if he was fine and he assured him that he was.
A few days later, he was sitting in his living room. The room was dark and quiet. Nothing moved except for the ice in the glass in his hand. Jeff swirled the glass around and around, as if to mirror his thoughts. He sees the business card on the floor as if someone laid it at his feet. He picks it up, taps the shorter side of the card on the armrest of his easy chair, repeating the motion as the card slips through his fingers. He then closed his eyes and shook his head, thinking to himself, “That had to have been a joke. That woman must have just gone through the obituaries and tried to see if she could scam me.” He puts the glass down and picks up his cell phone and dials the number through tear-filled eyes. He stops and asks himself, “What the hell am I doing?” After that same thought, he heard...
It was almost as if someone else said it in his head. He dials again and Gabrielle picks up the phone.
“Hello, Jeff. Do you need me to come by?”
“Yes, I'm assuming you know where?” he asks hoarsely over the phone.
“Actually I need to know where you live. These things don't work like they do in the movies," Gabrielle says in a respectful tone.
“Oh, sorry. I'm in the apartment building downtown. Tallest one there if you're familiar with the area. Nineteenth floor. I'll buzz you up when you get here.”
“OK, sounds good. See you in a few minutes.”
Gabrielle arrives at the old building in the center of downtown. The vibe from this building is high. So many lost souls are here. She hears the voices and sometimes the raised, tense voices from within. The energetic charge courses about and she wonders if this was a good idea to come to Jeff instead of him coming to see her. She tries to shut off and focus on where she needs to go. She enters the foyer and presses the button under the name “Schuler.” Just a few seconds later the door buzzes loudly and she enters, then takes the elevator to the 19th floor. The old elevator slowly approaches each floor with a sway. She reaches her destination and the double doors slide open. Jeff is there waiting for her.
“This way. I'm in 1901.”
Gabrielle looks at him with concern, “OK, I'll follow you.”
He opens the door for her, motioning in a genteel manner for her to enter the apartment. She is taken aback by the size of the living space. She never thought it would be so large. The windows faced the northwest and she could see sunlight slowly fade on the distant horizon. It was an amazing sight. Jeff asks, almost in a zombie-like state, “Would you like something to drink? Water? Wine? Jack and Coke?”
“Water is perfect; thank you.” She replies.
He grabs a water bottle from the refrigerator while she examines the framed photos on the bookcase. He comes up beside her and hands her the water bottle. “That one was at Starved Rock," Jeff offers, as he mixes a whiskey highball for himself. "We hiked and hiked but got lost because Victoria was looking for the waterfall but we finally found it. She kept saying, 'Just one more minute...We should be almost there.' She was a bit...scattered...but that's what I love about her. I felt like I always had to protect her even though she really could have taken care of herself.”
With eyes locked to the photo, Gabrielle said, “She loved that you were so protective.”
Jeff looks down and replies, “Is that what she's telling you now?”
Gabrielle breaks her gaze and looks at him, “No, honestly she came to see me several weeks ago before she passed away. She had a lot of questions about things that were going on with her. She was having dreams she couldn't figure out...recurring dreams. She didn't want to worry you; she just wanted answers.”
They silently made their way to two oversized chairs in the living room and sat down.
Jeff rubs his forehead. “You must think I'm an idiot. After reading your business card, I thought you were one of those scam artists trying to get to me for money," he admitted. "Here I'm thinking you're going to pretend to 'talk to' her spirit," motioning with air quotation marks, "but she went to see you? When?”
“When you were in California on a company visit," Gabrielle replied. "She said she found me through a group on social media. She said she felt like she could trust me...just like you told me the other day...do you still believe you can trust me?”
Jeff looks down and nods his head, “Yeah...I guess so. If she trusted you, then I should too. He locked eyes with Gabrielle, yet not in judgment but melancholy. "She was a good judge of character.”
Gabrielle returned his gaze as if she were staring into his soul, “Are you sure you are ready for this?” she asked.
In a defeated tone Jeff responds, “Yes; tell me everything if you can.”
As if she were opening a door to a yard enveloped in fog, Gabrielle motioned with genuine, subtle grandeur, “It was June 28. She messaged me and asked if she could stop by to talk to me about this dream she kept having. It troubled her so much to the point where it scared her. She didn't know what to do.”
THEN: GABRIELLE'S HOME
“It scares me because I feel like I died in my sleep for a moment. Everything in the dream is real - too real. Yet I'm happy to be there - almost ecstatic - but it scares me. I have too much going on here and I don't want to die in my sleep.”
Gabrielle asks Victoria, “What is in the dream? Can you tell me where you were?”
Victoria stares off to the left as if she were looking through space and time, “Everything is dim. I walk down a long hallway and there's this thin, translucent curtain. I push it aside and there's a door. It opens and this man greets me. It seems like he's known me all my life. He shows me to a room. There is a piano on the right and a sitting area to the left. There's a doorway further on and curtains start swaying with the breeze. He's behind me and says, 'I've missed you. Come, come to the veranda.' He lightly places his hand on the small of my back and I feel a rush of energy and warmth. Then I wake up and I'm in tears. I don't know why but it's a very emotional dream.”
Gabrielle processes this information for a moment, then asks, “Do you believe this is possibly a family member, maybe a grandfather, or even a great-grandfather, who is trying to talk to you?"
“I don't think so," Victoria answers with a hint of uncertainty. "What is strange is that there is a familiarity with him, not like a family way but I feel like I know him.”
After a few seconds, Gabrielle takes a deep breath and says, “Here, let me hold your hands. I want to see if I can sense something.”
The women hold hands and immediately a surge of electricity surges from Victoria to Gabrielle. The jolt makes them both jump.
Gabrielle: “Wow! I never felt that before.”
Victoria: “What on Earth was that?”
Gabrielle: “Sometimes when we are in the presence of spirits, they give off some sort of spark, like an electric pulse. Sometimes when they touch us, a residual energy kicks up. A lot of times it will get released, like when you touch a doorknob after you drag your feet on the carpet and you get that slight static shock. This...this though...there is something different here.”
Victoria replies in a concerned voice, “Like what? Do you mean like a spirit took control of me?”
“Oh no, no; not at all," said Gabrielle. "Sounds like to me that this dream that you had, you went through what we call the 'Spiritual Veil.' It's like a really thin curtain separating the living and the dead.”
Victoria looks at her quizzically, then nervously asks, “So...I might have died in my sleep?”
Immediately Gabrielle replies, “No, no; it's like your mind drifted to a part of reality that no one else can see. It's hard to explain. Look...have you ever had any sort of other dreams like this or have seen strange shadows from the corner of your eye?”
Victoria sinks into her chair, “Well, when I think about it, this was similar to dreams I had when I was younger. Strange realistic dreams of large buildings, white buildings with grand ceilings," she detailed. "Sometimes the ceilings were open to the sky. Every time I woke up, I always wanted to go right back to sleep to see if I could go back into the dream. I felt like I wanted just one more minute to savor the moment. And those moments were rare. When I had them, I always felt like I was on a high for days - sometimes a week or so - then things would die down and I'd be back to normal. As normal as life was, I guess.”
Gabrielle takes a moment before asking, “Have you ever thought that maybe these were dreams about a past life? Maybe you were experiencing something that happened to you in another life? Maybe a moment in that time period that made you happy?”
Victoria: “I never thought of that. I have always been intrigued by past lives and reincarnation but never gave it a second thought for myself.”
Gabrielle: “Have you heard of past life hypnosis?”
Victoria: “I've heard of that from a friend of mine several years ago. I thought it was kind of crazy, you know? To be able to go into your own mind to see what or who you used to be?”
Gabrielle: “How about this? I have a colleague who is certified in hypnosis. If you're willing and up for it, we can set up a meeting and see if she can do something for you. That is, if you want answers.”
Victoria sits quietly, looking down toward her hands clasped tightly in her lap. After what felt like forever, she says in a hush, “Yes, let's try this. I want to see what this is.”
Gabrielle: “OK, I will give her a call and I'll get back in touch with you to set this up. Are you sure you're OK with this? It's not dangerous or anything but it might bring back emotions and memories that might be painful.”
Hesitating, Victoria says, “I think I'm ready. These dreams have been going on for so long and have always intrigued me. I've always wondered if they might be just childhood things that were made more grandiose since dreams tend to exaggerate things. No, I'm ready for this. I want to see what this is.”
The following day, Victoria finds her way to Dr. Joyce Sloan's office and is greeted by Gabrielle.
With optimism in her voice, Gabrielle exclaims, “Hey there! I hope you don't mind me being here. I just wanted to be your support in this.”
Victoria responds, “Thank you. I really do appreciate it. I didn't want my husband to know...at least just yet. I don't want him to think I'm losing my mind.” She then noticed that Gabrielle had a wireless ear bud in her left ear. She could faintly hear a song she recalled from her childhood, “Conquistador” by Procol Harum.
Gabrielle lightly touches Victoria's arm, “You are not losing your mind. These things, these experiences stay with us," she says. "They're in our DNA; they're in our spirit. Some things linger because something happened. Something interrupted our plans and our spirit wants to complete those plans in some way.”
Victoria tears up a little, feeling overwhelmed that someone understood and didn't judge her for believing in the past life ideal.
Gabrielle: “Here, let me introduce you to Joyce.”
Gabrielle opens a large heavy wooden door leading into an office. Victoria walks in, noticing the room is rather unremarkable with very soft lighting. To her right by the window was an office chair and another piece of furniture that looked like a fancy version of a dentist's chair.
Dr. Sloan approaches Victoria with a smile and an outstretched hand, “Not what you expected was it, dear?” she asks. Victoria shakes her hand while looking into her eyes. It seems like Dr. Sloan is looking right into her soul.
“Actually no, not at all. I thought there would be like a bunch of lit candles, the '70s beaded curtains and kind of a hippie vibe.” Victoria answered with a bit of a laugh, hoping she wasn't offending her hosts.
With an uplifting lilt in her voice, Dr. Sloan replied, “I totally understand. Some of my counterparts do have the crystals and the incense and things like that. I like to keep it a bit simple.” She then directed Victoria to the fancy dentist chair. “Here, have a seat. This is a zero gravity chair. We'll recline it a bit while we go through our session. If you need a blanket, I have a few over there in the corner cabinet, pretty cushy ones too!”
Although Dr. Sloan's suggestion eases her, Victoria is still somewhat nervous, as she walks to the far corner cabinet to select a blanket. She wonders if she's doing the right thing. Is this just a weird whimsy? Should I even be here? Gabrielle breaks the silence: “Don't worry; you are doing the right thing. It may seem weird but this is a good way to get answers.”
Victoria picks a soft, dark purple, chenille blanket and sits in the special, "dental" chair. She leans into it and sinks back even deeper. It felt strange but good, comfortable. She felt weightless, as if she were on a cloud.
Dr. Sloan asks Victoria, “Would you like Gabrielle to leave the room so you can have some privacy?”
Feeling slightly more assured in her new environment, Victoria says, “No, she can stay.”
Dr. Sloan then explains to Victoria, “Now, when you are in the process, you won't be asked to do anything against your will. If it sounds like you might be facing something scary or too graphic, I'll direct you to not feel or see what's going on. Sometimes it could be terrifying to remember what happened to you, what happened in your past life, so I have to ask: Are you ready to do this?”
Victoria takes a deep breath, then takes a moment: “Yeah...I'm ready.”
Dr. Sloan says in a soft, calming voice, “OK, let us begin. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath...Now let it out. I want you to imagine that your mind is your childhood home. Find your bedroom, then walk into it. What do you see?”
Victoria: “I see white furniture, my old roll top desk, the window facing the backyard. It's open; the breeze is soft and it's moving the curtains. I smell the lilacs in the air.”
Dr. Sloan perks up and says, “Good, good. Now I want you to envision a long, white, narrow hallway, with a bright light at the end of it. I need you to walk toward that light. Are you walking toward the light?”
Victoria: “Yes; yes, I am.”
In a calm, measured voice, Dr. Sloan says, “Good. Keep walking...five...the hallway will take you to a door...four...open the door...three...and walk through...two...one...you will be where you want to be. Now look down at your feet: Do you have anything on your feet?”
Victoria: “Yes, I am wearing fancy, beaded shoes. They're white, strappy pumps, squared heels and pointy toes.”
Dr. Sloan: “Are you wearing anything specific?”
Victoria: “I am wearing a long, pink silk and lace dress. He gave it to me. He gave it to me as a gift.”
Noting this male pronoun, Dr. Sloan responds, “Interesting...do you see him near you? Where are you?”
Victoria: “I'm in a grand hotel. I am being guided to a doorway but I have to walk through a thin curtain. I can barely feel it when I touch it. I am at the door and it opens. He is there...he smiles at me and compliments the dress. He's happy that I chose to wear this dress.”
Curiously Dr. Sloan asks, “Do you recognize this man? Is he your husband or a relative?”
Victoria: “He's a singer. He asks me to come in. There's a small, upright piano on the right. To the left is a little sitting area with white furniture. I can smell moisture in the air...we're near a beach or waterfront somewhere.”
Dr. Sloan: “What does he look like?”
Victoria: “He has dark hair, dark smiling eyes with a bit of sadness behind them. He is wearing a blue suit, an off-white vest, a blue silk tie. He puts his hand on the small of my back and guides me to the terrace. I can feel the warmth and energy rising up my back and my heart beats faster.”
Dr. Sloan: “What's on the terrace?”
Victoria: “There is a small wrought iron and glass table with two champagne glasses and a silver champagne bucket with ice on a stand next to it. I look out and I see the bay. It's dusk but the boats nearby are swaying in the water. I can smell the sea air and it consumes my emotions.”
With increased curiosity, Dr. Sloan asks, “Does he say anything to you? Are you a singer too?”
Victoria: “Yes but not famous. He heard me sing to myself in the marketplace and asked me to come to the hotel...but that was before...I've been here a few times now.”
Dr. Sloan: “OK, I'm going to let you guide us now. Just keep going with what you see and what's happening. If things get stressful, I'll help you...I promise. What's happening now?”
Victoria: “He opens the champagne and pours it into the glasses. He tells me that he was happy that the dress he bought for me fits me perfectly. He brings a glass to me; we clink them together and have a sip. I hear faint music coming from the area, like...like accordion...concertina music? Are those called concertinas? The music sounds like what you hear when you're in an authentic Italian restaurant. I think we're in Italy, then? I look out towards the water, the bay. I feel the tips of his fingers touch my jawline and he makes me look at him. He looks happy. He says, 'I'm glad you are here with me. I've missed you.'”
Victoria starts to tear up. "I've missed him too," she admits. "I feel like I should be here. I belong here. I belong with him."
Suddenly a shock courses through Victoria's body. She sits bolt upright with her eyes wide open, breathing heavily as tears flood her eyes. She slowly turns to Dr. Sloan, who is obviously surprised. Victoria says in a deep, hushed tone, “This isn't a dream. This is my home. He died before me and I took my life afterward because I didn't want him to leave me behind. Oh geez...my head feels like it's about to split in half!” She cries woefully, while grasping her hair tightly as if to keep her skull together.
With a sudden jolt of alarm, Dr. Sloan tries to reel her back into reality, “OK, OK…Victoria, I need you to listen to me: Lie down if you can and listen to me carefully.” Victoria slowly lies down and instinctively closes her eyes. “Now just listen to my voice, Victoria. I need you to slowly come out of that room and back down the hall.”
Victoria: “He doesn't want me to go. He's upset now. He's telling me that this is my home. I can't leave him. He needs me to stay. He...he…misses me.
"He loves me."
Dr. Sloan and Gabrielle look at each other with worry. Gabrielle says, “He has a hold of her. He won't let her go. We have to get her back. Something bad will happen if we don't. The emotions are very strong here. His emotions are stronger than hers. Something strange is going on here. I've never seen or felt this before." If eyes could plead, Gabrielle's were begging. "Joyce, please get her back.”
Dr. Sloan: “Jesus, Gabby, I'm trying...Victoria, please listen to me. Try to break free...try to concentrate on my voice. Try to return to us...”
Victoria: “But I just need one more minute here...please...I can't leave just yet..”
Dr. Sloan implores, ”Victoria, you need to come back. Please listen...”
Gabrielle interrupts, “Listen to us, Victoria...you need to tell him to let you go...try to face the hallway, focus on the hallway...”
Gabrielle then realizes something, “Victoria, try to grab the curtain...the veil or whatever it is...open it and come down the hallway...please!”
Victoria's arms suddenly flail around. “I…I don't…please...just one more minute!”
Gabrielle exclaims, “Victoria! Come back now!”
Victoria starts crying. “I'm letting go of his hand...I'm going past the curtain and down the hallway... he's crying for me!...I...I...”
Dr. Sloan begs, “Victoria, concentrate on us...come back to us, please. I'll count back slowly and you'll be back with us...five...keep concentrating on my voice...four...just walk back into the hallway and to your room with your white furniture...three... come to the door of your bedroom...two...open the door and come back to us...one...take a deep breath...just breathe...”
Victoria's face is streaked with tears and she was sweating as if she had just finished a marathon. “Oh my God...what just happened?" She asked, her breath labored. "That wasn't a dream...that was all too real...I felt his hand. I felt the air of the sea...I could smell the salt...I could even taste the champagne. What happened to me?”
Gabrielle brings some water for Victoria and says, “You are right; that wasn't a dream...that was your past life. It seems you were very close with this singer...he was an opera singer from a long time ago. He passed away at a young age and you were so heartbroken that you took your life. When you passed over, he told you that he wished you would have kept living, to keep his dream alive. He was so upset. Apparently he never came back but you did. He had already shared his life and gift when he was alive and was given the opportunity to be a guide in the afterlife. He has shared his gifts with others, like a muse of some sort...but he greatly misses you. It's extremely possible that if you chose to continue living back then, you would've fulfilled your time here on Earth and you would be together now...on the other side. He would have gladly waited because Eternity has no limits.”
Victoria: “So, if…in my past life...if I chose to not be weak, then I wouldn't be here now? I wouldn't be with Jeff? Oh no...I can't tell Jeff about this...he would freak out.”
“You don't have to if you are not comfortable," Dr. Sloan interjects, "...but it would be best to tell him you were here. Maybe he'll understand?”
“Maybe," Victoria replied, "but it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had just one more minute...maybe I could have made amends or something? Maybe…I won't have the dreams then?”
Gabrielle and Dr. Sloan look at each other, then Gabrielle turns to Victoria and says, “I don't know. This was something very different, something I don't think neither Joyce nor I have had happen before. I think it's best that you listened to us and got yourself out of there. How about we make another appointment and, this time, just talk...no hypnosis...just to talk. Does that sound OK?”
After taking a drink of the water, Gabrielle takes a moment, then replies, “Yeah...yeah, that sounds fine.”
NOW: JEFF'S APARTMENT
“...So that's what was going on in her dreams," Gabrielle concludes. "She kept thinking that if she had just one more minute to fulfill what she thought she was supposed to, the dreams would stop.”
Jeff looks into his glass, now only filled with melting ice, and says, “I still don't understand. A few nights after her seeing you - and what was her name? Joyce? - she died in her sleep. The doctors at the hospital said nothing was wrong with her. Her heart was fine; it just...stopped.”
Gabrielle looks down at her bottle of water, puts it down and folds her hands on her lap. She leans forward and says, “Jeff, look at me. She loved you very much, so much so that she wants you to know that she's sorry. She stayed for one minute too long. Apparently when we have an experience like this, an out-of-body experience of sorts, especially when it crosses that veil between life and death, we can only visit for a minute, maybe two. No one really knows. I had a vision the night she passed away. I saw what she was seeing. The thin veil, the doorway that opened and him. He was a famous singer who had died in 1921. When they were alive back then, he was in a marketplace in Sorrento, Italy. He heard her sing and invited her to his hotel suite that faced the Sorrento Bay. She was his living muse. She helped him find himself again. They fell in love and were together for a short time before he passed away. In the vision I had, she went through the same scene as before when she visited Joyce and me. He asked her if she was happy; she said she was. She was with you and she wanted to stay here with the living but she also said she wanted to stay for a minute more to see what would happen. He was happy that she chose to stay, if only for a minute - or so they thought. He hugged her with all his being. She hugged him back but, from what I saw, she stopped breathing in her sleep. She didn't realize she could come back until it was too late.”
In tears, Jeff says, “That explains it then. I thought it was strange but it makes sense. When I woke the next morning, I thought she had a good dream for a change. She was always waking with a start but this was different. It was too quiet.
"She was smiling.”