Let me start by saying I have absolutely no clue how somebody would do what the psychic ex-nun in New Jersey does. I say this because I want people to know from the start that I am an explorer here. I'm not pretending to know more than anybody else. I am reporting about one woman's experience with this psychic, a clairvoyant who is in so much demand that you have to wait years to get an appointment with her!
My source is a friend of a friend. My dear friend Nina's good friend Teresa King lives near Dallas, Texas (she used to be Nina's next door neighbor in Albany, New York). On November 2, 2010, Teresa consulted a psychic named Janet Nohavec
, an ex-nun who lives in New Jersey. Nohavec's services are in such fierce demand that Teresa King had to wait a year and a half to have her consultation. She called the nun in July, 2008 to make the appointment, and Teresa couldn't book an appointment until November 2, 2010.
Earlier this fall, Teresa's mother and brother died.
I interviewed Teresa on November 23, 2010. Teresa told me that she was interested in talking to the psychic as a way of communicating with her husband, Brad, who died after suffering a heart attack about two and a half years ago. Teresa also was hoping to communicate with her mother, and her brother, both of whom, as I mentioned, died in October.
My conversation with Teresa King was quite startling. I was, quite honestly, astonished by what Teresa told me.
Before I share what she told me, let me say that Teresa King is no publicity hound. I've interviewed countless people in my decades as a newspaper reporter, and I know someone who wants to see their name in print.
Teresa King didn't come looking for me to interview her.
When I phoned her, she was folding laundry. She was very pleasant. Very matter of fact. Very straight forward. Very calm. She has a good head on her shoulders. She didn't get all giddy and excited about what the psychic had told her.
She very calmly related to me in a very detailed and specific way what happened during her session with the psychic. She was very careful to say exactly what the psychic told her and when in that phone conversation with the psychic she didn't understand the significance of what had been told to her.
Before I write what happened, I should also say that I interviewed Teresa King shortly after I had lunch with my friend Nina in Albany.
(If you want to know more about that weird lunch, you can read Chapter Three
of this book.)
Nina is the woman for whom I started writing this book, Sister Mysteries
, some 16 years ago. At that time, though, I was hell-bent on writing it as a convoluted fiction.
Man oh man if you want to get yourself all screwed up, just try writing a book that doesn't want to be written.
It will make you nuts.
Anyway, Nina and I had lunch right after I started writing this book, once again, after a long hiatus. (I'm on an incredibly tight deadline, as part of the Albany Times Union's Writing in Motion
project. For more on that, read Chapter One
of this book.)
I had just written a chapter referring to my rather miraculous medical intuitive reading
Since both Nina and I are cancer survivors, I mentioned the intuitive reading to Nina, and told her how, to this day, more than seven years later, I cannot for the life of me figure out how the psychic in Stowe, Vermont could possibly "see" my one tiny spot of cancer, over a distance of 3,000 miles (I was at my sister Karen's house in L.A.) The medical intuitive had never met me. She only knew my first name.
And yet, she was able to give an EXACT location of my cancer. No one but my husband and my oncologist knew where that spot of cancer was.
It befuddles me. It intrigues me, and frankly, it's one of the reasons I am writing this book. To see if I can figure out how it all works.
At lunch, Nina casually mentioned that she had a good friend named Teresa. I almost dropped my fork.
As I mentioned in Chapter Three
, my nun novel Castenata
features a nun named Sister Teresa. I had spelled the name Theresa for years, but at some point in the last year or so, I changed the spelling of Theresa to Teresa and I don't know why.
Anyway, my character Sister Renata -- who is falsely accused in 1883 of murdering her cousin Antonie -- considers Sister Teresa to be her best friend at the Dominican convent. Teresa figures constantly in the novel.
So when Nina said she had a friend named Teresa, and when she said that Teresa had consulted a psychic ex-nun for information about her dead husband, I was...flabbergasted.
Like I said, I almost dropped my fork into my salad.
Nina agreed to connect
My friend Nina connected Teresa King and me by email. We spoke for quite a long time. And I'm telling you, I have no idea how the psychic ex-nun does what she does.
Before I interviewed Teresa, this is the email she sent me:
"Thank you for your story and interest in my search for answers. I am in a rush to get off to a Thanksgiving Soccer tournament for my 14-year old son, so what I wrote below may be a bit scattered. Maybe I can call you over the next weekend or visa versa.
"I started my search for life after death after my husband died suddenly about 2 1/2 years ago. My husband moved us up to Dallas TX, a very unlikely spot for us to move to and [then he] died a year later, leaving me with my 14 yr old son and his mom, who had severe Alzheimer's. I always leaned on him to make everything OK and then I was left asking where had his powerful energy gone and what was I to do to take care of my family in a "foreign land?"
"Right after my husband died, his secretary called me to tell me that when she had contacted a psychic medium, my husband had "come through" [and] thanked her for all her tears. [He] came dressed in his khaki pants (which was very much like him) and was being well taken care of. He also told her that he was eating well and that he had left a young boy (my son Jack at that time [was] 10 yrs old). I thought this was a bit way out there but tucked it under my thinking cap.
"I brought out an old Catholic retreat tape [by] Father Justin because I remember him saying if you are afraid of death to read certain books like Life after Life by Raymond Moody. I went to our local library and found his book which referenced other books that I have since read but also on the shelf next to his were many other books on psychics and mediums. Out of curiosity I pick up some of those books also. I have done endless research and praying to determine what happens to us when we die.
"Even though I am very "Catholic," I have crossed boundaries to find answers. I have read about many near-death experiences, stories of psychic mediums, and I've studied the life and work of the renowned doctor/expert of death and dying, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She has an amazing life story as well as a special book called Life After Death. Other special books are One Last Hug Before I Go and Do Dead People Watch You Shower.
"There is an amazing story of Dannion Brinkley who had three near death experiences -- the first one from a lighting strike. I did some research on the internet and decided to find out what the Catholic church's stance was on mediums and just happened to google Janet Nohavec, an ex-nun, and read great reviews on her as a psychic medium. She also related that she was an ex-nun who [had] started her own church but had Catholic priests and nuns who would consult with her.
"The church doesn't really condone this though. I called up [Nohavec] around July 2008 and was shocked that she was not able to book me until Nov. 2nd 2010. I felt devastated at the time but I think it was better that I waited. Interesting coincidence that November 2nd is All Souls Day and more interestingly, I did my reading after both my brother and mom had passed away [in October, 2010].
"I was also living in a busy household since I have invited my mom with moderate dementia and my brother with bi-polar disease to come to live with me. I didn't think [Mom] was ready for a nursing home and my brother also needed a place to live and could help me with the two moms. Sometimes I think that I am crazy and living on a whim but yet some other force is driving me and supporting me and I that I call God. My brother just died two months ago from a brain tumor and my mom just died about a month ago from a number of complications."
That was her email. And this is what she told me about her half-hour reading with Janet Nohavec.
Teresa said she had intended to tape record the session but then, was forced to use her cell phone.
Nohavec the ex-nun psychic knew nothing about Teresa King.
As soon as the session started, Nohavec said to Teresa:
"OK, I need a moment of quiet. I sense two presences. Somebody is a person who died really suddenly and the other is a person who died from an illness, cancer of the brain."
Teresa was shocked. "I just knew [she was referring] to my brother; my brother died of brain cancer, and also, to my husband," who had died suddenly of a heart attack.
Teresa was furiously writing down what the psychic was telling her. .
Nohavec then said: "One presence is showing me a grandmother's ring. Does that mean anything to you?" (Psychics allegedly work by getting some "sense" and then they ask the spirit for information.)
Teresa was puzzled for a moment. "A ring? And THEN IT HIT ME," she said. "I had just given my husband's grandmother's ring to my son. My son Peter is the first one in the family to get engaged, it was a really big deal."
"Oh my God, it's the ring," she said to the psychic. "Of course, I gave it to Peter."
Nohavec continued: "That is it, [your husband Brad] is trying to show me his presence through the ring."
The psychic went on. "She said, 'He's going to be there, at the wedding, next October."
[And here I must interject this thought: don't we always say of our deceased loved ones, "they are here with us in spirit." Perhaps they really are?]
The next manifestation of Brad's presence was even weirder. Nohavec said to Teresa, "He is showing me coins, does that mean anything to you?"
Teresa was stunned. "Of COURSE," she said. Her husband had been a stockbroker, but his business had gone south, and at that point, he had started buying coins big-time. "That was a major issue in our life," Teresa said, "he was buying the coins on credit. His new business was to sell rare gold coins, he was a gold king."
Amazed, Teresa asked the psychic, "What does he say that I should do with them?"
Nohavec responded: ""He is telling me that you should hold onto them."
Teresa wasn't surprised. "That was very much Brad."
At another point in the conversation, Teresa believes that her brother's presence came through the psychic. "There is an artist in your family," Nohavec said. "Well, at least the presence is showing me drawings and sketches."
Teresa responded, "my mother was an architect."
The psychic told Teresa she thought that the brother was "trying to communicate that [your] Mom was there," because he was showing Nohavec the artistic sketches.
Nohavec went on. "Do you know anybody who dances?" [Again, I have to interject: don't we all know somebody who dances? Doesn't my nun/flamenco dancer, Sister Renata dance??]
Teresa answered the psychic. "I said, no," she recalls. Teresa said that she was confused at that point about what Nohavec was getting at.
Then the psychic laughed. "There is somebody dancing here. Did somebody who passed away recently have difficulty walking?"
Teresa wasn't confused anymore. "Of course," she replied to Nohavec. "My mom, she couldn't walk [at the end,] she'd fall and I'd have to help her, it was a disaster."
Nohavec said, "I think she's trying to tell me that she is dancing, she's back to her normal self, she's able to get around."
[Well, yes, I want to say here, and clearly this is going to make me sound a bit sarcastic, as though I am a little skeptical about what the psychic was saying. I have to say it anyway. It really doesn't surprise me that SPIRITS are able to GET AROUND just fine in the spirit world. I wouldn't expect anything less!]
Anyway, at that point in the conversation, Teresa's mother, according to Nohavec, was "trying to tell things" to Teresa via the psychic.
Nohavec said: "She is showing me a locket or necklace."
Teresa knew the locket. "We had this locket that I had gotten from Rome. It was St. Therese."
Nohavec said: "She's showing me a rosary."
Teresa said, "I've been saying the rosary for my mom, I was doing a lot of that for her before she died."
Nohavec said, "She wants you to know that she's very proud of you."
Then Nohavec said, "I see a Robert or a Bob."
That didn't make sense to Teresa, not at first. But then it hit her. "My mom's name was Barbara and was called Bobbi, but not by us."
Nohavec then said, "I see him now showing me two houses."
Teresa wasn't surprised at that. The family, because of Brad's restlessness and financial problems, had moved around a LOT. "We've had many houses," she said.
Nohavec went on. "He seems to be emphasizing that there are two houses, and one is more important than another."
Teresa thought for a while. "Maybe it's about a decision that I'm trying to make," she said. "I want to move back to Austin, Texas." Apparently, Teresa had loved living in Austin and hadn't wanted to move to the Dallas area with her husband. Teresa said that Brad had been sorry that he had forced the family to move to Dallas.
"Ever since Brad died," Teresa said, "I've been trying to figure out whether to move back" to Austin.
Nohavec went on. "He is showing me water down a stream," the psychic said.
Teresa thought about it. She had no idea what significance the stream had. She speculated. "I think he was trying to say, let go of the house." Then she asked Nohavec a question.
"Are you saying that Brad is telling me that I should move from Dallas?"
"Let me ask him," Nohavec replied. She paused, and then she said to Teresa, OK, he wants me first to give you some kind of confirmation that he is who he is. The spirit of Brad King wanted Nohavec to prove to Teresa that he was present.
Nohavec asked Teresa a question. "Have you ever been to Rome, does that make any sense to you?"
Before Teresa could answer, Nohavec went on. "Now he is showing me something to do with the Pope."
Teresa was stunned, once again. "One of the biggest deals in our life is that we met the Pope." Teresa and her husband (who was with Paine Webber) had gone to Rome together in the 1990s and through some special connections, the couple had had a private audience with the Pope.
Teresa was now convinced. Her husband Brad's spirit was present, and he was being channeled through the psychic ex-nun, Janet Nohavec. So she asked her questions of Nohavec.
Should she move from Dallas? Was that what Brad was suggesting was the best decision?
Apparently, "Brad" thought his wife should move. "It would be wise to go ahead and do it," Nohavec said.
And that's where our interview ended. That was enough for me.
As I said when I started this piece, I am not the least bit equipped to weigh in with any kind of explanation. I offer this information and I am puzzled by it.
I keep wondering why exactly I am writing this book, Sister Mysteries
. I keep wondering where this book, Sister Mysteries
, and the nun novel, Castenata
, are leading me.
I don't really know, but I don't really feel the need to know.
I don't really feel the need to consult a psychic, either. I certainly respect Teresa King for consulting a psychic -- she lost her husband to a sudden death, and recently, she lost her mother AND her brother within weeks of each other. With that kind of heavy loss, I can certainly understand Teresa King's wanting some kind of connection to the place they may be, in the great beyond.
I suppose that I too could phone Janet Nohavec and make an appointment. But as much as I miss certain family members who have passed -- Grandma Mish in particular, as I lived with her and with Grandpa Claude when I was a little girl, and Mish died on my birthday, November 29, 1996 -- I don't really feel the need to have direct communication with her spirit. (I will at some point though write about some very weird things that Grandma Mish said to me just before she died -- she was "visited" by my grandfather, Claude!)
But at least for now, I am content to live simply and calmly with my memories of Mish and Pop, who in my mind, are still sitting in those easy chairs in that simple living room facing each other. For years and years -- my grandmother died when I was 44 years old! -- we would visit Mish and Pop in their small white ranch house, on that little circular cul-de-sac in Canton, Connecticut. They will be sitting there in my mind, forever.
I bet if Janet Nohavec were going to channel Mish and Pop, she would show me the two of them in those chairs, somehow. She would show me Pop with a small glass of his home-made Chianti in his hand. The wine would stain his teeth maroon, as it always did. He would be offering me some wine, because he had once, before he got too old, made it in his basement. He would be sitting there and if you asked him how he was, he'd say,
"Fair, fair," with that wonderful Italian accent.
And Mish? Grandma Mish would be in the kitchen rolling out the thinnest and most delicious ravioli dough any human could make. It is impossible to explain how delicate that ravioli was. All I know is that when I was pregnant with my first child, Jocelyn, and couldn't keep a thing down, I was able to eat Mish's ravioli.
To me, that ravioli, with spinach and meat, was a miracle, like all the rest of her food: the stracciatella (spinach and egg drop soup), the meatballs, the bean soup, and perhaps most famous of all, her rosemary chicken.
I am content to live with these and so many other incredible memories. I don't need to take it a step further, consulting a psychic to meet my grandparents again. Their spirits live on. Just the other day, my cousin Pat Rotondo gave a Christmas party and most of Mish and Pop's children were there -- my mom, Dena Ricci, my Uncle Dante and his wife, Aunt Joyce; my Uncle Louis. (Uncle Paul, the baby, had to work on Saturday.)
We all sat around drinking wine and eating Pat's fantastic food and Grandma Mish and Pop, Claude Rotondo, were there in spirit. They will always be here, as long as one of us remembers them.
I have had my medical intuitive reading. I don't need another. I've experienced what a clairvoyant -- a clear seeing person -- can do.
Now I am more fascinated by the tension between truth and fiction. I am puzzled by what I cannot explain. I am writing the truth, finally, in this book, after years and years of trying to tell sophisticated fictional lies.
What do we believe and why do we believe it? Do we believe only what we can see with our own two eyes? Do we believe only what we can touch?
Last night, my husband and I watched "Miracle on 34th Street," the newer version. Kris Kringle goes on trial because they think he's mad, claiming to be Santa Claus.
The judge, tortured about the decision he has to make -- he is supposed to commit Kris Kringle for trying to mislead children -- glances at a dollar bill, and the words "IN GOD WE TRUST." A lightbulb goes on. He decides that if the U.S. Treasury can issue money, and "guarantee" it in part with those words, with a faith in a divine power that we cannot see, then he was comfortable ruling that there is a Santa Claus, and that Kris Kringle, the man "playing" Santa at the department store, was indeed Santa Claus.
I repeat the questions: do we only believe what we can physically see with our eyes, what we can touch with our hands, what we can hear with our own two ears?
I am thinking about how often things we cannot see -- emotions like love and hatred -- end up being some of the most powerful forces on Earth.
Our thoughts have enormous power. As neuroscientists are finding in more and more research projects, we can "meditate' our way into happier thoughts. We can, according to Sharon Begley's amazing book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain
, actually CHANGE THE PHYSIOLOGY OF OUR BRAINS BY CHANGING OUR THOUGHTS.
Begley writes about extraordinarily exciting new research, in which scientists are hooking up the brains of meditating Tibetan monks to brain imaging equipment. (The photos of the monks with the wires all over their heads are just priceless. They look like they're getting some newfangled perms!)
Much of this research is being funded by the Dalai Lama himself through his Mind Life Institute, a collaboration between scientific research and contemplative practices. Indeed, Nicholas Van Dam, a graduate student at the University at Albany, SUNY (where I teach) who is completing his doctorate in psychology, has conducted extensive research on mindfulness (meditation) and its ability to reduce stress.
Van Dam's research is funded in part by the Mind Life Institute.
This is a fascinating new area of research and it is at the core of a new class in Happiness
that I will be teaching in the spring of 2011. One thing we will examine: how we can reshape our brains, just the way the meditating Tibetan monks do. A s they meditate, the monks' brains light up in characteristic ways, showing that they are "happier," and express much more loving thoughts.
If that isn't an exciting and amazing scientific research, I don't know what is.
So I can't explain the psychics, no. But I can get on board with the science of changing the brain, and the power of our thoughts to shape reality. After all, Antonie's stories turn Sister Renata into a seductress; over and over Antonie's tales in Castenata
transform Renata from the devout nun into the racy flamenco dancer wearing a red satin dress.
It is these wild stories that Antonie writes, all of them lies, that convict poor Sister Renata of murder, and land her in prison. A prison I've got to free her from, by writing the novel. Sister Teresa helps, by coming forward with Sister Renata's diaries. These diaries supply us with the true story of Antonie's murder.
Our words have power. Our lies shape reality.
Our job, I suppose, is to figure out, as best we can, where the truth lies.
Sister Mysteries, an on-line book, is part of the Albany Times Union's Writing In Motion project. The project features seven writers committed to completing writing projects by the end of 2010. Sister Mysteries is connected to a novel called Castenata -- a time-travel murder mystery featuring a nun, Sister Renata, who in 1883 was falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie. Renata's version of the story is contained within her diaries on the Castenata site.