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.
In October, 2010, 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.
Before I write what happened, I should also say that I interviewed Teresa King shortly after I had lunch with my dear friend Nina in Albany.
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.
Nina agreed to connect 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.
"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?"
"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.
"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."
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."
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.
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. 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.
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? 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!)
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.