Beginning the Conversation
An Excerpt from Seeking Jordan by Matthew McKay, PhD
Time moves us downstream from each loss. The living relationship is further away, left on the bank where we last embraced, where the last words were spoken. Across that distance stretches silence, the helplessness of what can’t be fixed or undone.
The last time I saw Jordan was at lunch at Saul’s, a deli he was fond of. I can’t remember what we spoke of. He was doing well — a job he liked, a lovely young woman he’d recently moved in with. I do remember the corner where I hugged him goodbye, feeling his thick, wiry hair against my cheek, his strong arms around me. I said, “I love you,” as I had thousands of times, and then I began half-running to my car, late for something.
I had no inkling this was the moment we were leaving each other, and that every moment since would bear me further from his arms, his eyes, his sweetness. It was so ordinary, so embedded in our daily lives, that it held no portents of loss. And when I look back, I feel as if we are still there, still hugging on that corner. I can feel him holding me, and sometimes I can believe the embrace still exists — that I can have it, reenter it anytime I want.
But time moves us downriver. I craved more than memory, more than the few words I’d heard in Chicago. I wanted a two-way conversation, like we’d had at the deli. I wanted to ask questions and hear answers. I wanted to know my boy again.
In hopes of having that conversation, I consulted Ralph Metzner, a psychologist who has learned the art of channeled writing — an ancient technique for reaching across the divide of death and communicating to souls in the spirit world. Ralph himself lost a son, and he spent years searching for ways to reach him.
There was another connection: Jordan and Ralph’s stepson, Eli, had been best friends. I knew instinctively that anyone I connected to through Jordan could be trusted. And Ralph had known Jordan well.
His office is set up in the former dining room of an old Victorian. High mahogany wainscoting reaches to a shelf near the ceiling; there is a crystal chandelier. Ralph, a thin man with wispy white hair and eyes that have a wounded look, explains the process so I can learn the steps and do it at home. Channeled writing works best when it is done in the same place with a set ritual. It helps to have an object that connects you to the dead, and it is also beneficial to first engage in a practice that helps you enter a receptive state. Breathing meditations work well, as do candles for focusing attention.
“How will I know I’m not making it up?” I ask him.
“You can’t escape uncertainty,” Ralph replies. “There will always be doubt. Just listen to Jordan; see what he says. Your feelings about it will guide you.”
I have a desk that my parents gave me when I was eleven. Whenever I sit at it, I feel how objects connect us to people who are gone, and sometimes to an earlier version of ourselves. I sat here as a child, doing homework, distracting myself with small toys, and looking into the enticing darkness of my backyard.
Now I sit here alone, assembling objects: A cobalt blue glass mask, with a lit candle behind it, that my daughter, Bekah, brought from Mexico. And a blue business card Jordan created while he was in high school. It reads, Jordan McKay, CEO, Omega Technologies. There was no Omega Technologies, but it got him into countless trade shows for Apple and other technology giants.
I begin with my breath, counting the exhalations till I reach ten, then starting over. I focus on my diaphragm, the genesis and center of the breath. Some spiritual traditions recognize this spot as the locus of “wise mind,” where we can access the deepest truth of our lives. When thoughts arise, I notice and label them — “There’s a thought” — and return attention to my breath. After a while my mind settles, and a calm begins that touches every part of my body.
I suddenly wonder if this is some kind of hokum I’ve fallen prey to. Then I worry that I haven’t done it right, that I haven’t prepared sufficiently to hear Jordan’s words. “There’s a thought…and another thought.”
I stare at the flickering candle behind the mask. I imagine that it is Jordan’s presence, like the sanctuary light in the Catholic churches of my childhood. And now my mind begins to quiet again. I open my notebook and write the most urgent question: Are you happy?
The answer is instantaneous; it arrives before I’ve finished the question. It comes in the form of a whispered thought, with the timbre and pitch of Jordan’s voice. I write:
More than you can know.
Then I write more questions and record the answers.
Do you miss me? I have you with me.
What are you doing? Studying. Learning things. Getting ready for what I have to do next time.
Next time? I’ll be back soon. I want to help the planet. Last time I wasn’t going to have time to do anything, so I practiced focusing my will, finding beauty.
How can I connect to you? Watch for me when I come to you. Watch the signs. Feel me inside. Trust that feeling when you sense I’m with you. The circle stays strong with love. Just remember your love for me. Open the channel so you can hear — just like you’re doing now. This is the circle, letting me through. I love you, Dad. That’s how it is. I’m right with you. I’m here with you and Mom. Just feel it. It’s real. My arms are around you. Always.
What is the circle? The practice of love keeps the circle. It’s like a discipline. Practicing love isn’t collecting sad memories. It’s feeling the whole person, without thought, without judgment. It’s holding all of them at once.
The circle is all of us, living and dead. All connected, all talking to each other. It’s no different now than when we talked at Saul’s. Our relationship is the same, Dad.
I’m exhausted; I blow out the candle. I want to believe everything I’ve heard, but I hate self-deception. It’s a response I inherited from my father, a man who despised the ways people lie to themselves to justify their needs and actions. But suddenly it’s clear: I will have to live with that remembered contempt in order to keep listening. If I want to open the channel so my boy can talk to me, then I’ll also have to live with doubt, perhaps even ridicule.
# # #
Matthew McKay, PhD, is the author of Seeking Jordan and numerous other books. He is a clinical psychologist, professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, and founder and publisher at New Harbinger Publications. Visit him online at http://www.SeekingJordan.com.
Excerpted from Seeking Jordan: How I Learned the Truth about Death and the Invisible Universe. Copyright ©2016 by Matthew McKay, PhD. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com