Oh. My. God.
It’s Monday morning, August 22, 2022. I’m writing from my bed in the Sheraton at Wild Horse Pass in my wannabe hometown, Phoenix, AZ.
I first visited the desert nearly 30 years ago. I immediately fell in love. I love hot, dry weather. Phoenix is where I should have been born. This is the fourth trip for Tywand and me. It’s second for us with Kayla. Kayla loves the desert as much as I do.
We are here for the second Helping Parents Heal conference. It’s been four years due to the pandemic. So we were all set for 2020. But, then, well, you know COVID.
The conference is a monumental undertaking. Elizabeth Boisson and Irene Vouvalides have worked non-stop, more than full-time, for over a year. I was going to say they have worked tirelessly. But I’m guessing both are pretty tired.
Suzanne Giesemann, included on the Watkins’ 2022 list of “100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People”, kicked us off. I’ve never seen a better presenter than Suzanne. How she weaves her life’s magic into her presentations is mesmerizing. She told a story that will resonate with anyone who’s lived through the pandemic, but mainly with us HPH parents. Suzanne saw a psychic, and the psychic gave her a fantastic reading. Suzanne could take pretty much everything in the reading as being correct. There was just one wrong thing. The psychic told her she saw a blank calendar for Suzanne in a particular month that was soon. A blank month was impossible. Suzanne is always booked solid for years. That month, she was to give the keynote presentation at Helping Parents Heal.
That month was April 2020. There was no conference. In April 2020, everyone had a blank calendar.
I can’t give all the highlights of each presentation over the weekend. Even listing all of the presenters would take up too much time. Every keynote presenter was a rockstar in their field. The mediumship demonstration by Gordon Smith was stellar.
Elizabeth and Irene invited me to give a breakout presentation, which I gladly accepted. I had some hesitation about coming to the conference for several reasons. First, for us to get to Phoenix is expensive. Second, transitioning to coaching is costly. And Treasured Locks is phasing out on its own
Third, I’m in the middle of two different certification courses. The family reunion was the week before we left. That put me behind in the courses. Now, I’m another week behind.
Fourth, I have to shut down two businesses when I leave. I don’t have anyone to work at Treasured Locks when I’m gone. So, I have to put a banner on the website saying I’m not shipping orders for a week.
Fifth, while I’ve given a lot of presentations in my life, I haven’t given a presentation to a roomful of people in years. It’s been decades since I’ve been on stage. I assumed I’d be in a small room with a capacity of about 50 people, and maybe 25-30 people would show up. I’m glad I didn’t know I’d be on stage. So, the nerves didn’t kick in full force until I saw I’d be presenting in a rather large conference room.
Sixth and finally, I detest airline travel. It would take us 12 hours flights, doorstep-to-doorstep.
But I’m a board member. Speaking and coaching is my chosen field. Treasured Locks is the past. Helping people with grief and mental fitness is the future. So, I sucked it up and committed to making the trip. I pulled out a presentation I’ve given before and customized it for the HPH audience. I’ve never given the same presentation twice.
We were pleasantly surprised Kayla wanted to make the trip with us. It’s remarkable when your adult “child” wants to spend time with you. She was going to fly out for a few days. But when HPH invited her to participate as one of the siblings, she decided to stay for the full six days we were there. I’m so glad she did choose to attend the conference. She would have been bored to tears had she not chosen to participate because Tywana and I were in meetings every day, all day.
I have to give some highlights. It’s hard to know where to start. Is it redundant to say Suzanne’s kickoff was flawless? I was the one chosen to introduce David Kessler. That was interesting because they didn’t know I was in training with David when they asked me. I didn’t know that David had any idea who I was until I met him moments before I introduced him. Next, I met Dr. Mary Neal. Her NDE was the most influential one I became familiar with after Shayna’s passing. Dr. Neal visited heaven during her NDE. She met Jesus. She saw how everything works in divine order down to many ripple effects away from the original event. But she was told her son would die. Long story short, over a decade later, he did die. And she mourned like all the rest of us do. Her experience taught me that to grieve is not to exhibit a lack of faith. She KNEW, firsthand, everything I believe. Yet, she mourned. She and I had a fascinating conversation that I think we will continue.
Kayla did the introduction for my presentation. I could not be more proud of my daughter. Kayla jumped right in with the sibling group. She ate a couple of her meals with them. She attended all of the sessions except for a couple. It was her vacation, after all.
All weekend long, people walked up to her and told her how beautiful she is. I told her it’s not just her outer beauty they’re seeing. It’s her inner beauty. My remark was later validated when we had dinner with Ingrid Honkala and Mark Anthony.
My talk went well. One of my “fans” told Kayla and Tywana that I rushed through the talk and was afraid she missed some “nuggets” because of the speed of my delivery. Hey, it was not my fault. I had at least ninety minutes of material. I kept trying to trim the presentation down. Every time I would take something out, I’d get a nudge to put something else in. I had sixty minutes to achieve my objective. And I had an audacious goal. I wanted to change the lives of at least several people in that room. Spirit woke me up at 4 AM the morning of the presentation and had more things to tell them. Come on, guys! I had to try to get it all in.
At the five-minute warning, I felt a bit of a panic. I cut out my final story and finished with three minutes to spare.
Of course, some things had to go wrong. When I pulled up my presentation on Thursday morning, I found that I could not pull up my presentation. A Mac saves Keynote presentations to the Keynote folder in iCloud. Every Keynote presentation I have ever created is there, except one. The one I was to deliver here in Phoenix was missing. Thankfully, I had the presentation that was its foundation stored in the cloud. I had to recreate the presentation for Phoenix. Then, the day I was to present, I realized I had not packed the charger for my laptop. It all worked out. I delivered the talk. The feedback was excellent.
Next up, for me, was to introduce Dr. Gary Schwartz. Again, when the organizers asked me to introduce Dr. Schwartz, they didn’t know our connection goes back 20 years. Gary didn’t, either. Gary had no idea who I was 20 years ago. Unfortunately, Mark Pitstick was recovering from COVID and couldn’t make the conference. I was his replacement for Gary’s introduction. The Afterlife Experiments, his remarkable book with “proof” that mediumship is genuine, is the first scientific book I read about mediumship. Two decades later, I am Vice President of his SoulPhone Foundation and introduced him to 900 people.
I was surprised how many people at the conference knew who I was. So many people recognized Tywana, Tracy, Beth, and me at the first conference four years ago. We had been running the online group. This year, as I traversed the hallways, every few feet, someone stopped me and told me they loved my podcast. I’m a mini-celebrity, at least in this community.
More surprising was how many of the presenters, and guests, recognized me. It was a surreal experience to have Ingrid Honkala, Michelle Clare, Mark Anthony, and others greet me like old friends. I talked to Ingrid and Mark quite a bit during the conference.
Oh, more highlights. Gordon Smith, who I had never seen demonstrate, did the mediumship demonstration. My good friend, Ana Molina, was one of the ones fortunate enough to get a mini-reading. The look of rapture on her face as she heard from her sons through Gordon is one I don’t think I’ll ever forget. She lifted her crutch into the air and danced as Gordon described her son dancing salsa. So, don’t try to tell me mediumship isn’t genuine. And, don’t try to say to me that anything that is that healing is evil. I finally got to hug Ana the following morning, and she was still glowing from the reading.
There was a medium “scramble”—six mediums tag-teaming in three rooms. We didn’t tell participants which room would have which mediums. I was the mic runner for Jamie Clark and Tina Powers, two powerhouse mediums. I watched as a couple of skeptical, closed-off fathers couldn’t help changing the scowls on their faces to looks of acceptance, to tears of joy and release. I saw Jamie validate something Isabella Johnson had told a mother about her missing son. Jamie had no idea she had had that reading. Reading after reading was spot on and specific. There were nine hundred participants, three rooms, and a random selection.
There were a mother and two daughters at the conference. In addition, there is another daughter in Spirit. The three of them decided to each go to a different room.
This is where it gets wild. Each of the daughters and the mother received a reading and felt their sister/daughter was there with them and the mediums. Stacey Lynn Cripps told one of them that their sister in Spirit was “jumping from room to room” without knowing they had split up and one was in each room.
I had a scintillating conversation with Mark Anthony the night after his presentation. I love Mark’s scientific approach to proving mediumship and survival of consciousness are not supernatural or woo-woo. In addition, I enjoy how he uses the Bible and history to make his points. On the last day, Rocky, his manager, told me they were going into a group reading, but they wanted to catch up with me later.
At the closing ceremony, Suzanne stepped up again. I hadn’t gotten a clear sign from Shayna unless it was the fact my Keynote presentation miraculously was gone from the cloud. But that’s OK. I don’t need the signs as much as I used to. Suzanne closed with stories. When she mentioned being in Virginia and wanting to take a hike before a flight out of Richmond, I had no idea she would say that when she pulled open her GPS to find a place to hike, she would choose Monticello.
Shayna has dropped in on Suzanne quite a bit. Every time Suzanne spoke, I hoped she’d mentioned something about Shayna. But, here we were; this was her last appearance on stage, nothing. OK, fine.
Wait. Suzanne said, Monticello. Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson is my great, great, great, great, great grandfather. So we had a family reunion in Charlottesville, a reception at the University of Virginia (founded by Thomas Jefferson), and a private tour behind the scenes at Monticello. The mention of Monticello was our Shayna sign! Suzanne got an incredible validation because she listened to Spirit that day. Suzanne didn’t know until I texted her later, telling her that her sign was a double sign. One for her and one for us.
After the closing ceremony, I changed and went to the bar, where I ran into Irene, Elizabeth, their spouses, and others. Irene asked me what my favorite part of the conference was. I realized that people compare speakers and mediums, and we want to rank which is better. I’m trying to move away from that. People asked me whether I liked this medium or that medium better. People rate the presentations. I was nervous when Lavonne Wells came in during my presentation because she is such a dynamic speaker. Was she judging me for being boring? I judged myself after I had finished. I didn’t move around enough. I was too attached to the podium. I spoke too fast. I forgot to say this or that. No. I’m tired of doing that. I didn’t have any favorite speakers.
I told Irene my favorite thing about the conference was the human connections. It was sitting with the new parents who said HPH is the only thing that has helped them. It was hearing the stories of despondent people who came to the conference and left hopeful. At least two people here were suicidal when they arrived. The weekend gave them enough to say they’re not suicidal now.
We said our goodbyes to the HPH leadership group and ended up sitting at a table with Ingrid Honkala and Mark Anthony. Tywana and Kayla were ready to eat. The pool bar restaurant had closed. The other restaurant was full. The bar menu only had one real option- a hamburger. We asked what Mark and Ingrid had planned for dinner. They had no plans. After putting our heads together, we combined the knowledge there was a hotel shuttle with the fact the casino a couple of miles away has restaurants to formulate a plan to get all six of us to food.
As I sat with Mark, Ingrid, and Rocky at dinner, I felt like I had won a contest to go to dinner with a celebrity- two celebrities. We had a great time. I was able to give Ingrid a little business advice. Then, the validation for what I had said about Kayla’s inner beauty came.
Mark and Ingrid both see auras. Mark looked at Kayla and described her aura in great detail. I won’t share all the details. But, he said, she has a very unusual aura in a good way. Ingrid validated what he said. It was wild watching Mark as he craned his neck to get a good look at the colors that are visible to him and invisible to most of the rest of us.
Here I sit, processing the week. It’s been good. I’m ecstatic to be able to share this with Kayla and Tywana. I couldn’t be prouder of Kayla and the young adult she has become. Watching her introduce me in front of all those people was watching her continue to bloom. And, I know that we set out what we intended to do, to change and even to save lives.
The plan is to be back here in two years. We shall see what’s in store.