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Who’s the Angel Now?

May 19, 2009
Maddie and dad Paul
Maddie and Kris Draper
Paul and Maddie
Allison Dubois

“IN MEMORY OF MADDIE—People in Michigan—even those who don’t listen to country music—have a special place in their hearts for Rodney Atkins, and it’s all because of Maddie Trudel. The 7-year-old St. Clair girl, whose struggle with bone cancer was chronicled in a series of Free Press articles in 2006, was an Atkins fan, and she told the Free Press ‘If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)’ was her favorite song.” Detroit Free Press, Greg Crawford, May 14, 2009, Play 13

 

It hit me 11 days before Memorial Day. There was that photo in the Free Press I hadn’t seen in over two years of smiling little Maddie in a Red Wings jersey with her arms draped around her dad Paul at a Red Wings exhibition game in 2006.

Maybe it was because her favorite Wing, Kris Draper, had just returned to help lift the Red Wings to a 4-3 win in Game 7 of the Semi-Finals against the Anaheim Ducks. Maybe it was because Rodney Atkins was coming back to Detroit to play in the Downtown Hoedown, the same Atkins who played for Maddie a month before her death in her C.S. Mott’s Hospital room and then dedicated his performance in a benefit concert for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to the memory of Maddie. I became haunted again by the little girl as I had been in the summer and fall of 2006.

            I had started writing a poem about Maddie after she died on November 26, 2006 but I only got through a few stanzas. My daughter, Marlee, 11 at the time, finished a poem about Maddie and sent it to her father.

            After a series of powerful articles in 2006 written by Jeff Seidel in the Detroit Free Press, many in the metropolitan area of Detroit became connected to this little girl with the beautiful smile and incredible courage. We felt her trip through hellish pain, the intense love between father and daughter, and were lifted by her joy when she dressed like Cinderella at Disney World.

            When I read that she fell asleep for the last time in her pink Princess nightgown under a Red Wings jersey, I felt like a balloon with the air sucked out. Jeff Seidel wrote, “For several months, Paul Trudel showed Maddie how to live life while dancing away from death. But the end was near. He had one last lesson to teach his daughter, the hardest one of all—how to let go and soar with the angels.” (“MADELEINE ROSE TRUDEL/1999-2006: Pain, love filled Maddie’s final days,” Detroit Free Press, Jeff Seidel, November 27, 2006)

            After viewing the photo again, I began to wonder if Paul would attend the Allison DuBois “Till We Meet Again” tour the coming Sunday. I started to imagine that he would join Judy, Ilana, Marlee, and me in the audience and hear comforting words from Maddie or from Maddie’s mother, Alison, who died four years before Maddie.

            Ilana and Marlee had wanted me to get tickets a few months earlier to see the real Allison DuBois, the psychic who is the inspiration for the NBC television series, Medium. Like me, they have watched the show from its beginning which shows Allison played by Patricia Arquette, helping to solve murder mysteries for the district attorney in Phoenix. She dreams, sees ghosts, hears words from beyond, all for the purpose of finding missing children and bringing justice for families of murdered victims.

            The real Allison DuBois was scheduled to visit Unity of Toledo on Executive Parkway. On Sunday, after we drove over an hour to get there, we entered and passed by the Metaphysical Library in the church, took our seats and waited for something special from the great beyond. Allison sat on one chair for over two hours as we tried twisting our necks to see her while she furiously scribbled notes and pictures after audience members voiced names of their loved ones whom had passed.   

            Allison connected to a daughter who was tragically killed by a drunk driver in Medina, Ohio two years before on the day of her parents’ 25th anniversary. She said that the pain that the mother felt helped block the daughter’s happiness from coming through. The mother said that her daughter hated alcohol and was vehemently opposed to driving after drinking. Allison said that her daughter may have had a premonition that she would eventually die the way she did and yet, she kept seeing hundreds of colorful balloons rising to the sky in honor of her daughter.

            Another woman asked if she should leave her husband after 19 years. Allison wouldn’t say she should leave but told her that her husband was distant and “had many secrets.” Another woman who lost both of her sisters mentioned that her sister’s hair dresser was the same as Allison’s. Another asked how her daughter had died in a bathtub but Allison said it was an accident and that she was shown a head hurting. The woman vehemently answered that the coroner found no head injuries and ruled the death “unsolved.” The confrontation between them was enough to compel Allison to take a 10-minute break.

            DuBois said the dead have the same personalities as they do in their lives and that they often are viewed as if they are at their peak ages, usually younger than when they died. She said that the dead often visit us with a phone call with no one on the line, or when lights flicker and electronic gadgets magically turn on by themselves. She said that smokers still smoke in the afterlife and people who love to eat still eat in heaven. Puzzled, I wondered if she meant some kind of metaphysical smoke and isn’t a smoking habit just a physical desire of the body?

            A woman whose dad died of bone cancer three years earlier asked about him. Allison said he was still the life of the party and heard the words that he was “the luckiest man in the world.” When a woman rose and told Allison about her sister who died in a car accident after drinking, Allison read how her sister was the trouble maker of the family and liked to take chances. She could hear the word, “stupid,” repeated from the dead sibling, describing herself. Allison told the sister still living that she was always the good girl, conscious and cautious, and that her dead sister lived on the edge. She apologized for the gently sarcastic words that came from her sister on the other side. Her sister asked, “Who’s the Angel Now?”

            Judy, Marlee, and Ilana kept asking me to raise my hand to ask about Kenny. Marlee wanted to know if it was Kenny whom she dreamt about every night about four years ago, often waking her in the middle of the night. She wanted to know if he was still watching her and also what she was going to do in her life. Would she be an actress, psychologist, photographer, singer-songwriter, or fashion magazine editor? She wanted to see if the medium could give her some answers.

            I told Marlee that many of the people in the audience had lost loved ones recently and needed to find comfort. But I raised my hands anyways as they asked me to, prepared to ask a number of questions: Is Kenny still 13 in his state of energy? Does he ever follow the woman whose car took his life? Does he know that I write about him and does he hover over the young kids playing basketball with his name on their shirts? How does someone smoke in the great beyond anyways? Instead of being content in the afterlife, aren’t those who were angry and abusive in life still that way in the great sky above?

            After two hours and fifteen minutes, the session ended before I was called. I was never read by Allison and went home, a little disappointed. I hoped for certain details that confirmed something beyond what we knew. Judy and I both felt a little uneasy and unconvinced by the whole scene and left with a certain feeling of uncertainty. Who knows what the truth is after we die?

            I am by nature skeptical but I have heard enough during the readings from Allison, Rebecca Rosen, and John Edward to know that spirits of the dead may be with us after they die. The psychic mediums are absolutely convinced that our dead loved ones stay with us. DuBois writes in her book, Don’t Kiss Them Good-Bye, “I don’t like to say good-bye because it’s too final. I like to say, ‘Till we meet again.’”

            Paul Trudel told his daughter before she died, “You will come out of your body and turn. You will see yourself in the room and me, and they you’ll turn back over and you will see a tunnel and light. You will be drawn to it. You won’t walk. You will be pulled to it. You will feel the love of God, the light is God. And at the end of the tunnel, you will see everybody who knows you, waiting for you.”

            It is comforting to feel after a psychic reading that Paul is right. But still, there is a lot that seems hokey and somewhat of a magic trick to a medium’s reading. Allison knows she is a celebrity with her own TV show and sometimes acts like it. She has certain rules and doesn’t like to be contradicted. She said if she admits to a misreading or mistake, how does that make the others who just got comfort from her reading feel? I don’t know but I wonder, doesn’t that make what she says a little suspect? Yet, I still wanted to be called on and see if she could hear or see something about Kenny or my cousin Mike or uncle Sid that was undeniably true and could give me the certainty I needed that Kenny and the others are still alive in some form of spirit.

            This is the secret of these readings and it’s why the lost and lonely pay a lot to hear glimpses from beyond. It is the business of belief, the belief that our loved ones’ bodies die but not their souls. That is the clear message and one that I have kind of believed in for many years. I still have some doubts but I listen to mediums because it brings me what it brings others, the sense that all things pass but all things last; that we aren’t going anywhere, even in death.

            In one of Allison’s readings, she kept hearing the song by Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance,” with its chorus, “Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance, And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. Dance…I hope you dance.” Maddie danced away from death as long as she could but her father with complete faith in God promised her, “You are going to heaven. It’s paradise.”

            When she died, Seidel wrote, “Trudel wrapped his daughter in her favorite blanket and carried her down the stairs, outside to the van.” He drove her to the funeral home where “he placed her on a cot, with a pillow, sheet and blanket. He spent more than a half-hour with her. He kissed her on the lips, nose and forehead over and over. ‘I love you,’ he said. ‘I’m going to miss you.’”     

What keeps Paul and the bereaved alive and hopeful is the prayer that someday, the missing will end and we will meet our lost loved ones again. But today, what gives me comfort is imagining Maddie as a little dancing angel holding a big red balloon, dancing with the young girl from Medina with a green balloon, the “luckiest man in the world” father with a blue balloon, the “stupid” girl who is now an angel with a yellow balloon, and my brother Kenny with a turquoise balloon.

In my imagination, I see them all dancing together in a parade of balloons, floating peacefully amidst the clouds, watching us. In this week before Memorial Day, we need to have faith that one day, we will hold them again and be able to dance with our angels.

 

 

 

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