by Evan Kress
Less than two months after her death from cancer on December l, 1997, an incident happened at our home in Asheville, North Carolina, that caused me to re-evaluate my beliefs. I have now accepted that communication can happen between people who love each other after one of them has left this physical world. My experiences with Flora, our garden angel, are responsible for my new belief in the “spirit world.”
The Accomplished Jeanne
Jeanne was an incredible and delightful contradiction. The academic and intellectual world she lived in called for a demeanor that was polite, gracious, and almost regal. Her accomplishments were many. Jeanne held a doctorate in art history and was an internationally respected authority on Roman art. She worked annually on an archaeological dig in Corinth, Greece, for over 20 years. She was curator of the photo archives at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. She had taught humanities at University of California at Los Angeles and at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and was included in The International Who’s Who of the Most Influential Women. But Jeanne was anything but “all business.”
There was also another side to her, which consisted of humor and whimsy that was surprising—sometimes startling—to those who didn’t know her well. Along with her vast collection of photographs and drawings of Roman art, she was also a fan of unusual and bizarre “lawn art” wherever we lived or visited. Pulling the car over suddenly while driving along to photograph someone’s yard decorations or a concrete lawn art store was part of every journey with Jeanne. At the same time she collected Roman pottery, so we also spent years searching thrift stores for Lady’s Head Vases, those Betty Grable inspired small- head vases that all florists sold in the 1940s. Other important collections include a large assortment of international camp postcards, a hilarious rubber stamp collection to decorate her many correspondences, and anything pertaining to snakes, to honor her fascination with the snake theme in the Roman art that she so enthusiastically researched.
Jeanne was definitely a woman with wide and varied interests—all pursued with passion.
While decorating our own garden, we collected a taste of all the possibilities we encountered. There are concrete re-creations of classic statuary, as well as whimsical animals, pots, pedestals, and birdbaths. There are garden paths lined with garden marbles, recycled colorful bowling balls with dazzling, bright patterns, along with masses of plastic pink flamingos. There are sculptures made by local artists created of old machine parts and scrap metal reincarnated into wondrous new art pieces ranging from small to life size. All of this is tucked into a one-and-a-half-acre shade garden planted with everything that will grow in our area of the Smoky Mountains.
Jeanne was a very flexible and tolerant woman. In 1992 we commissioned a local chain saw sculptor to make us a totem pole with a colorful painted wooden spinning angel atop it to be placed along the front walk leading to the house. He had already carved us two great poles for other areas of the garden.
But when he finished, there was a problem—Flora didn’t spin! The artist finally diagnosed her trouble as too much friction caused by wood against wood. The wind in our garden couldn’t move her. We decided to leave Flora in her immobilized state, and positioned her so she could be seen from the house and also from the front path. Thus settled, there she remained—until nearly six years later.
As executor and beneficiary of Jeanne’s estate, I was to make sure that her nephews and niece received the financial gifts she had designated. They totaled $25,000. We had taken great care prior to her death to have me listed as her primary beneficiary for this purpose. We thought we had made all the necessary beneficiary changes.
In January of 1998, I discovered that a sizable IRA, needed to cover these gifts, listed Jeanne’s mother as primary beneficiary and me as secondary beneficiary. This was a problem because Jeanne’s mother was in a nursing home and was mentally incompetent.
Three nights in a row Jeanne’s uncle (her mother’s brother and power of attorney) called me, and I repeatedly explained the situation. On the third night, after I went through all the details again, he acknowledged the issue as an “obvious oversight,” but said he couldn’t give any of this money away. He felt he was legally bound and afraid of being sued. Didn’t I have another $25,000 to honor the bequests?
When I heard that cold, matter-of-fact question, my body started trembling and I became short of breath. I told him of my condition and said I had to take a tranquilizer. I said a quick good-bye.
Fed Up With Phone Calls
Tiring of the nightly phone calls, I decided that if he called again the next night, as I expected he would, I would tell him that as far as I was concerned, the matter was settled. The money was in Jeanne’s mother’s account in Montana, as were all the people involved, and I would leave it up to them to sort it out. I would ask him not to call me again. I was planning to cut myself loose from the battle.
The next morning I was staring out the bathroom window. I was shocked to see that Flora seemed to have fallen from her pole. Then I realized that Flora had moved. Now she faced me directly, right through the bathroom window, hardly visible, just a straight-on sliver because she was made of such thin wood. There was no wind, not even a breeze. While I knew that she hadn’t moved in nearly six years, I thought nothing of it. I went on to the kitchen.
As I settled down with my bowl of oatmeal, something caused me to look up. Flora had moved again ! Now she was staring at me again through the kitchen window. I was stunned! What had caused her to follow me? I went out onto the front porch to investigate. Still no wind—but even the “blizzard of the century” in 1993 had failed to budge Flora.
Later that day, from the bathroom again, I saw Flora’s third move. She was looking in the bathroom window again.
That’s when I considered this to be a communication from Jeanne. Thinking about the upcoming phone call from Jeanne’s uncle, I realized what I was about to set in motion. Jeanne’s money would go into her mother’s account. When her mother died, the money would pass to her brother, as unethical a person as Jeanne was ethical. He had “borrowed” tens of thousands of dollars from the family and had returned none despite years of promises. He wouldn’t even send his mother the small $50-a-month contribution he and Jeanne had both promised. All this despite being a corporate executive with a big house, big swimming pool, and a big lifestyle. Jeanne had refused to see or talk to him during the last year of her life.
I knew then that Jeanne did not want him to get the money that she had left for his own children as gifts. I realized that Jeanne knew this is what would happen if I carried out my plan when the uncle called that night.
The Angel Intervenes
Jeanne was an extremely agreeable and accommodating person, but on those rare occasions when something was very important to her, she always made her feelings known. That’s what she was doing now. The only way to get my attention was to move the unmovable. With her whimsical slant on things, she chose Flora. So I changed my plan.
That night when Jeanne’s uncle called, I told him I would get in touch with Jeanne’s brother, the only heir. I let Jeanne’s brother know about the situation, and that carrying out Jeanne’s wishes was purely an ethical matter—because of the small size of her estate there was no probate of the will. It legally did not have to be carried out. It was simply up to him to honor his sister’s wishes.
At the same time, I also contacted the children, told them of their upcoming gifts from their Aunt Jeanne, and let them know that their father was in charge. In the end, everyone got their gifts from Jeanne.
And what about Flora? The angel moved once more. She now faces the opposite direction from seven years ago. I have interpreted this move to indicate that I finally got matters straightened out. She now looks away from the house…out toward the future. Jeanne’s and mine. And perhaps, someday, ours again.
This episode has profoundly inspired me. I am in the process of collecting other afterlife contact experiences in hopes of publishing a small anthology. I feel certain there are many other vivid and colorful accounts that could be shared. My goal is to create a book that will bring comfort and hope to those who are dying and their loved ones. If you are interested in participating in this project please visit my web site: www.ashevilleweb.com/afterlife/, fax me at 828-258-8797, or write me at: Evan, PO Box 18314, Asheville, NC 28814.
Evan Kress is a massage therapist living with his cat, Hallelujah! Divine, in Asheville, North Carolina.