My sister Kathi was born one day before my 5th birthday. When Mom called over to Aunt Bernice’s to tell us we had a baby sister, I said, “Bring her home so she can have some birthday cake!”
Kathi and I were extremely close growing up despite the five year age difference. Of course, we argued about stupid stuff but 90% of the time, we were each other’s best allies.
When she was 38, she was diagnosed with cancer. It attacked her liver, stomach, intestines before the doctor could figure out what was wrong. I was furious that he mis-diagnosed her with IBS and told her to quit eating fried foods. A specialist finally realized the true diagnosis and operated on her that same day. But it was too late. Although she had been on a macro biotic diet for a year, eschewing her beloved Margaritas for super alfafa smoothies, the cancer went into her brain.
Kathi knew I was a devout “Jesus Freak Christian.” In my faith, God loves everyone. She also knew I’d had two NDEs. Kathi asked me all sorts of questions about “The Other Side.” I assured her she would go there, even though she was agnostic.
We lived only two hours away from each other, so spent most weekends together before and after she got sick. My husband & I visited her every weekend while she was ill. Our brother flew out from Florida as often as he could.
Mom & Dad moved in with Kathi, her husband, daughter (age 17) and son (age 8). She was also close with her step-son, Ryan, her husband Pete’s son from a previous marriage. Mom was a nurse so she went with Kathi to get special treatments all over America. Kathi did chemo’, radiation and every type of non-traditional treatment she could find. Pete was happy to pay for all the treatments.
I made a cassette tape with Kathi’s, our brother Bob’s and my favorite songs on it. I gave copies to Kathi and Bob.
The first song on the tape was Kathi’s favorite Beach Boy’s tune “Good Vibrations.” The second was Bob’s favorite “California Girls.” The third was my favorite “God Only Knows How Much I Love You.” I filled the tape with other great songs from our teenaged years, including tunes by Kathi’s beloved Rolling Stones.
The last song was a joke. Kathi had always teased me that “Louie Louie” was my favorite song. It had 3 notes. I was a bit of music snob as a kid and a teenager. I played flute in symphonic and jazz bands. So I used to make fun of “Louie Louie,” saying a monkey could have written it. But Kathi, Bob and I loved dancing to that tune. Three wild teenagers in the den back in the 60s. Those hits were on the jukebox in our favorite diner up in Maine where we spent a great summer when I was fifteen, Bob was thirteen and Kathi was ten.
I’d spent the weekend with Kathi right before she went into a hospice. The next day, her daughter Kerra was sitting with her when she died at Dawn.
My mother called to tell me the horrible news. I screamed “NO!” I slammed down the black phone and ran outside. I “came to” about an hour later, having dug with my bare hands a large oval in the front yard by the porch. This later became a garden filled with irises, columbines and a tree surrounded by quartz and other beautiful rocks. We call it “Kathi’s Garden.”
But that day, I was in shock. Without realizing it, I walked downtown, nearly a mile. I entered my favorite thrift shop. The owner always had her radio tuned in to an oldies station. As I entered, “Good Vibrations” was playing.” The next song was “California Girls.” Then came “God Only Knows How Much I Love You.”
I stood there, amazed. I prayed “Kathi, if that is you, make the DJ play ‘Louie Louie’ next.”
The DJ started babbling “You guys know I never play songs by the same band twice in a row. Don’t know why I did that set—so let’s mix it up! Here’s “Louie Louie!’”
I gasped loudly. Customers and the shop owner came up to me, asking what was wrong.
I told them all about my sister dying that day, the cassette tape and the DJ playing those exact three songs, plus “Louie Louie.” Every person in the store had a similar story: husband’s photo falling off the wall on their anniversary, after he’d been dead for three years; seeing a license plate that said “HIMOM68” reminding a mother, whose daughter was born in 1968, was saying Hi from Heaven and many other wonderful stories.
I knew my sister, who’d been an agnostic since age 20, was in Heaven.