Loving someone is one of the greatest motivators we as human beings experience. Many times it is the only thing strong enough to propel us to become, create, and forge new paths in the name of those we love. It is truly a beautiful gift when someone allows their love to be utilized to better the world. Meet a woman who is doing just that.
Her name is Carolyn Smith and she was sick with grief when her husband, Fred, passed away. Unsure of how to continue on without him, she became lost in her devastation during the weeks that turned into months after his passing. Unable to find any joy in living without the love of her life by her side, Carolyn decided that nothing was more important to her than reconnecting with Fred. This compelled her to begin researching the phenomenon of psychic mediums, of which she knew very little. After reading about dozens of them online, Carolyn found herself most drawn to one located in Phoenix, Arizona. Needing to experience it in person instead of over the phone, she booked an appointment and drove the five hours from Las Vegas to see if reconnecting with a deceased loved one through mediumship was truly a possibility.
After sitting down in his office and handing Psychic Medium, Ricky Wood some recent pictures of her husband, she waited a few moments while internally questioning whether the continuation of our spirits after death was simply a fairytale. Suddenly, Ricky looked up and said, “I smell cigarette smoke.”
Carolyn was a bit taken aback as Fred had smoked when he was younger, but it hadn’t been a part of their lives together for the last couple of decades. The pictures she shared were much more recent and didn’t offer anything that suggested as much. Ricky continued speaking as if he was seeing something she couldn’t, “I’m seeing him as he was when he was younger. I’m also smelling baby powder. Does that mean anything to you?”
Carolyn smiled and a knowing encircled her like a warm hug. Fred was a daily user of baby powder. Ricky continued to offer her validation that not only was her beloved husband still around, but he was worried about her, sharing that she wouldn’t stop crying long enough to notice his signs. From that day forward, Carolyn knew unequivocally that Fred hadn’t just vanished from her life one day after 46 years together. Although she no longer saw him physically, her session with Ricky reassured her that her husband’s spirit remained involved in her present day life.
Feeling more confident that Fred was indeed still with her, Carolyn began to revisit some of the places they had frequented together. One of the couple’s favorite treats was enjoying a sandwich at Capriotti’s. As she ate, Carolyn reminisced about her husband’s huge heart and propensity to help those who were less fortunate. Almost every week, he would pick up someone in need, take them with him to turn in his recyclable cans, and give them the money he received. To her surprise since she hadn’t been directly involved with his good deeds, Carolyn felt moved to continue his acts of kindness. Before leaving the shop, she bought a few extra sandwiches and drove downtown, stopping outside of Catholic Charities. She felt as if her soul was smiling and her husband was right next to her as she handed out the sandwiches to a few people who looked like they could use a meal.
Although Carolyn relished those few moments, in the days that followed she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to do more for the countless others she passed by that looked hungry as well. During her next trip to the grocery store, the thought occurred to her that she could afford to feed many more people by buying the ingredients and making the sandwiches herself. The following Monday morning, Carolyn made forty sandwiches and returned to hand them out. Offering more felt even better than her first visit. Each time she went to the grocery store, Carolyn searched for deals so she could offer additional treats to accompany the sandwiches. Eventually, her Monday visits with her new found friends included not only the sandwiches but cupcakes, bottled water, and anything else she saw on sale. Carolyn never sat down and created a plan but instead allowed herself to go with the spirit that moved her.
As the amount of sandwiches and snacks she offered grew, there were new challenges as it became more difficult to pass out each individual piece of the meal to so many people. To her delight, some of the recipients offered to help, telling her to relax since she spent all morning preparing the food. One day, George, her self-appointed protector, offered to purchase brown paper bags to use the next time. Not long after Carolyn began delivering every Monday, George told her he felt like he was supposed to look out for her as he too had felt a spiritual nudge to keep her safe. She gladly accepted his help and friendship, thoroughly enjoying the small group that took her under their wing. The sandwich group banded together to welcome her into their community and stood up for her if anyone tried to give her a hard time or ‘make trouble’ as they said.
On numerous occasions while sitting with them as they ate, they articulated how much they appreciated her efforts. A few even shared more about themselves, their lives, and how they’d ended up homeless. Carolyn learned that 98% of those she met did not abuse drugs or alcohol, nor were they suffering from overt mental illness. Instead, most had fallen on hard times physically or financially and eventually succumbed to living on the streets. Although a few receive disability, it isn’t enough to afford housing and basic living requirements.
Even those who didn’t offer much about themselves freely told her why they preferred her lunches to the food offered in the nearby shelters. Not only because her meals were homemade, delicious, and the shelter food reminded them of poor tasting cafeteria food, but most importantly because they weren’t allowed to bring their possessions into the shelters with them. They feared leaving what they did have outside because when they had previously, it was gone along with their spot when they returned. This is also the reason that many of them choose to sleep outside at night, besides other restrictions such as having to be in the shelter by early evening and so forth.
As the weeks and months passed, news quickly spread about Carolyn’s Monday visits and there is never a shortage of grateful souls thanking her for her brown bagged lunches. As of now, she is up to 85 sandwiches every week. In this community, she is not known as Carolyn Smith, instead most refer to her by her nickname the ‘Marine Lady.’ The name makes her smile because they are referring to Fred’s Marine Corp stickers on her car. Always proud of his ten years of service, he continued to show his patriotism throughout his life, and Carolyn was proud to be the wife of this particular Marine.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the constantly increasing number of sandwiches and bags she packs, Carolyn looks forward to Mondays. Not only because she feels that she is fulfilling a purpose much greater than herself and giving back for how blessed she is, but it is her time with Fred. Along with this confidence and what Ricky continued to teach her in subsequent sessions, Carolyn learned to tune into the much more subtle whisperings of her husband’s spirit communications. At first, it felt random and fleeting when she heard the lyrics of a song on the TV or radio sound amplified as if they were meant from Fred just for her. Eventually, she developed the sensitivity to feel many of the moments he tries to communicate with her. So much so that when Carolyn hears a song that she knows Fred wants her to hear, she saves it and burns all of them onto a CD. Every Monday while making her sandwiches and packing lunches, she smiles and sings along. There is no question in her mind that Fred is there with her.
Not long after beginning her sandwich making journey, Carolyn shared with Ricky what she was doing. He was so moved that he felt compelled by Fred to assist her. Since then, Ricky offers $30 off any session if a client brings him in ‘snacks for the homeless’ or mails individual serving snacks to Carolyn to add to the lunches. She is so grateful because unfortunately, the amount of Good Samaritans that hand out food in the same area has begun to dwindle. Carolyn’s sandwich group shared with her that more and more tickets have been given out by the police to those stopping to feed them. Rumor has it that the fines have gone from $250 to as high as $1,000.
This hasn’t deterred Carolyn, quite the opposite in fact. Not only do her offerings continue to increase in size, she doesn’t miss a Monday. She says she is waiting for her ticket so she has the opportunity to stand before a judge and ask why it is a finable offense to feed people in need. Although she is aware that shelters have restrictions to try to keep order, some of those in need are unable to comply, causing them to have to forgo help they could desperately use.
What started as a nudge from her late husband to help the community that he could no longer serve physically has turned into an extended family for her. So much so that they have all agreed to have a Thanksgiving feast and celebration of their own. The sandwich crew scouted and found the best spot, while she is joyfully shopping and preparing the meal. At 70 years young, Carolyn continues to find some days more difficult than others, but in some ways she feels she has found a new lease on life with an extended community and a new appreciation for spending time with her husband. Although he may not be seen physically standing next to her, his spirit surely is there and the foundation of her journey. At times, it seems to Carolyn like Fred is speaking to her through George.
When a day feels particularly tough, she remembers something Ricky said to her, ‘You have to get out of yourself,’ which reminds her to choose to do something to honor her husband and embrace their continued love. She also recalls something she read right after his death that stuck with her. It suggested learning to ‘trust that there are no coincidences’ and to look at these events as possibly containing a message from our loved one, as they usually do. Although she knows it is hard while going through grief, her advice to anyone suffering is to just continue to strive for it every day. Getting closer to God by praying has also offered her some peace. Carolyn feels that her communion with God doesn’t happen on Sunday in a church, but on Monday—feeding those in need.
Carolyn hopes you will give thanks this season, for your loved ones near and far by reaching out and making someone’s day better than you found it. Before getting to know this community, she was unaware of all of the challenges one faces when homeless. If you feel moved to do so, she welcomes your additions to her bagged lunches that can fit in backpacks, such as: individual serving size snacks of pretzels, chips, nuts, or the like. Small personal care items such as: deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes are also welcomed. (Please do NOT send drinks, large bags of snacks, or anything immediately perishable.)
Carolyn is calling this labor of love, Project – Fred’s Heart after the wonderful man that inspired it.
If you have any questions or would like to offer your assistance to Carolyn, you can contact her at Nvsmith2@cox.net.
Donations can be mailed to:
Carolyn Smith at P.O. Box 752290
Las Vegas, NV 89136
*Carolyn cannot offer you any type of 1099 or donation receipt for tax purposes.
Whether you are new to grief or have been struggling with it for a long time, may you feel inspired by Carolyn to take a step towards honoring your loved one by helping others. Or by Ricky, to join someone else and assist them on their journey. Our loved ones don’t cease to exist after physical death, They’re Not Gone. Imagine if you could hear your deceased loved one’s voice again right now, would they prefer your prolonged sadness due to their physical absence or to watch you discover a sense of purpose by helping others, fueled by your love for them?
Please do not think I’m disregarding your need to grieve or the depths of pain one feels when a loved one passes. Quite the opposite, I’m quite intimately familiar with suffering for decades before finding peace with the help of Ricky’s skills. However, I’ve found that the small acts of kindness that people like Carolyn and Ricky demonstrate remind me that we each have a choice. Either we can become paralyzed and blinded by our grief or we can use it as fuel to help others, thus honoring the love we continue to share with our loved one. May you feel as inspired to offer an act of kindness to a stranger or a cause that moves you. At the very least, that you’ll help spread the word so others will know how they can join us or feel motivated to start their own tradition.
Thank you Carolyn and Ricky, you both make me want to be a more giving person.
Quite often, I’m asked, “What’s it like being married to a Medium?” Though, typically many people simply assume and comment, “Wow, you are so lucky!” Maybe they think he gives me ‘readings’ or messages from my deceased loved ones on a daily basis. Or maybe they think it is easier because he intuitively knows what, when, and how I want my meals cooked. I felt bad bursting their bubble and now maybe yours as well, but being in a relationship with a Medium is not what you probably think it is.
If you don’t know me, my name is Amy and I’m married to Ricky aka Psychic Medium, Ricky Wood. Yes, he is a Psychic Medium by day (sometimes by night) and after 15 years together, I still find what he does fascinating. Even after my own reconnection experience shortly after we began dating, and no matter how many times I hear stories from his clients (since he doesn’t remember most of what he says), I’m still mesmerized by how he helps people reconnect with their loved ones after physical death. A decade ago, this moved me so much that I spent a few years writing about it in my very first book, They’re Not Gone. Although I cringe a little when revisiting my first attempt at writing, the messages and stories continue to touch my heart. I am so thankful to those who were brave enough to share their experiences with the world back when it was much more taboo than it is today. After receiving so many requests for a second book, we’ve begun working on that as well.
So, as you can see, what Ricky does for a living matters immensely to me. It has become a huge part of my life and I am so grateful for that. But, as far as our relationship goes, it isn’t that much different from being married to any other man, in any other profession. Except maybe that he doesn’t flinch when I begin talking his ear off about the other-worldly experience I had meditating that day, or when I wonder out loud about how many types of extraterrestrials have visited Earth. Believe it or not, even with his abilities, I am much more of the “unknown seeker” than him. I want to know all about the alternative theories of our being here on Earth and how to heal oneself with energy alone. Ricky on the other hand is content to do what he does, fully trusting without needing much of a back story. He’d much rather spend his free time reading comics or watching movies or TV shows about them.
Ricky may be an uber-talented Medium, but that does not make him neat and tidy, health conscious (at least my definition, which I know may be a bit extreme to most), the best communicator (he is much more emotionally introverted than me), or provide him the ability to know how I feel or what I want before I do. Why? Because he is first and foremost, a human being. Just because he has the ability to communicate with the spirit world does not make him the quintessential husband that all women logically know doesn’t exist, but they haven’t given up hope that maybe somehow a few secretly do. Ricky and I have worked on our relationship a lot, talked, forgave, and put in the same effort that every other long-term committed couple understands.
Now, I will give him the credit he deserves…he does try to use his intuition when he wants to figure out what to buy for me at the grocery store. It still makes me giggle when I have been craving a grapefruit and he comes home and pulls one out of the bag. He is very thoughtful when it comes to acts of kindness like that. The biggest thing I want to stress to those who think he does this with everything, the answers is a resounding NO! Why would you want that? I mean, he wouldn’t try to “read” me anyway because not only is it an intrusion of privacy, but as he has explained to me, it takes a good deal of energy so it would be thoroughly exhausting to do that 24 hours a day.
He may be more sensitive to understanding my moods because of what he does for a living, but one of the things I’ve always admired about him is that he never “tunes” into someone unless asked and given permission. Even before learning about energy, spirit communication, or reading people, I always thought this was the respectful way to operate. I guess that’s why I never worried about it feeling invasive in our relationship when people have inquired whether “he can read my mind or not.” (Don’t tell him, but there have been fleeting moments when I’ve repeated myself for the thousandth time, when I’ve wished his abilities helped him to remember to pick up his mess without me having to say anything.)
I must admit though, most people have assumed correctly—I am lucky to be married to Ricky. Not because he is a psychic medium, but because he is the kindest, most loving, and generous man I’ve ever met. He has taught me how to treat someone you love. No, he is far from perfect, but he has been willing to “do the work” with me, even if at times he had to be dragged kicking and screaming. Most of all, he has loved me despite my many shortcomings, issues, and mistakes.
Finding the person who makes you want to be a better person, but loves you just as you are, is a gift. For me, whether someone lays carpet, cuts down trees, operates on people, or speaks to the dead for a living, doesn’t determine their appeal, nor their worth. So although I am grateful for my front row seat at times of watching peoples’ hearts heal because of Ricky’s gifts, I would love him the same regardless of what he did for a living.
My best advice…find the person who fills up your heart, supports your dreams, and loves you for you, and forget about their day job. If you love them and they you, with all of your heart, that’s what truly matters.
My article, “Speaking Through Numbers,” appeared in Autism Digest Magazine in Jan/Feb 2012. Although it is no longer available digitally, I wanted to share via my blog for anyone who may have an interest. – A.P. Morris
“Information processing” is often a challenge for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The communication-related deficit can stem from a variety of sources: inadequate or faulty brain ‘wiring’, auditory challenges (ie the child can’t distinguish the teacher’s voice over all the other noise in the classroom), sensory regulation issues, cognitive impairments, or motor challenges. The information many kids ‘take in’ is garbled in the first place; with other kids, the information is processed, but it’s formulating a response that is difficult or even impossible. No matter what the reason, the impact is apparent in all aspects of their lives: academic, social, language, play and daily living skills.
While working as a therapeutic support staff person (TSS) with an elementary-aged child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I stumbled upon an effective communication tool that may be of benefit to other children with ASD. At the time of our breakthrough, “John” as I’ll call him, was a nine-year-old boy full of life. He was amazingly intelligent and especially talented at remembering anything involving numbers. John could easily recall the number of pieces in large Lego creations he’d built (and he had constructed many!), the number of pages in the corresponding directions, the hours and minutes it took to complete each project. John delighted in using numbers; they were highly motivating and extremely interesting for him.
A major difficulty he faced, as do many children with this diagnosis, was maintaining self-control when involved in gross motor activities. Despite our best efforts to help him calm himself in these situations, through verbal or gestural prompting, foreshadowing, social stories, and a reward system, nothing brought any significant improvements in his behaviors. John described himself as being “revved up” during activities such as hockey, rock climbing, kick-ball, and volleyball, and unable to process our directives or control his responses. He’d either become so disruptive that the other children were unable to continue the activity or he would unknowingly cause physical harm to them because he couldn’t gauge personal space.
The self-disappointment John felt after such an incident was evident and heart wrenching to watch. Following one such episode at a summer camp we were attending, I sat with him on the curb, waiting for his mom to pick us up. I thought about his extreme intelligence, his natural ability with numbers and longed for a way to bridge the information gap.
Then a light bulb went off! I took out a notebook, wrote down the letters of the alphabet and numbered them 1 to 26. This was as much a ‘cheat sheet’ for me as it was a visual tool for him! I explained the chart to John and then began quizzing him randomly by asking him which letter corresponded to a number, for instance “10.” Within seconds he answered “J.” I tried it in the reverse, starting with the letter and just as quickly he gave me the correct number. I was ecstatic! We had discovered the building blocks to our bridge!
On the ride home I thought of simple commands we could convert to a numeric code. The first one was 19 = STOP (19 = “S”). I showed him the code in written form one time, and had him verbally repeat it twice. Next was 6,4 = FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. (6 = “F”, 4 = “D”). He seemed indifferent to it; however, it looked at it and repeated it to me.
The following morning on the way to camp I said “19” and John quickly responded with “STOP.” He then himself offered “6,4 is follow directions.” I explained to him that we would have our own ‘secret code’ to see if it was easier for him to hear and process numbers when he was revved up or getting out of control. We used them and it worked! I was so excited! When given a word directive in the same circumstances, John sometimes appeared to have heard it, but for the most part he did not respond, nor was he able to modify his behavior. When we used the number code his eyes looked up to the left, he repeated the number and then stated the verbal command. The best part was that he then followed through with the appropriate action corresponding to the directive! It was as though the numbers ‘registered’ in his brain long enough that he could follow through with processing the associated word command.
We added approximately 15 more ‘command codes’ over the next few weeks. I was amazed at John’s receptiveness. He even joined in by creating his own numerical responses. The results were extraordinary! He responded at least 85% of the time to the numeric directives versus about 45% to verbal word commands.
As his behavior ‘mishaps’ decreased, his confidence in handling himself in social situations soared, as did his excitement and interest in using the coded communication. An added benefit was a huge increase in social interaction with his peers and they with him.
It began one day at camp when I needed to prompt him to slow down while climbing the rock wall. I used our code, 19,4 (Slow Down) but because I was not close enough to John to say it inconspicuously, the other children heard me and noticed that he responded appropriately. Of course, this aroused their curiosity.
One child asked us why we were talking numbers. I explained to them that John was awesome with numbers and we sometimes used them to communicate. They wanted to know more. I shared with them the basis of our secret code and to showcase John’s exceptional abilities I quizzed some of the kids and watched as they struggled with it. John jumped in and would answer for them if they were unable. He became a hit! The kids were making comments such as “Wow! You’re so smart! I wish I were you! You’re so cool!” This brought a huge smile to John’s face. It also spawned unprompted social interaction from the other children wanting to get to know him better. They began to make an effort to include John. He no longer received the ‘what’s his problem?’ looks.
One of my initial concerns was how to differentiate between words that began with the same letter of the alphabet. For example, we used “S” or “19” in numerous directives including: 19 = STOP; 19,4 = SLOW DOWN; 2,1,7,19 = BE A GOOD SPORT, etc. I thought it might be confusing to John, but again, to my amazement this was not a difficulty at all. John easily remembered the words based on the sequence of numbers in the directive. Not once was he confused!
Unfortunately, our time together ended shortly thereafter and I’m unable to provide more long-term results that would have included a full fading of the numeric code to solely verbal word commands. But in light of expertise and high degree of interest in numbers that many children with ASD possess, and the ease in teaching and using this method, hopefully other teachers or parents and children will benefit from trying it out.
We are just beginning to understand how differently John and other children like him on the autism spectrum process information. When we can teach in ways that are meaningful to these children, we build bridges to academic and social success, self-esteem and self-empowerment. Speaking in numbers is just one example of using the very capable abilities of children with ASD and turning them into the key to success for all involved.
Special acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Nina Wall, my supervising psychologist at the time, for her belief in me. Without her, I wouldn’t have been introduced to all the exceptional children diagnosed with PDD that I was blessed to meet and learn from. You are truly talented and I’m so grateful for having the opportunity to have worked with you.
You can learn more about A.P. Morris at www.apmorris.com