Itís coming up on the first anniversary of Loriís passing. Iíll never forget the last time I saw her, two years ago, and what she did before hundreds of onlookersÖ
Silence stilled the air as more than 200 people watched Loriís caretaker gently push the wheelchair to the front of the crowd. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Ė better known as ALS, or Lou Gehrigís disease Ė had weakened Loriís body, but her will was strong, and she was determined to deliver a message from spirit to the crowd at Inspiration Stump in Lily Dale. Loriís body slumped back in her chair, and her caretaker gently propped her forward. Another woman held a microphone to Loriís face so her words could be heard. I held my breath and, like so many others around me, concentrated on sending Lori the energy she needed to complete her wish.
For those who may not know, Lily Dale, New York, is the largest Spiritualist centre in the world. Every day during the summer season, "the Dale" has three outdoor message services Ė weather permitting Ė where mediums from around the world bring proof of spirit to random audience members. Two of those services are held at Inspiration Stump, a clearing in the middle of an old-growth forest, where the lush crowns of stately hundreds-year-old trees form a canopy over the stump of a huge tree that had fallen over a century ago.
Basically, hereís how a message service works: mediums who want to serve give their name to the person chairing the service. Then, the chairperson calls each medium in turn to stand in front of the audience, and deliver three greetings from spirit in five minutes.
I got to know Lori through Lily Dale registered medium Sharon Klingler. Like me, Lori loved visiting Lily Dale and doing what she can for the community. A few years ago, she organized hundreds of photos into the scrapbooks that are in the Maplewood Hotel lobby.
Lori had come to Lily Dale to take a week-long mediumship class team-taught by Sharon and English medium Lisa Williams, whose encouraging advice inspires all students: "Speak from the heart. Open your heart chakra and let spirit flow through you."
Lisa also addresses peopleís fear of public speaking. "Just do it!" she urges. "Get up in front of people and say to yourself, ĎSpirit will never let me down!í"
After class, Sharon and Lisaís students delivered messages at Inspiration Stump before hundreds of people. For many of them, it was their first time speaking in public. When the chairperson leading the service announced Loriís name, the crowd waited for her to appear. They saw someone push a woman in a wheelchair to the front of the gathering, and a moment of stunned silence ensued.
The only person who wasnít anxious was Lori, who invited spirit to work through her. Instantly, she began talking in a delicate, wavering voice and brought through an aunt who, among other things, loved baking cakes Ė but didnít do them very well. A young man in the audience recognized his aunt and Lori roared into her message. She joked with the crowd and spoke with the poise and confidence of someone who didnít have a care in the world.
Afterward, I congratulated her on a job well done. "It takes courage to do what you did," I said. "You have a gift for this."
Lori smiled. "Every day is a gift," she said. "Every day, I grab every opportunity thatís given to me to serve, and what an opportunity it is to do it at the Stump. Itís a special place for me."
The next day, Lori grabbed the chance to work again at the Stump. This powerful little woman, anchored in her wheelchair, let spirit flow through her, and as her heart opened, her graceful soul began to fly.