By Khimm Graham
In 2006, I completed several weeks of end-of-life doula classes at the Mercy Center in Buffalo. I was the youngest of the group in a class of retirees, a benevolent clan of caregivers. We all had a mutual story of love and dedication to our loved ones who died.
Sister O’Donnell, the program director, advertised lessons for nondenominational students, but that wasn’t entirely true. I was the only heretic, a spiritualist – and all Catholics surrounded me in prayer and song studying a Jewish curriculum used in a New York City hospital. Since I am a clairvoyant and clairaudient medium, I informed Sister of my beliefs immediately for I am not a profit-driven charlatan or a mistress of dark arts. I simply am as I was born.
Respectfully, I drew upon my childhood catechism – an obedient study that straightened my spine through the stern discipline from a stern, old nun at St. Josaphat Church. Our first holy communion lessons were a silent teaching peppered with the dismissal of a fellow student. The little boy asked a question out of turn and was forced to his knees, begging forgiveness. His mom pulled him from class the next day.
By the time I donned my itchy white dress and veil in a procession up William Street, the body and blood of Christ were unquestionably received and I, as a vessel of this communion, never touched the holy wafer from the roof of my mouth until it dissolved into my soul. I still believe.
I attended religious instruction until 12th grade, as well as seminars in Lily Dale, and a summer at Baptist camp in Lime Lake. All views were considered and respected, but I was always encouraged to be myself.
A few weeks into doula class, spirit was nagging me to ask for someone’s sister named Peggy. I discreetly asked a couple of students about her, to no avail. As the male voice persisted, I knew I had to address the group.
Seated next to me was a lovely elder nun, Sister Caritas. She was a missionary and member of the original foundation of Mercy Hospital who lived and served the community in charity. Comfortable near her kind face, I rose and asked, “Please, who has a sister, Peggy?”
Sister Caritas answered, “I’m Peggy. That’s what my father called me.” She then confided how difficult it was to accept her new name, Caritas. Her love for her dad was apparent and so was our connection in that room. We spoke of life, death and resurrection.
Upon completion, Sister O’Donnell met privately with all of us and assigned patients. But our meeting was different. She gave me a list of cults that included the history of spiritualism and chided my beliefs. I understood then – this was a lesson in tolerance. However, it wasn’t mine.
I went to the hospital choking back tears to see the man I was assigned. His family was seated near his bed and he was faintly breathing. Eyes shut and body still – to me, he was already gone. To his distraught family, I was a passing stranger, so I asked the women if I could get them something. They smiled and shook their heads. I backed out the door.
When the phone rang the next morning, I knew the man had died and my visit was in vain. But the peace of his soul remained a light of transformation.
Although I seldom returned to the hospital as a doula volunteer, I have served as doula to many. There has been a constant purpose for every hour I spent discovering more about the grace of life, the remarkable transition of death and forgiveness for the narrow judgment of others.
In the end, one thing is true – we all have a journey that leads one another out of darkness, if only we’re willing to see.
Khimm Graham, who lives in West Seneca, is a clairvoyant and spiritualist.