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The Villages

The Reporter In The Villages, Florida

Published Oct. 16, 2007 7:30 am

'Bridges to Heaven' program coming to Villages


THE VILLAGES - Phyllis Hotchkiss says she has had experiences with spirits and the dead ever since her grandmother died when she was young.

Then, her son was murdered in 1989.

"I was sitting at home trying to figure out what to do next when books started flying off the shelf in front of me," she recalls. "They all had to do with the afterlife and the legal system.

"About 18 months later, after they sentenced the killer in court, I came back home and found a book face down in the hallway. It was called 'A Mother's Love.'

"I never recall reading that book - never bought it or anything."

Later, when she moved from the house, she was not able to find the book. It was as if it had disappeared, she said.

Hotchkiss wrote a few short stories about her experiences that made it into author Christine Duminak's book, "God's Gift of Love: After-Death Communications." Hotchkiss and Duminak, along with spiritual medium Sunni Welles, will share their experiences and try to help others in an after-death communication seminar in The Villages on Tuesday.

"I think this event is perfect for The Villages because you have a lot of residents here who've lost loved ones over the years," Hotchkiss said. "I think everyone has these experiences in their lives, but they just don't recognize them."

Duminak, a grief recovery specialist, said departed loved ones leave many afterlife signs for the living to recognize.

"An important thing to realize is that the departed can still see and hear us," Duminak said. "Sometimes, they'll contact us directly from the afterlife."

Hotchkiss says she knows this is true. She's had a lot of contact with her husband ever since he passed away last year.

"I've felt his touch, and it was great," Hotchkiss said. "The funny thing is he was always skeptical about the whole thing."

Hotchkiss also got in touch with Welles, a spiritual medium who uses handwriting to connect with spirits. After clearing the spirit with a few test questions, she says she hears a conversation in her head that translates to her hand, and she scribbles down what she hears. By telephone, a client can ask Welles questions for a loved one who has died, and Welles asks the spirit the question, writes down the answer and shares it with the client.

A Christian, Welles said she gained this ability when angels came to her after she asked to serve God.

"The angels said, 'The Lord has answered your prayer, and you'll be in service to God,'" Welles said. "It's been the most rewarding work I've ever done."

Hotchkiss said she's thankful for the experiences she's had, especially the ones with her son and husband. She hopes to share her story at Tuesday's seminar with other Villages residents who have had similar experiences. As for communicating with the dead, she said it's nothing to be afraid of.

"I think, more than anything, these experiences help people heal.

"It's given me a peace that, when I leave this world, I know now that I'll be with my loved ones."

Contact Joe VanHoose at joe.vanhoose@starbanner.com or 732-0742.