Glimpsing the hereafter, or just missing loved ones?

A poignant dream leads to a consultation with a psychic, but in a world of possibilities, firm answers are elusive.

What do you wear to visit a psychic?

I pondered the question as I stood in the mirror, practicing my poker face.

Would she see through my Uggs to my mismatched socks? Will she know that I dug these jeans from the bottom of my hamper?

I'd made an appointment to meet with the psychic because I'd been worrying over a dream. It featured my late husband and my dead mother, who both passed many years ago and barely knew each other.

In the dream, they looked serene. Neither of them spoke. She was standing at the bottom of my stairs, he was outside on the porch.

I was overjoyed to see them together. Then I woke up and had to accept they are still dead. I pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed.

I couldn't shake the memory of how happy I'd been, and wound up ruminating for months over what the dream might mean.

Was the visit just a friendly 'hello' from the people I missed most? Or was it some sort of omen that I'd be joining them soon?

I was surprised to discover I felt oddly OK with the thought of dying — but bothered by all that I'd leave undone.

I grappled with the practical issues the prospect presented: Should I increase my life insurance, use up my vacation days, teach my daughters to cook? I embarked on a flurry of medical visits.

The dream had stoked a longing I could not seem to quiet.

I wanted to know the unknowable. More than that, I wanted to summon my loved ones back.

::

I started my search for clarity the way searches always begin: I Googled "dream of dead mother and husband," and wound up looking for insight on "Your Online Spirituality Destination."

The website said my dream might simply have been "a way of resolving your sorrow psychologically while you slept." Then it confirmed my fears with this: "Some psychics who interpret dreams would say that such a dream could bode that you may die soon."

I can buy into the concept of psychics, but I have trouble with the specifics. I think some people may be blessed with celestial gifts. But I doubt they're the ones charging for mind-reading on websites like this.

I needed a psychic with references. A friend suggested Sabrina.

The blurb on her website sounded good, vaguely scientific: "Sabrina offers psychic readings through use of the tarot deck, clairvoyance and clairsentience."

The market for psychic readings is bigger than skeptics might think. Three-quarters of Americans believe in life after death, and almost half of those surveyed think it's possible to communicate with spirits or be visited by ghosts.

That's what draws us to reality shows like "Long Island Medium," where wisecracking star Theresa Caputo can't even get her teeth cleaned without picking up a message from a dead relative of some stranger in the waiting room.

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