What I saw in the Chapel

What was that? Am I crazy? Or am I having (gulp)—a vision?

At the risk of sounding deranged and for the lack of a better description, I’m admitting I experience occasional, brief, inexplicit “movies in my head” without reason. These little episodes surprise me in different settings: at home while relaxing on the couch, at my workplace, the bank while talking to a teller, or in a chapel while I’m praying. This last setting was the inspiration for the first chapter in my new novel, Project Dream.

What happens in the book is much more melodramatic than my real-life experience because, well, because I write fiction and real-life isn’t all that exciting. So here’s what I conjured up:

In Project Dream, ten-year-old Izzy Jimenez visits a chapel in San Diego, California. An angel appears. The ghostly spirit swoops down and begs Izzy to dissuade a forlorn woman in that chapel from going to New York City. Reluctantly, Izzy approaches the woman and relays the advice of the angel (who she thinks is the woman’s mother). The woman asks Izzy what the angel’s name is. Izzy doesn’t know. She doesn’t hear the angels, only sees them, but they do give her signs.

“Wait!” Izzy says. The spirit opens her arms. She’s holding roses. “Rose? Is your mother’s name Rose?” And with that verification of the mother’s name—walla—the woman cancels her trip. Izzy has saved her life.

Was that the real-life story?

No. I wish it was. My 9/11 vision (read that story) was so vague, it helped no one. I often question why I had it. I knew a building would collapse and I suspected people would lose their lives, but I had no idea where the building was located other than somewhere in northeastern America near a body of water.

The single advantage of that premonition was personal confirmation. That vision made me, CJ Zahner, believe I wasn’t crazy. It was too accurate to be coincidental.

But I digress, what actually happened in the chapel?

Many years ago, a new friend asked if I would like to visit a side chapel of a Catholic church—not in San Diego, but in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The chapel struck me as lovely. I knelt beside my friend and immediately began praying. I don’t recall who I prayed for, probably my kids. Regardless, there I was—minding my own business praying—when I had this swooshing feeling like an angel came down out of the ceiling. I attempted to ignore the sensation, blaming my wild imagination. This time, however, the woman, white spirit, ghost, whatever you would like to call her, was relentless. She wouldn’t leave.

She said, quite clearly, “My daughter doesn’t believe in this sort of thing.” She chuckled, told me she wanted her daughter to know she loved her, and just before she left, she opened her arms and showed me roses.

The dream seemed so real that I was quite shaken. When we were leaving, my friend asked what was wrong.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” I said. “But I think the mother of one of those women in that chapel appeared to me.”

My friend didn’t know me too well at that time so, of course, she looked at me like I was nuts. But still shook, I described what the angel relayed, and my friend became quiet.

“What was the woman’s name?” she asked.

I told her I’d seen lots of spirits, but I never seemed to get their names right. They usually only gave me feelings or showed me signs. Then I remembered the roses.

“Oh, wait,” I said. “The woman’s name may have been Rose.”

Again, silence from my friend. I was sure she thought I’d lost my mind. Finally, she spoke. “My mother’s name was Rose.”

And from that true-life experience, I conjured up the entire first chapter of Project Dream.

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two paranormal thrillers. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own real-life experiences. See the video of her 9/11 premonition here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

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