Nicole Brodeur of The Seattle Times recently wrote an interesting column about the death of Subpop Records executive Andy Kotowicz, who was killed in a fiery auto accident in Seattle. It seems that after he died, Kotowicz appeared and spoke to the shop owner who rescued Kotowicz’s daughter from the burning car wreckage. Such stories are common to those of us who investigate the paranormal:
Kenny Johnson is a hero. This is a fact. This we know.
Just over a week ago, Johnson climbed into a burning Subaru that had just been hit on 15th Avenue Northwest in Ballard and pulled 3-year-old Anna Kotowicz from her car seat, saving her life.
Her father, Andy Kotowicz, 37, an executive at Sub Pop Records, was taken out of the driver’s seat by paramedics but died three days later.
This, too, is a fact. This, sadly, we know.
But what do we make of Johnson’s statement that he later saw Kotowicz in a vision?
Last Tuesday morning — two days after Kotowicz’s death — Johnson awoke to see Kotowicz standing beside his bed. He gave Johnson messages for his family and co-workers.
In the days since, Johnson’s tiny sandwich shop, Rizzo’s French Dip, has been overwhelmed with new customers who want to reward him, somehow, for what he did.
On Friday, the place sold out of sandwiches by 12:30 p.m.; the roast beef usually lasts until 6.
On the front counter, flowers. On the wall of business cards, a handwritten note from Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly; and a piece of Sub Pop stationery that says, simply, “We (heart) you.”
People have been shaking his hand everywhere, Johnson said, some even kissing it. Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata invited him to City Hall on Monday for special recognition.
People have also been telling Johnson stories of their own visions of loved ones and strangers who have passed, and appeared to them with messages.
Johnson’s wife is a psychic; she told her husband Kotowicz came to him because he was the last person to be with him.
“His spirit went through me,” Johnson said. “That’s what I believe, and whether it’s true or not, who knows.”
I believe him. Twice I’ve been visited by people who passed away. My brain knows that something like that couldn’t happen. But my heart doesn’t doubt it for a second.
After my mother died two years ago, I took a bottle of her perfume home to Seattle and put it on my dresser. One lonely night, I walked into my room and was overcome. It smelled as though someone had just sprayed the perfume, even though I hadn’t touched the bottle in months.
I was comforted to still be connected to someone I loved, even if it was by a filament of faith, a scent in the air.
Alexandra Hepburn, a grief counselor who also teaches at Antioch University, said visions like Johnson’s “are not acceptable in our modern, scientific times.”
And yet, even skeptics acknowledge feeling the presence of, or being contacted by, someone who has died, she said.
“I’m pretty open to all kinds of possibilities and want to see how they help clients,” Hepburn said. “I treat these experiences with great respect and awe.”
Jinny Tesik, a grief counselor since 1982, hears stories like Johnson’s all the time.
There was the widow whose neighbor came by to say her dead husband had visited one night and asked the neighbor to check in on his wife. The widow, Tesik said, was infuriated: Why hadn’t he visited her?
A mother lost a daughter who used to love to bead. The woman found beads “in the most unlikely places” after the girl’s death, Tesik said. When she moved to a new place, the mother walked into the empty living room and spotted a bead.
“I absolutely believe that these things happen,” said Tesik, founder of Grief & Life Transitions Counseling and co-founder of the Western Washington Bereavement Network.
“I can’t put a meaning on it, but I think the veil between life and death is very thin.”