For me, Déjà vu (the distinct feeling you have already lived a moment you are experiencing in the now) is a signpost letting us know we are headed in the right direction.
Coincidence is a whole other thing.
Debbie Reynolds and I spent countless hours talking about, life, afterlife, God, Heaven, and the beyond. Debbie was my Mother-in-law, and we were extremely connected. We talked about everything, and though I have very strong opinions and beliefs of my own, it was always very interesting to get her take.
When former Playboy Playmate and B movie actress, Yvette Vickers died in her Hollywood home, we mused about how very sad it was that she had been such a recluse, that no one even noticed she hadn’t been seen for over a year. It was only after her mail started piling up in her mailbox that a neighbor called the police to check on her. She had been dead and all alone in her home for a year!
Debbie worried that Yvette Vickers would still be attached to the house, since she lived there for decades and died there alone. We toyed with the idea of going there to do a blessing
We never did go; but we did bless her and sent her on her way from our house.
Debbie had prophetic dreams, and they were usually pretty much on the money. Whenever she told me that she had a dream, I would brace myself, and hope that it was a good one. She would tell us if she dreamt something bad or ominous.
We heeded her dreams and trusted that she was plugged in to the big man upstairs.
My Mother-in-Law was Christian in every sense of what being a Christian really is. She loved the Lord, served the people through him, and absolutely knew when it was all over here, that she was going to go home to Heaven.
As is expected of Christians, she forgave (“we forgive but we don’t forget”) she loved big, and gave of herself to those who needed. She understood the struggles of people.
Even now, I can’t remember the last time she bought anything big for herself, except for memorabilia, and that wasn’t for her, it was for the “someday museum” collection, and movie fans all over the world. She was generous to her family and friends. She had a huge heart.
Debbie believed that we should celebrate important things in a tremendous way, and by God, we did. In 2012 she gave us our beautiful wedding, and just last November, from her bed, she meticulously planned and threw threw Carrie’s massive 60th birthday party the last time any of us saw Carrie, and only a month before they both left this Earth.
During our very deep life-talks, we spoke about everything and anything, but I never went near the subject of Todd’s father, Eddie Fisher. I always let her initiate that conversation. She spoke of him very rarely but when she did there was an edge that usually indicates (in all of us) a hurt that is unspeakably deep.
She made jokes about him in her live stage concerts, “you remember my first husband, Eddie Fisher, he ended up going down the Nile…” Ba-dum-dum! The audience roared. She understood that if she made a joke out of her pain, the pink elephant had to leave the room, and, if she was okay, then they could be okay. After all, the public, as far as I can tell, never really forgave Eddie for breaking her heart when he left her for Elizabeth Taylor. Todd was only six months old.
Judging by the way she spoke, I could always tell that he had been the love of her life. I don’t believe she ever really allowed herself to truly be emotionally vulnerable to another man, or, anyone, really, (beside her children) which is a good thing because the next two husbands fleeced her like a sheep in winter. Eddie was her first everything. Her one true, young love.
Right before our wedding, Debbie presented Todd her wedding band from Eddie. She turned to me and took my hand as she said, “I want this to be your wedding band.” I was stunned. I knew if she kept that wedding band for all of these years, it must have meant a lot to her. Most people who get decimated in a marriage, wouldn’t even want the wedding ring in the house. But there it was, this simple, delicate band of baguette diamonds. It fit my finger perfectly. I didn’t know what to say. Which is a rare moment for me.
Then, she must have felt me.
With great depth to her voice she said, “I don’t want you to have any bad feelings about this ring. When Eddie put this ring on my finger, it was with pure love and happiness. We were so in love. There is nothing bad attached to this ring. I wish you and Todd to know that kind of happiness.”
That was the very last time she spoke of Eddie to me. Until the day he died. She spoke of him with reverence, in her show that night. Ironically, it was her opening night at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Todd was there working with her. I was on a plane to England to appear at a convention.
Every Summer I leave for tour in July and come home in September. I perform around a hundred shows each year.
I am a performing hypnotist. I love what I do, even more than I enjoyed acting, which I enjoyed immensely during the nearly four decades I made my living at it, so that’s saying a lot.
That being said, I spent most of my adult life on television, but also discovered that there is nothing like live performing and making people laugh until they cry, all the while educating them about how this magnificent, God-given gift called our mind (both of them) works.
Live performing was another thing Debbie and I had in common and just like in every other way, we got each other completely.
Then, just like that, the blink of an eye, on December 28th, she was gone. I was so devastated, especially for Todd. What a loss. For the first few weeks, there was so much to do, and so little time to do it all in. We got it done. We are still getting it done.
Once the shock wore off, I could hardly think straight.
In many ways, the drama surrounding the tragedy was more shocking than the event. You find out so much about people in a crisis. People you thought you knew. To balance that, there were also people who stepped up, and showed us to be true friends. They got us through. The public got us through.
A few months later we had the public memorial, which for Todd turned out to be very healing to put together. We had to get it right for Debbie. We absolutely had to get it right. She deserved for it to be perfect. Her fans deserved it for their decades of devotion. That was absolutely how she would have seen it.
After the funeral, and then the public memorial, for several months I could not work. I did not feel like entertaining people, or laughing. How could I help people to heal, when I was broken myself? Staying home was good. My animals healed me, the worlds outpouring of love healed me, and with God, Todd and I healed each other.
Six months in, I was still curled up in a ball with a sleeping chicken in my arms when I felt her. She spoke to my heart… It’s time to get out of bed and go back to work.
Nearly seven months after this devastating blow, I went back out on tour.
One of my cities was Lewisburg, West Virginia, performing at The State Fair West Virginia.
Todd had not been out on tour with me in quite a few years, but we had not been apart for even a day since his Mom and Sister died, and we didn’t want to go a month without being together. He decided he would catch up with me during my ten day run in West Virginia.
He needed a break from everything too..
So after 3 weeks, he joined me and decided to stay at the Hotel Greenbrier, which I had never been to, despite my five years of performing at the fair.
The Greenbrier has a PGA golf course, which is why he chose that city to come out to. Todd had never taken a vacation. He wanted to be somewhere he could play golf, a game he loves.
So, while I was nine miles down the road making people believe they were Beyonce and Michael Jackson, he was finally getting a much needed and much deserved vacation.
Here’s where Todd experienced his first visit from his Mother.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were stunned. I stood there, like a stung mullet, just staring at it. It was gorgeous.
I mean, other-worldly gorgeous, like going back in time.
I felt a crazy good energy about the place the minute we drove up. The Greenbrier Hotel is, without a doubt, the most spectacular hotel I have ever seen in my entire life, and I have been around the world. The Hotel is insanely romantic.
“Coincidentally,” two of Debbie’s grand chandeliers from the film, Gone with the Wind, were hanging in the main part of the hotel. Todd remembered making the arrangements to get them shipped there, but had forgotten the hotel as it was many years before.
As the days passed, and we had time to stroll the massive hotel, we started seeing pictures of Debbie hanging throughout the massive and cavernous hotel walls.
There she was, Debbie at the opening of the Casino in 2010. Debbie with Barbara Eden, Debbie with Brooke Shields, Debbie with the Governor. Debbie having fun.
Then, we saw the photograph that had us both standing there, jaws agape. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher on their honeymoon, 1955.
There they were, as big as life, two very famous, wildly-in-love kids, in front of the hotel on a bicycle, in a small town in the Smokey mountains of West Virginia. That’s a long way from Hollywood.
That photograph touched us us both deeply.
For a thousand reasons, Todd and I had never taken a honeymoon. We just didn’t have the time, and, we have a lot of pets. However, for our wedding night, Debbie had gifted us the same suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel that she and Eddie had stayed in on their wedding night. I thought that to be interesting and incredibly generous.
We spent two nights there, and then went home to our fifty-eight animals. It’s hard to be gone for long when you have fifty- eight animals.
A few days later, I had an epiphany.
I texted Todd from work. “Debbie brought us here.”
“But why?” he asked.
“Because she wanted us to see what she looked like in the happiest moment of her life. You have never seen that. Your dad left when you were only six months old and I don’t know if she ever felt that happy again. Your Mom wanted us to be as happy as she was in this time. That’s what she told me when she gave me her ring.” Then I looked and realized, that in the photo, she was wearing the very ring that I was wearing on my finger. The actual photograph is 62 years old.
That night, we were in our room and toying with the idea of trying to recreate the photograph as exact as we could get it, since the spot it was taken at was still there.
At that moment, the television back light turned on by itself. Not the picture, the backlight. I had never seen that happen before. Todd is a prove-it-to-me kind of guy. He got up and checked the electrical reason for such a happening. I then said, “Debbie, if that’s you, can you…. Before I even finished my sentence, the light of the TV turned off and then went back on, instantly. Todd tried to use the remote and it would not change it.He got tears in his eyes.
He felt her presence and it was overwhelming.
Todd and his mother were so close; I had never before witnessed a relationship like it, and doubt I shall ever see one like it again.
The evening before we left, we recreated the photograph in a very quick photo shoot with The Greenbrier Hotel photographer, Mike Wyatt, who found a bike as close as he could from that era. It took all of 20 frames and we were done. Mike did a fantastic job. We all felt Goosebumps on our Goosebumps, and we all felt pure joy.
She was there with us.
What a magical time, at a magical place. It was nice feeling you again, Mom.
Catherine Hickland Fisher is an American Actress, Author, Keynote Speaker, Hypnotist, and Entertainer.