Feeling the need to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her mother’s passing, my daughter suggested a little get-together between her, myself and C and M, two of our closest friends who’d known Val very well. So in late June 2012 we all met up at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucester for an informal remembrance ceremony where we planned to find a quiet spot, play the music she’d chosen for her funeral, and each say a few words about her.
On the short journey up from Somerset, my friends and I were discussing how none of us had experienced any Fortean events during the ten years since Val had died — I commented: “I can’t say I’ve had any ‘emails from the grave’, or anything like that.” My friends agreed. Nothing untoward had happened to them in the past decade either. I reflected quietly to myself how Val would have adored Facebook and Twitter and all the other social networking sites we now have — they weren’t around when she was alive, and she was a person who loved to communicate.
We met my daughter in the car park and wandered off into the woods, where we found a lovely little glade amongst the trees for our ceremony. (Val and C often used Westonbirt as a place for their “office” meetings when they worked for the same organisation years ago, so it was one of Val’s favourite locations.) We each wore one of Val’s lovingly hand-made waistcoats — it was a hobby she was developing as an internet business before she died. Preparing to play the music tracks on my iPhone via C’s mini-amplifier, I switched it to Airplane Mode to prevent it playing any other unwanted sounds, and the others either switched their phones off or put them on silent.
After the first track I haltingly said my little piece, and we began chuckling as we recalled (amongst other things) what a wicked sense of humour Val had in life; another track was played and my daughter then began reciting some poignant words she’d found on the internet, becoming more tearful as she tried to struggle through it.
She hadn’t read more than a few lines when she was interrupted by Yoda’s distinctive voice saying jauntily:
“Arr! Message from the Dark Side, there is!”
It was C’s phone — her Yoda ringtone is set to play when it receives a text. She hurriedly pulled it from her pocket, very embarrassed at being the cause of the interruption at such a delicate point in the proceedings. “But I turned it right down!” she said. And sure enough, she showed us the volume was, indeed, set to zero.
We all had a good laugh about it and joked that the coincidence of a text arriving just at that moment was pretty amazing. (We’d kind of dismissed the fact that the volume was set to zero.) Val certainly didn’t want people to feel overly sad at her passing — her final song choice for the humanist funeral service she arranged not long before she went was Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” — and Yoda’s quirky voice, piping up just at that moment, lightened our mood and raised our spirits, so Val would have heartily approved at that. My daughter picked up from where she’d left off, reciting with much more confidence, and the rest of our little ceremony passed without further interruptions.
Later, travelling back home, C had a chance to examine her phone more closely: there were no unread texts. Her phone hadn’t received any — and the volume was still on zero.
So what — or who — managed to set Yoda off? And bypass the volume setting?
We like to think we know.
Perhaps it was the favoured location, along with with our collective heightened emotional state — and the waistcoats that she’d handled, and into which she’d woven her own creative life-force, stitch by stitch — that combined to provide a psychic bridge strong enough for Val to influence the phone’s electrical circuits and achieve the mischievous effect she wanted to let us know that she was there with us, in spirit (and in fine humour), in that bright summer glade.
Whatever the explanation, it’s an event that’ll certainly stick in my mind as an example of a truly Fortean moment!
Yoda Image Credit: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yoda
A variation on this post was published at the Fortean Times Message Board, in the It Happened To Me section.
UPDATE 2nd April 2013: Fortean Times were kind enough to select my item for inclusion in “It Happened To Me!” in the 300th edition of their magazine, published in March 2013!