The First Years
Two weeks overdue, but exactly on the destined due date, our daughter was born as a hot, muggy July day dawned over our home. Like millions of other parents, we felt that there had to be some Higher Power behind this wonder, but at the time we knew nothing about Him, nor did we suspect the spiritual transformation that our family would experience due to the influence of this nine-pound baby girl.
After her underwater birth, we held her in the warmth of the birthing pool as she looked up at us with her blue eyes. Through the ripples we could see her long hair floating in the water and her delicate fingers occasionally grasp the pulsing umbilical cord. My husband, Markus, cut the cord, and we named our newborn after the Russian word for "ocean": Akiane.
"She will have bright eyes," he noticed.
"She will be a picky eater!" I said as I observed the way she suckled.
Relieved that the home labor had passed without serious complications, we were elated to kiss and rock our third child. The midwife had come, but only to tell us we needed to pay her. And so it was that Akiane came into the world on her own.
We had recently moved from Chicago to the small town of Mount Morris, Illinois, and the only place we could afford was a shack on the edge of a cornfield. Outside of the house we felt no safety; one neighbor was murdered, another caused fire after fire by burning trash next to our windows, another tried to shoot our dog, and another threatened to assault us if we didn't attend church. The interior of our house was unpleasant as well. The walls and flooring were cracked, moldy, and splattered with paint, and no matter how much we cleaned and scrubbed, the place was unsightly. We didn't have much furniture: one bed, one table, one chair, one rocker, and one empty bookshelf. There was no sink in the kitchen, so we washed the dishes in the bathroom or in the foul-smelling, flooded basement. But somehow none of this bothered us much, for we were busy talking, laughing, and playing. I was able to be with the children all the time, and they received my complete attention.
One day, while climbing the steep and crumbling concrete stairs outside our home, I tripped, and since there was no railing, fell. Three-week-old swaddled Akiane fell out of my arms and landed right on her face, straight onto the hard asphalt. The fall was terrible! I was sobbing along with my little baby, whose face began to swell and bleed profusely.
Akiane cried all day long. That evening we received a strange call from Europe telling us about a certain woman named Victoria, from the mountains of Armenia, who was telling many people about the incredible future of a girl named Akiane. A little later she called us herself and, with a thick Russian accent, tried to verbalize the spectacular events that were ahead for our daughter. Since she was a Christian and we were not believers, we did not take her passionate talk seriously, letting it go in one ear and out the other, completely rejecting it. Nevertheless, from that strange phone call we took the hope that our daughter would not be affected by the trauma of the fall that morning. Maybe that was all we needed to hear. The next day Akiane stopped crying, and her face began healing rapidly. After the incident we never again swaddled her but kept her close in a sling or a baby carrier.
With her frequent giggles and sunny personality, our newborn brought joy to all of us. She was very affectionate, sensitive, observant, and shy.
Our family led a fairly simple life; Markus commuted a long distance to work as a chef while I stayed home with Akiane and her two older brothers, Jeanlu, two, and Delfini, four. With little money and no friends nearby, we had to create our own fun. Every day I would dress our children warmly and take them across the cornfields to watch the sun set over the nuclear power plant that was visible on the horizon. We spent hours counting the birds in the sky and guessing which direction the steam from the plant would drift. At home we made a swing for Akiane, where she spent many hours rocking and napping. The boys grew monarch butterflies from cocoons they found in the meadows, wrote their own books, and turned tree branches into swords. They made wreaths from flowers or pine needles, play-dough from flour, tents from blankets, and forts from cardboard boxes or snow.
The children and I made carrot pancakes and almond cookies to share with the neighbors, but although we knocked on doors to invite our neighbors over for tea or dinner, we realized that no one was interested in getting to know us. Almost every day we walked a few miles to the playground in hope of meeting playmates for the children-or anyone with whom we could share a conversation. But everyone seemed content with their own social circles.
Our daughter learned to crawl and walk very early, and after taking her first steps, she was very deliberate in every move, rarely falling down. The only delay in her development was talking, as she preferred to listen and would say only a few words. She always chose to observe new places and families from a safe distance before engaging in any direct interaction, and since the playground suited her personality, it soon became her favorite place to meet new faces, challenges, and adventures. Akiane liked to stay there half the day-even on chilly days-so we always packed books, blankets, and plenty of food.
My husband Markus's long work hours eventually wore him down. With severe asthma, his health began to deteriorate. When he took on a second job to help make ends meet, the combination of stress and asthma caused him to lose weight rapidly. Without money to see a doctor, he began to fear the worst. I would often hear him say, "I might not last long. Please, think now about how you-by yourself-could support our three children. There's no one to help us, and I am too weak ... I don't know how much longer I can go on."
Although I cherished my time with the children, because of the heavy burden of poverty and sickness in our family, I became involved in a sales business that, surprisingly, began to flourish very fast. At home, in the same room where our three little children played, I reluctantly learned about the outside world.
As a toddler, Akiane paid close attention to textures and fabrics. She loved to bring home rocks, shells, leaves, and flowers. When we went shopping or out to meet people, she insisted on touching each person's clothing and feeling the different textures of skin. Since she was a very tactile child, we brought her a live bunny from a farm, and then a black Newfoundland puppy, which she loved feeding, training, and grooming. Her fascination with living creatures was apparent even then.
Akiane was unusually sensitive to the moods of those around her. She was quick to sense someone's essence, even through the thickest masks of laughter and smiles. "That woman is bad," she might observe-even if it was the exact opposite of what Markus and I had perceived. And if we left her with someone she didn't like for even a few minutes, she wouldn't stop crying until she was back safe in our laps. Surprisingly, her first impressions of people proved accurate time and time again.
By the time Akiane was two years old, my sales and advertising business had become so lucrative that we earned enough bonus money to purchase a house. I reached the top position in our nutritional product company, and after receiving an award and a sizable check, we packed our little white truck and drove from state to state looking for a new home.
We finally found a home in the state of Missouri, a ten-thousand-square-foot replica of a Frank Lloyd Wright house situated by a lake on a golf course, at an unbelievable bargain price. The children especially delighted in the new place. They often jumped off a trampoline into the twenty-foot diving end of our indoor pool, chased a cleaning robot, and warmed up in a sauna or a huge hot tub. They spent endless hours riding their bikes down the long hallways, fishing in the backyard, and playing hide-and-seek on the flat roof.
Our new financial situation also allowed us to buy fresh organic food, and our children were able to eat fruit as often as they liked. We frequently enjoyed lobster, freshly baked bread, avocado smoothies, and coconuts. We could also afford advanced medical care, but even this did not improve Markus's health, as the humidity in Missouri only exacerbated his asthmatic condition.
After a year, the thrill of the large house had died down, and we realized that we'd made a huge mistake. We just didn't need all of that space. In fact, we didn't even call it our home anymore; we jokingly called it "the Frank Lloyd Wrong house," "the sanatorium," "the Pentagon," or just "the hotel." And so we resolved to hire a Realtor and put it up for sale. With shoes neatly lined up by the door, with towels perfumed in the bathrooms, with the slate black tile floor polished to perfection, we had one showing after another-but no one was interested.
Dreams and Drawings Begin
Before we could fully comprehend what was happening, I found myself in the sinkhole of the business world. Although Markus helped me with office duties every day and I was able to work mostly from home, I felt that over time my bond with my children had been weakened. I was pulled between the business and the family. Money didn't seem to bring us more happiness; instead, my work was clouding the joy of motherhood that I had once experienced.
Because Akiane and her brothers had only a few acquaintances and had never formed deep relationships with anyone outside the family, they played mostly with one another. Our family never talked about religion, never prayed together, and never went to any church. I had been raised as an atheist in Lithuania, and Markus had been raised in an environment not conducive to spiritual growth. The children did not watch television, had never been out of our sight, and were homeschooled; therefore, we were certain that no one else could have influenced Akiane's sudden and detailed descriptions of an invisible realm. We can't remember the exact month, but one morning when Akiane was four, she began sharing her visions of heaven with us.
"Today I met God," Akiane whispered to me one morning.
"What is God?" I was surprised to hear this. To me, God's name always sounded absurd and primitive.
"God is light-warm and good. It knows everything and talks with me. It is my parent."
"Tell me more about your dream."
"It was not a dream. It was real!"
I looked at her slightly puffed eyes, and in complete disbelief I kept on asking her questions. "So who is your God?"
"I cannot tell you." Akiane lowered her head.
"Me? You cannot tell your own mom?"
"The Light told me not to." She was firm.
"Akiane, darling, you can share anything with me. You know I won't tell anyone."
"Yes, you will. You cannot know."
"Why did you think it was God?"
"Just like I know you are my mommy, and you know I am Akiane."
"Who even taught you such a word God?"
"You won't understand."
I was astonished to think she felt she could not tell her own mother. Even more puzzling was the fact that she had learned the word God on her own. Upset and uncomfortable, I suggested that maybe it was a nightmare and that if she would just talk to me, I could help.
I begged her that whole day to tell me anything at all about her dream, but she never gave in. About six weeks passed before I succeeded, finally reaching a point where she would describe to me details about life with God and the future of the earth. We no longer suspected she was imagining such events, because she had never fantasized like other children her age. She never initiated pretend games, talked with imaginary friends, or visualized living in other places as so many young girls do. With her matter-of-fact approach to life, she always took play and work very seriously, preferring everything to be real. She simply had no interest in fairy tales, fantasies, or anything artificial.
Now she began to share these new experiences, which were unlike anything we were accustomed to hearing. The smallest details, the prophetic speech, and the sense that she spent more time away in the spiritual world than with our family were all hard to ignore. Sometimes she sounded like an older woman-not because of her voice, but because of her total sincerity, her strangely compelling comments, and her broad vocabulary. It scared us and inspired us at the same time.
Though I had promised I would not tell anyone, I did not keep my promise to her. Since I burned to share her stories with others, somehow, little by little, I started relating them to a lot of people. I was giving away Akiane's secrets. But it was premature; what Akiane knew and saw was not meant to be known or disclosed, for neither I nor others were able to handle the messages at that time. I learned when Akiane shared these dreams and visions, which to her were actual life experiences, to stop telling others. I simply began recording them in a journal.
About the same time as the visions began, Akiane suddenly began showing an intense interest in drawing. She began sketching hundreds of figures and portraits on whatever surfaces she found at hand, including walls, windows, furniture, books, and even her own legs and arms. The different poses were drawn mostly from her imagination. Sometimes she scribbled and sketched with her eyes closed, and sometimes with her pencil between her toes or her teeth. There were also times when I would find our white walls smeared with charcoal from our fireplace or with fruits and vegetables from the garden. And sometimes after a reprimand she would scribble on the bottom of the tables so we would not see her mischief.
One day we noticed white spots on her front teeth. We asked what had happened, but Akiane just turned away.
"Akiane ate a tube of toothpaste," Delfini accused. "Her angel's teeth are so white, they sparkle. She thought that if she ate toothpaste, her teeth would also get whiter."
The next morning, after unscrewing almost the entire bookshelf to make an easel, Akiane woke me up at 4:00 a.m. by waving a drawing of a woman over my face. "Look! This is her-this is my angel," Akiane explained. "Her skin is so smooth, not one spot. She doesn't smile in my picture, because paper is not white enough to show how white her teeth are, and I wanted to show how she talks to me with her eyes. You see, where God takes me, He teaches me how to draw."
Our four-year-old daughter was most inspired by faces, and she would sit for hours drawing, erasing, and shading their features. For the next two years, the walls of our home were filled with sketches of her family, her acquaintances, and faces that she dreamed about. At this point she didn't work with colors; she asked only for lead pencils and charcoal.
Akiane seemed unusually patient and serious for one so young, totally dedicated to her work. Not a perfectionist in any other area of her life, this intensity of focus came as a surprise to us. She'd leave her room untidy or her hair uncombed, but her portraits always had to be absolutely perfect.
Her images were often very perceptive. Once, when Akiane sketched the portrait of a woman who seemed to be very happy, she depicted her subject with a very sad expression. Upon seeing the picture, the woman tearfully admitted that her happiness was a front, for she had just lost her only son. Another day she showed me a sketch of myself looking to the side. "You look away from me and my brothers! I want to be with you more ... You spend all your time in your office and have no time to play chess with me. We need each other. We need kisses."