Life is but a Dream

Published in the Summer 2007 AA-EVP NewsJournal

Debbie Sheppard recalls that about three years ago, every now and then she would look at a clock, cable box, microwave, stove, cell phone … anything digital and see 11:11. Then the 1111 grew more frequent and daily. As the frequency progressed it changed from just digital equipment to out-of-the-home experiences. Because of all of the 1111 prompts, Debbie went for a reading with a medium at Cassadaga, a Spiritualist camp a short distance from where she lives. She was told that there was nothing to fear, that a man would come into her life and it would be a match from heaven. The number 1111 would be highly significant in their lives. Debbie wrote, “I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah. OK, that’s very generic.’

“As of the summer of 2005, I had been divorced for twenty-two years. I had a lot of dates, boyfriends and two long-term relationships but never any relationship that I wanted to commit to. In addition, I had a great corporate health care career and the boys were my focus. Two played football, my oldest with a National Honors Graduate scholarship with a full ride to the University of Alabama. I was busy. Men were fun but no one really captured my heart and I lived very, very much ‘in the world.’ I was successful and if it didn’t say Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Porsche or Corvette I couldn’t be bothered. If I was going to be taken out to dinner to Olive Garden, I wasn’t interested … take me to Europe and I’ll go. Yes, I was very much a spoiled Italian princess.

joe_stella_and_dog“In the summer of 2005…. an Italian friend of mine from Toronto told me about an Italian singles web site and that I should check it out. I really wasn’t interested, but the allure of only Italians captured me, so I went on to take a peek. Well, you actually had to have a profile posted to look. I placed a very tough personal ad on that web site. I think a lot of men were afraid to contact me … I justified my tough profile by knowing who I am, what I want and what type of men I blend best with and also I needed only the very strong to send me emails, as I have issues with my oldest son … who is ill…. Most men would not be interested in a relationship with a woman that has a twenty-seven year-old hanging around all the time. So, I knew that this Italian web site would just be for fun.

“A week or so after I joined, I received an email from ‘Tinman’ and he committed the first sin: NO PICTURE!!! ‘Tinman’ wrote that he was from Connecticut and moved to Florida a year ago and that he has been single for over thirty years and he was very clear on what his desires were for a woman in his life…. He wrote how much he related to what I had written about strong Italian ties, holiday traditions, family, etc. I wrote back and told him that I would not communicate with him in any way without a picture. He wrote back that he was new to computers, had just purchased a digital camera but didn’t know how to use it, and would I consider talking to him anyway. Well now I thought he was a complete moron and told him so in my reply email. He wrote back again and I HAD MY FINGER ON THE DELETE BUTTON. My hands started to sweat and I walked away from the computer. I replied to his email a day later and gave him my phone number. He called right away.”

Debbie told us that the two talked on the phone and then agreed to meet for lunch. Lunch lasted six hours and she was shocked that she even invited this total stranger, Joe Stella, to her house for coffee. She introduced him to Trooper, the boxer that she had rescued six months before. He told her that he had always wanted a dog and in particular a boxer but could not have one where he lived.

Joey took ownership of Trooper and for the first time in her life, Debbie was happy. As she told us, “Joey was everything opposite of every man that entered into my life for my entire adult life. Joey had none of what they had but Joey had EVERYTHING, everything that was important and everything that I loved. Joey didn’t have children and he took on my three grown sons as his own. The guys immediately formed relationships. Joey loved my parents and our friends all blended in well.

“One night as I was sleeping, I felt someone looking at me. I woke up and there was Joey, leaning up on his arm looking at me. He said, ‘I love you, I love Trooper, I love this, you are my love, I think we should get married. You sleep on it and give me your answer in the morning.’ He rolled over and started snoring. I sat up in bed in shock. ‘Sleep on it’? I was up most of the night. I couldn’t sleep.joe_stella_debbie

“We became engaged on 11-24-2006…. After Joey crossed over, as I was going through his desk, I found an email that he sent to the online dating site that was dated 11-14-2005. It said, ‘Please cancel my subscription effective 11-14-05, as I have found the love of my life.’”


Joey’s favorite song was Life is but a Dream and this was the theme of their wedding, which was to be a huge destination wedding for their family and friends. They wanted the wedding on a Saturday in mid-October to mid-November. The only Saturday available was November 11 (11-11).

In May, Joey went to help his mother move into a different senior complex in Connecticut. He decided to drive so that he would have a car to help with the move. Before going, he insisted on buying the wedding rings even though Debbie kept telling him there was no hurry, as the wedding was six months away. They chose matching bands, and the evening before he left, they took them out of the dresser and tried them on.

Joey and his friend left for Connecticut on Tuesday. Debbie told us, “We spoke through his ride and I could not sleep until I knew he was at his destination in Connecticut, which was twenty hours later. The guys did what they had to do on Wednesday after just having a few hours sleep. On Thursday, Joey’s friend went to see his family while Joey spent the day completing what had to be done for his mom and then went out to dinner with friends.

“I spoke to him Thursday evening and he was very tired. The guys planned to leave Connecticut the next day, but Joey never woke up from his night’s sleep. He was found dead!

“A knock came on the door to our home and it was the police. My Joey was not coming home to me. I screamed and screamed! I ran out into the middle of the street screaming. All of our neighbors ran to me and called my sons … how my boys cried. They jumped into their cars and came to me. My mother was screaming, ‘Why God? Take me; bring him back to her. I have cancer. Please let me die so Joe can live. Don’t do this to my daughter.’

“Guilt! I was overcome with guilt. Why didn’t I go with him? Why didn’t I insist that I go? He didn’t have to die. If I was in bed with him, I would have heard him in distress. I hated God. In my book I state, ‘you heartless God, why bring this precious gift to me and then take it away?’ I wrote, ‘I HATE sympathy cards, please do not send me any more mass cards. I hate God; do not tell me that God has a path for us and go to God to ask him to heal your heart. Go to God!!! Why he ripped my heart out.’ I was inconsolable. My parents are very old-fashioned Italians and my mother had saints and candles and rosary beads and I HATED everyone.

“I stayed in my house all summer long. I had chest pains and I cried every day…. I spent nights on the computer searching every web site I could find about religion, death and dying. On a web site from a church in Argentina, I learned of Father Francois Brune and his recordings of the dead. There was a link to a web site called (closed) …. I listened to this mother, who spoke like I did but stronger, talk to her son Joey. I listened and listened to all the kids, I saw the picture of Lenny Ingrassia…. I sat at the computer and cried. I thought, ‘you selfish woman. Here is a mother who lost her son. You don’t know what pain is.’

“I put listentothisforme into my favorites. The next day, my cousin from Staten Island, NY, my home town, called me to check on me. I told her about the web site and the horrible story of four teenage boys from the same high school who had all died. I said, ‘Doreen, they have to be New York kids because I can tell by the way the mother Debbie talks to her son.’ My cousin Doreen said, ‘Debbie that’s Joey Caruso and Lenny Ingrassia; it has to be. These boys are known all over Staten Island. They all died the same year’…. She started to cry at the coincidence of it because her daughter Jenna has a prayer group in her Catholic high school for all of the boys that died that year. We thought that it was amazing that through a web site in Argentina, I found a web site of a woman from Staten Island where I grew up and that my cousin knew the stories and heartache for all these boys.

“That evening, I was back on listentothisforme and found the link to the AA-EVP. And that night, I became a member of the AA-EVP. The next day I went to Wal-Mart and bought a cassette recorder. I followed the instructions about the prayer of protection. I lit my candle and had my picture of Joey with me. I recorded and recorded and heard nothing. I joined in on the Big Circle and recorded on Thursday nights. I received nothing. I studied the AA-EVP web site to learn techniques and I listened to everyone’s posts. I was starting to understand the words in between the scratchy sounds. But I recorded nothing.

“Feeling sad and left out, I sent an email to the administrators to ask for help…. I received an email back from the AA-EVP telling me about a woman in New York named Debbie that might be able to help. I immediately jumped at it and within a short time received an email and a phone call from Debra Ann. We connected immediately as we are both New Yorkers, both Italian and both of us had lost Joeys…. When I found out more about Debbie and her son through our phone conversation, I was screaming about listentothisforme and I told her that I had been listening to her and her son and others for over a month. When I told Debbie about my cousin and that her daughter Jenna holds a prayer group for the boys, Debbie was in shock.

“How is this all possible? Really, think about it. I stumble onto listentothisforme from a priest’s web site in Argentina and through listentothisforme I find the AA-EVP, and because I am not hearing, anything a woman, a total stranger who doesn’t know me and certainly doesn’t know that I am Italian from New York because my last name is an American name from my ex-husband … so why did this stranger lady connect me to Debra Ann, who is Debbie Caruso?

“Debbie and I … started recording for Joe Stella right away. We recorded over the phone and Debbie emailed the EVP to me. Debbie did not know the name of our dog. When I asked Joey to tell her, we received “Troopa.” The dog’s name is Trooper. Debbie and I recorded a lot as the time got closer to 11-11, my wedding date.

“Debbie is selfless and I can never repay her for what she did for me the day before and on my wedding day. Her daughter Alexa was in a dance competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey those two days and Debbie took the time from her busy schedule to record with me. That’s when Debbie asked, ‘who’s getting married Saturday?’ and we received, ‘Joe Stella.’ Debbie asked Joey, ‘What’s the name of your wedding song,’ and we received, ‘Our life would have been a dream.’ Ninety-nine percent of all the EVP from my Joey is validation EVP. It’s amazing!

Debbie Caruso has made her transition.

“I am no longer angry at God. Through the books written by the members of the AA-EVP, I now understand that our souls are on the physical plane for a predetermined period of time. I now understand that there is no death, there are no dead and that crossing over is just a transfer of spirit. I now understand that there is a heaven and that our loved ones are happy and peaceful. I now know that they are with us and want to communicate with us. I now know that, although we can’t see them (yet) or feel them (yet), we still have a connection to them.

“The AA-EVP has allowed me to find God again, to believe in heaven, to believe in life after death and to know—really, really know in my heart—that there is nothing to be afraid of when we take our last breath on this earth. Rather, expect the wonderful journey to a forever of happiness, family, friends and beauty. Whether or not I
record audible EVP, I will continue to work with EVP, to learn and to open a grieving heart to it.
“I know that, with all the brilliant minds combined with the passion of the AA-EVP members, we will be able to better communicate with our loved ones and help many, many broken hearts that will come into our paths in this life. To my AA-EVP family, thank you.” Debbie

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