The date is June 14th, 2014. As Shandiss McDonald is warming up for the dressage phase at the Nunney International Horse Trials in Somerset, England, her close friend Jorge Bernard interrupts her. “Jordan’s had a fall,” he says to her, “but, you got to go now”. He takes her top hat and tailcoat and she runs. Running across fields and over fences, McDonald laughs, thinking to herself how silly her husband is going to find this when she finally gets to him, out of breath and still in costume.
She gets closer, her husband’s face comes into view for just a split moment as he’s being carried into the helicopter. Once handsome and full of expression was now empty and blue. She collapses. The family sits together and privacy tarps are set up around them as they wait beside a helicopter that never leaves, for the paramedic’s explanation. “Jordan’s expired”, McDonald catches herself giggling at the British terminology as she doesn’t understand, “he didn’t make it”, she stops laughing.
High school sweethearts, then 29 and 30, had just been married for two years. A young wife, now a widow.
Jordan McDonald, a Canadian Eventer, knew the risks of the sport. “It’s one of the most dangerous sports in the world…they compare it to Formula 1”, McDonald says, “and we knew that”. The Canadian Olympian sits at her laptop and inhales deeply as she relives the hardest moments of her life. “I remember every detail” McDonald begins. Alfie, the horse Jordan had been riding that day, had caught his knees on the jump and somersaulted onto Jordan, crushing his larynx, lacerating his lungs and snapping his ribs. “Even if he was at a hospital when it happened, they couldn’t have repaired the damage”.
“I had some pretty messed up dreams”, McDonald explains, “I had a dream that he was okay and sitting in the truck next to me and I was like ‘oh my god you won’t believe what happened!’… it was so realistic,” she says, ‘I remember it so vividly still 6 years later.”
Barely processing her father’s passing to dementia just 4 months earlier, and now her husband, McDonald is persuaded by her mother to see a medium. Peggy Wewiora has been very spiritual her whole life and even though her daughter was very closed off to the idea, Peggy was able to just get her to try it. “I just randomly Googled ‘mediums in the area’ and this lady Mary-Anne Kennedy came up and I don’t know…I just called the number. It was a Saturday morning…like, what was I thinking”, Mary-Anne explains that she was out for the day and her earliest opening was several months away. Heading back to England just two days later, McDonald gives up. “We didn’t talk about any loss in particular or anything…and then she called me back an hour later.” After the call, Mary-Anne had a feeling that she had to meet with her, and they did the next day. “I always feel crazy talking about this kind of stuff” McDonald starts to fidget and laugh, “but it has to–I don’t know”. She shrugs and shakes her head. She mimics the way she sat in the first meeting with the medium, arms crossed and closed-off. “Right away she picked up on two male losses…but, I have a weird name so she could’ve looked stuff up…so I’m always kind of questioning”.
“But my god the stuff that she said”.
“Mary-Anne said to me ‘he’s singing a song’” still very closed off, McDonald thinks that’s ridiculous because she knows her husband, and he was not a singer. The medium explains that he’s singing the words ‘stay with me’ but, this song held no significance to McDonald.
Two weeks later, in a desperate attempt to hear her husband’s voice, McDonald searches through his phone for any kind of recording. She finds a recording of Jordan in his car, driving to see his wife at a horseshow just the weekend before that June day, singing Stay With Me by Sam Smith. “Of all the songs! I was just…blown away.” Today, McDonald has these lyrics tattooed on her wrist.
After this meeting, both McDonald’s and Jordan’s families would find signs everywhere they turn that Jordan was still with them. “Our remarkable journey of signs”, Cindy McDonald, Jordan’s mother explains, “that before losing our Jordan, had someone else gone through this horrific soul-stealing accident and told me they had experienced these signs, I would have thought ‘how lovely they have those thoughts and hopefully it helps and comforts them’, yet never really completely understanding that they are indeed inexplicable but so real…until they happened to me, to us.” Cindy’s most reoccurring sign is through dimes. “We have a coke bottle with the name Jordan on it where we put all the dimes we find and have over 300 dimes to date…a novel could be written filling the pages with each unique story behind the 300 plus dimes”. The stories she shares are far from coincidences and foster only one explanation.
“Interesting…” Cindy pauses in her email, “As I am sitting at our computer typing these stories, my cell phone beside me suddenly lit up and said ‘Instagram: spirit_medium_maryanne_kennedy added to their story after a long time’”.
In the 6 years since that June day, Jordan has stayed close by.
After the death of both her husband and son-in-law, Peggy now finds comfort in studying and practicing mediumship. “When you lose the ones you love these connections are comforting and can make us smile or cry but, we know they are with us”. Cindy adds, “Peggy was such a natural and true believer she was indeed the best person to get her daughter breathing and taking one baby step at a time as her walk with her grief unfolded”.
Living back in Ontario, the Olympian and her mother now own a beautiful 60-acre property in Mono named ‘McDonald Equestrian’. Recently, McDonald discovered her love for teaching Eventing, Dressage and Show Jumping and now has 26 horses at the barn but, the one that stays closest to her heart is Alfie. “It is a home and business filled with love, laughter, friends, memories, dogs, donkeys and of course all the horses”, Cindy says, “we are so close, filled with love, and will be family forever.”
“My daughter’s strength and resolve amaze me”, Peggy admits, “I believe that without the belief that our loved ones watch over is life with grief would be difficult…difficult to step forward”.
Whether through dimes, license plates, songs, flickering lights or unexplainable coincidences–that may not be coincidences at all–the family finds comfort in knowing that Jordan is not far away and can continue taking steps forward.