In 1982 my brother was diagnosed with cancer. Stephen had been suffering leg and back pain for months, but X-rays, physio and pain killing drugs had provided neither answers nor relief. He was sent for CT scans. Then for exploratory surgery. A tumour was found in his thigh and he almost lost his leg on the operating table, but on further investigation the surgeon found the cancer had spread to my brother’s pelvis and spine. He was stitched up and the family was told the incomprehensible prognosis that he had just months to live.
When I heard the news I was numb. How could my big brother be dying, for heaven’s sake? He was only 28 years old. Married, with two young children. My mind whirled with disbelief. At home I wandered aimlessly around trying to make sense of it.
And a very strange thing happened. I had a vision. It was not a dream, nor was it like a dream. It was like having a short film projected directly into my mind. I couldn’t stop it. I had to stand still and let it run.
I was at a crematorium. Bewildered and horrified that I was seeing a vision of my brother’s funeral – making the awful prognosis true – I looked around to see who else was there. I saw my mum and dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins – this was indeed a family funeral. Surely it had to be Stephen’s?
But wait, there was more…
I glanced over my shoulder and there was my brother! My gaze swung back to the flower-bedecked coffin. Who did it contain? Frantically, I scanned the faces in the room to identify who was missing, but the vision dissipated and I was none the wiser. What I was certain of though, was that I would be attending a family funeral soon, and it wouldn’t be Stephen’s. I was left dizzy and shaken by such a powerful revelation, but I spoke of it to no-one.
Stephen embarked on a rigorous course of radiotherapy and chemo, some of it experimental as his particular cancer was rare, particularly in adults. He wasn’t willing to accept his prognosis without a fight. He had indelible black marks drawn on his skin, crosses and arrows as targets for the radiotherapy. The chemo was dreadful, making him so sick and very quickly stripping him of his thick, curly hair. He lost weight and vitality. He told me that he’d been complaining to a nurse at the hospital about how awful he was feeling, but then had been humbled by walking through the children’s cancer ward. After that he endured it all and I never heard him complain again, except to say he didn’t know which would take him first, the disease or the treatment.
During this time my maternal grandmother, a life-long smoker, died from lung cancer. How it must have hurt my mum to go through that, knowing at the same time that her son was dying.
Another blow to the family came when my other grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Now both my parents were going through the same heartache, but having divorced six years earlier, they could not comfort each other.
I felt helpless. Simply helpless.
Gran passed away in April 1983, and her funeral service was held at the crematorium. My brother was seated behind me, and I realised with a jolt that everything was just as it had been in my vision two years earlier.
Why had I been given that vision? Was it designed to teach me something? Would I experience such a thing again?
My life was about to undergo a profound change.
Next Episode: can a newly-built house be haunted?
J Merrill Forrest is the author of two novels, Flight of the Kingfisher and The Waiting Gate and a collection of poetry, Natural Alchemy. All are available from the usual sources, including Amazon, in paperback or e-book formats.