Writing Matters #5: communication with the dead

Last week I watched a Netflix documentary called ‘Surviving Death’, covering subjects that are extremely hard to believe unless they are experienced first-hand. There were five episodes: Near Death Experience (NDE); Mediumship; Signs From The Dead; Seeing Dead People; Reincarnation. It’s well worth seeing, because they illustrate reasons for belief and scepticism for each subject. I found every episode fascinating, especially as I’ve drawn on elements from all the subjects bar reincarnation in my novels ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’ and ‘Walk in the Afterlight’. The hero of my books, Alex Kelburn, is a psychic medium who sees and hears dead people, and he has a Near Death Experience in ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’. I haven’t had a NDE, but I have had signs and I’ve seen and heard some people who have passed over.

For instance, I have heard the voices of my late brother and father. In each case it was very brief, but the few words were deeply meaningful. My brother, who passed in 1984, often communicated with me through mediums – in fact it was Stephen that started me on my quest for information and evidence of the afterlife – but he spoke to me directly just once, and that was about eight or nine years after his death. He said, “I have to go now, sis, but you will know me when you see me again.” I had no idea what that meant, but wondered if he was going to reincarnate, something I didn’t and still don’t understand. Whatever it was, I had no communication from him for many years after that, but then, not long after my father passed, he came back through a medium friend. Even before she’d spoken his name I had known he was there, so it was just as he’d said: he wouldn’t be around for quite a while, but I would recognise him once he returned. I never thought to ask what he’d been doing in the intervening years.

When my father died not long after Stephen’s reappearance, I assumed he had returned to help Dad cross over. (I was later to find out I was wrong about this, but that’s another story!)

Dad passed when his life support was switched off following a catastrophic heart attack. The decision had been mine, as his next of kin, and although most of my heart knew it was what he had wanted me to do, there was a small part that still wondered if I had done the right thing. Only thinking that he and my brother were together again gave me some cheer (I was later to find out this wasn’t true, but that’s another story). Not long after his funeral I was out walking in the fields with my dog, my thoughts churning about his death and desperately wanting to know if he was OK. Then I heard his voice. A man of very few words, I almost laughed out loud that he could impart such an important message to me in just one short statement: “I’m OK, kid”.

So that was hearing dead people. What about seeing them as well?

When I was a very small child I used to see and hear an elderly gentlemen. I only ever saw his head and shoulders, which seemed very high above me as I lay in my cot. He was bearded, had a sparse covering of hair on his head, and he spoke with a deep voice with a distinctive timbre. If I ever knew his name I’ve forgotten it, nor can I remember what he said, but I’m sure I’d recognise that voice if I heard it today, some sixty years later!

I was at a mediumship demonstration in a town about ten miles away from my home. I went alone and, not recognising anyone else in the audience, I took a seat at the front. Within a few minutes two women, who looked like sisters, took the chairs to my right, and the rest of the row soon filled up with excited and expectant people. As you do in these circumstances, we smiled at each other, but there was no time for introductions or chit-chat as the medium came onto the stage as soon as everyone had settled.

From the reactions of those to whom she gave readings she seemed to be doing very well with her accuracy and evidence. She was entertaining too, managing to keep the atmosphere light and happy even when people cried when they got messages. During the interval we all gathered at the back of the hall for some refreshments and I spotted someone I knew. She said she had a spare seat next to her near the back, but as I’d left my coat on the chair at the front and we were being asked to sit down again so the medium could continue, I said I would go back there.

When the medium came to the end of her demonstration she invited questions from the audience. There were many! As I’ve researched mediumship for a few decades I was content to listen, but then I became distracted by a little girl to my left. She was softly humming a tune, skipping and dancing in in front of the two women sitting next to me. She was about eight years old. Her blond hair was long and braided into plaits. She wore a pretty blue dress with ribbons on the sleeves and black patent shoes, the kind of outfit a girl of her age would wear to a party. Because she was in front of the two woman nearest me I assumed that one of them was her mother, and as I hadn’t seen her until then, I thought she had probably been brought along by her dad to collect her mum at the end of the evening.

But something about this little girl didn’t seem right to me. If I looked at her head-on she seemed to fade a little, it was only by looking at her through the corner of my eye that I could make out the detail of what she looked like. I went hot and cold. I felt my skin tighten and tingle. And I knew, I can’t explain how or why, but I absolutely knew that neither the two women nor anyone else in the hall were even aware of her.

I put my hand up to attract the attention of the medium, and when she came to me I nervously said, “I want to tell you that there’s a fair-haired little girl in a party dress dancing around just to my right here. I’m not a medium, but I think perhaps she has a message for one of these two women?”

The woman furthest from me from gasped as the medium turned her gaze to where I was indicating and confirmed that she could see the girl too. The hall went absolutely silent as medium and child had a short conversation that no-one else could hear, then the medium said the little girl’s name and gave many details, including her age, how and when she’d died, that she was wearing her party dress because her birthday had been just two days before. By now the woman was crying, both with sadness and with joy, because this was her daughter and all the details given by the medium were correct. The little girl had come that evening to let her mum know that she was happy, she didn’t feel ill any more and she was being taken care of. It clearly gave the mother great relief, which is what these messages are all about.

I was stunned by the whole event, and it wasn’t until I was back home that I realised how fortunate (or fated) it was that I did not change seats, otherwise that lovely reunion of mother and daughter might not have happened.

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