I am often asked what inspires me to write about life after death as if it’s real. To me, it IS real! I was a sceptic until my brother died, but he soon showed his determination to prove to me that he was still around. It was he who told me to research the subject, knowing that my natural curiosity would lead me to do so, and I set out to get information and – most importantly – evidence. This I found by meeting psychic mediums who knew nothing about me yet could tell me so many things about my family and my life, as well as give me specific messages from my loved ones who have crossed over. I learned to keep a poker face and give nothing away, yet I could not dispute what they were telling me. I was even challenged by one medium to research a family member I knew nothing about, and when I did so, everything he’d told me turned out to be accurate. When my dad died I soon started getting messages from him, too. One day I will write about all this in detail, but for now I’ll tell you a little about my brother and my dad, my true inspirations, who are in spirit but still very much with me.
- My brother, Stephen
- My father, Tom
- The voluntary role that inspired The Waiting Gate
My Brother, Stephen
The death of my brother Stephen, from cancer, in 1984 changed my world. He was 30 years old, married, with two young children. I had grieved when my grandparents died, but this was different. This was out of the correct order of things. I had believed that death was the end, but then strange things started to happen in my house. I mentioned it at work and a colleague told me that her mother was a medium and arranged for me to talk to her. After meeting her and discovering that it was Stephen’s way of getting my attention, he came back again and again and told me I had to research afterlife matters. This I did, and though I still miss and grieve for him all these years later, the world did become bright again. You can read a short version of these events in the ‘Articles’ section, in an interview given to the Daily Mail and Spirit & Destiny Magazine. You might notice that Stephen’s face is used on the cover of ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’.
My father, Tom
My dad found each anniversary of my brother’s death very hard, even as five, ten, twenty years passed. He never said much, though. He was a very private man and his way was a quiet way. When he had a serious heart attack in 2006, almost to the day of Stephen’s passing, he was so ill he had to be placed on life support. When it became apparent there was no chance of recovery and I, as next of kin, had a very hard judgement call to make – the hardest and most heartbreaking of my life so far – my beliefs and the knowledge and experiences I’d had over the previous years helped me to make the decision to turn off the machines. Believe me, I did not take it lightly. I have never known anguish like I felt that day. But Dad stopped breathing immediately which, the wonderful ICU nurse told me, was a sign that he had died even before life support was withdrawn. My grief was deep, but there were things to be done, and there was no choice but to get on with them. One day, while out walking in the Wiltshire fields with my dog, I heard my dad’s voice very clearly, which stunned me to a standstill. He said, “I’m alright, kid.” So Dad! He always said what he wanted to say in the fewest words possible. About a year later he started coming through via mediums to thank me and to tell me that the afterlife has come as a revelation to him and it’s beyond amazing!
Following the death of my father in 2006 I kept seeing red butterflies in the strangest of places with unusual behaviours, so the butterfly has become, for me, the symbol of continuance.
When I was out walking the dog a butterfly would land on the ground in front of me, making me stop, and then it would flutter away and land again a few feet ahead of me, all the way to the end of the path. This happened more times than I can count, and each time thoughts of Dad would come into my mind and so I came to connect the appearance of these butterflies as messages from him, telling me that he was with me. There are three particular butterfly events I’d like to tell you about, one in France, one in Greece, and one after my pet dog, Darcy, died.
France: My dad had a car that was very special to him, a red Mercedes SL420, that he loved with a passion. He’d always wanted to take it to France for a driving holiday, but it was something he never got to do. When I inherited the car, my husband suggested we take that trip in Dad’s name, and so we did. When we arrived at our first hotel, a beautiful château with a sweeping gravel drive, I parked and when I got out of the car a large butterfly had settled on the roof. I took it to mean that Dad was pleased we were making the trip in his car in his name!
Greece: My husband, George, is Greek and we have a home in Greece which Dad visited often and really loved. While most of us liked to sit at the front with the sea view, he preferred to sit on a rough patch at the back with the mountain view, where it got far too hot for the rest of us. Eventually George and I cleared and the area and laid a small patio, and I remember excitedly telling Dad that we’d created ‘Tom’s Terrace’ just for him, but sadly he was never to see it. I had a little cry the first time George and I sat there, and as we reminisced about Dad a large butterfly came and landed on George’s shoulder. George couldn’t see it, but I whispered that it was there, and then it flew squarely onto George’s chest, where it remained for some time. Through more tears and laughter we knew that Dad had sent the butterfly to tell us that he loved ‘his’ terrace.
Darcy: Darcy was a rescue dog, a Collie/German Shepherd crossbreed. We had him for 12 years, but in old age he got cancer and we had to have him put to sleep. In his last days I kept begging Dad, who loved dogs and had particularly adored Darcy, to look after him and to send a sign that they were together. Two days after Darcy died I walked into the next village, which is about a mile across the fields where I used to walk him nearly every day until he didn’t want long outings any more. It was heartbreaking not having him trotting ahead of me, nose to the ground. As I neared my destination, a butterfly flew up out of the grass verge right across my face and landed on a fencepost to my right. It was golden-brown and one of its wings was damaged, so I wasn’t sure if it was the sign from Dad that I was looking for. About an hour after arriving back home, I was sitting in the garden having a cup of coffee, and a butterfly came and landed in front of me. A golden-brown butterfly with a damaged wing – the same one that I had seen almost a mile away on my walk! It kept rising and settling on a petal that had fallen from a rose bush we call ‘the Daddy Rose’ as it was planted in my dad’s memory. I ran for my camera, praying it wouldn’t fly away. When I got back, it was no longer on the petal, but it did land again for just long enough for me to take a photo. It’s not a good image, but you can clearly see the damaged wing. I’d received my sign from Dad that Darcy is with him.
The Voluntary Role that Inspired the Waiting Gate
Rainstones House in the novel is a fictional place where one wing is a hospice and the other a residential dementia care home. The hospice scenes in the story are from my experiences of being a volunteer at a local hospice a few years ago. I occasionally assisted in the Day Patient Unit, but my main role entailed visiting a patient with a life-limiting illness at their own home. I was assigned to a delightful elderly lady, many years a widow, whose life expectancy was about one year due to cancer. When I started visiting her she was a lively person, who liked to be smartly turned out and who was happy to tell me about her life and enjoyed our conversations and debates on all sorts of topics. Of course she was frail and the physical changes in her over the months I visited were all too apparent, but then I noticed mental changes too. These were so rapid it seemed that one week she was the lady who looked forward to my visits and the next she seemed not to know me at all. She kept asking who I was and if she owed me money. I knew to answer her questions each time as if it was the first time she’d asked me, and she seemed to accept it for a few minutes before asking me again. All too soon she was bed bound and the lady I had known had disappeared. I found myself wondering: ‘where has she gone’? I was not sad when she died, for she had told me early on in our acquaintance that she knew she would be joining her husband, and she was looking forward to dancing with him again.
I never forgot her and as the idea for The Waiting Gate began to take shape in my mind, I knew that my experience with her was the trigger-point. Through extensive research I learned of some intriguing and wonderful theories about what might happen to us when the mind no longer functions but the body goes on living.