When my eldest daughter was twelve, one of her school friends developed leukemia, and after two years of hospitals and chemo, pills and steroids, she finally died. As you can imagine, it was a devastating experience, not only for her family of course, but her friends and classmates, their parents, and everyone in the community who knew the family.
Kelly was a beautifully, bright and talented artist and when she stayed at respite care in Bear Cottage in Manly, she drew illustrations for poems, which were published in a book and sold to raise funds for the hospice.
Her mother was a friend of mine, and a couple of weeks after the funeral, I drove to her house, to see how she was going, and also to buy the book that Kelly had illustrated. Her mother and grandmother were there and we had a cup of tea and chatted. I don’t know what we said, but I remember her showing me her bedroom, and I can vividly recall the teddy bears propped up against the pillows on her bed, and the machine next to it, to help her to breathe.
In due course, I purchased the book and we hugged and said our goodbyes. Feeling emotionally drained, I climbed into the front seat of my car and was just about to start the ignition when I heard a clear voice in my head saying THANK YOU.
Right away I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that it was Kelly who had whispered her gratitude in my ear. Immediately, I felt a wave of joy and happiness flow through my body and heart, and as I drove home, feeling so euphoric, I was conscious of what a wonderful gift I had been given. For Kelly to reach out to me, wherever she was, was such a privilege!
All day as I went about my activities, I felt a sense of someone there. Not a ghost, or a haunting, but a lovely light that wafted in and around me. It felt beautiful and uplifting, and from then on, I knew without a doubt that when we die and leave this Earth, we aren’t gone.
When my three children came home from school, I sat them down on the sofa and in as gentle a way as possible, explained what had happened to me after going to Kelly’s home. It was such a positive and validating experience about life after death, that I felt I had to share it with them. They took it all in their stride and asked so many questions. Where is Kelly now? What is she doing? Is Grandma there with her?
I explained it as best as I could, as most parents want to do, when trying to talk about something that could be in the too hard basket. I’ve always felt that it was better to discuss those potentially difficult subjects that can arise, and deal with them at the time, rather than wait until the children are older. Often, that opportune moment never comes, and so many experiences, whether good or bad, are never shared.
The death of a sibling or parent, grandparent or even a pet, can be a sorrowful experience, but I like to think that by talking to my children about Kelly, they are better prepared to accept that death is inevitable but not final. They will know that life goes on, and take comfort in the fact that perhaps that beloved grandparent or pet is going to meet up with them again one day.
I feel so blessed that Kelly whispered in my ear that day.
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