A brief encounter… of the heavenly kind?

Last year, I had an encounter at the cemetery that has never left me.

There have been a number of occasions when I’ve visited Abi’s memorial where I have felt a presence near me; a bit like you might feel when you think someone is behind you, but when you turn around you realise you’re alone. It either makes you shiver a bit or you shrug it off as imagined. But to me, it always feels pleasant, warming. I never thought I’d say that about being alone in a cemetery!

This particular day, I’d visited Abi alone as usual during the morning. I didn’t feel chatty, I felt depressed as though I’d woken with a large grey cloud above me. I was on the verge of tears and confused.

When I feel like this I am drawn to go and visit Abi. It seems the only thing my mood wants me to do. But when I arrived, I found I didn’t want to spend much time with her. I was out of sorts, my mind fuzzy with grief. So I found myself going back to my car to head home again, but when I sat in my seat to leave, I felt that I wasn’t ready to go.

I sat slumped and immobile. I stared out of the windscreen. My emotions were low and numb. I could just see Abi’s memorial to the right from my position, see her white stone and bright flowers. The view is open there; I looked at the sky and could see the grey clouds blowing in from my left, threatening rain.

I began to think of how desperately I wanted to see her. I stared hard ahead. I wished the ghost of her would appear, to show me she was okay. I tried to visualise her there. I felt if I willed it enough, she might appear. I imagined her sat on the bench waving happily at me, but I knew it was a forced image, a mashup of memories. As I remembered her beautiful face, I burst into sobs at the futility of this wish.

I began to beat myself up with self-pity. I didn’t know how to cope, how I could carry on without her. I was her mother, I needed her as much as she had needed me. My family needed me… my dear, dear children whose mother was so miserable. My mind was a mess as I gave in to my tears and mental anguish.

But then the sun chinked through the clouds and shone directly on my face through the car windscreen. It blinded me momentarily and I closed my eyes to the warmth. I heard the words ‘She’s ok’ quite clearly in my mind. I stilled my sobbing when I realised this wasn’t my thought – it almost interrupted me. I had a sensation that someone was with me, trying to comfort me.

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I felt a flutter of excitement, I wanted to hear more, to be told again that she was okay, to know I’d not imagined it. But there was nothing. I began to cry again. Frustrated at myself for clinging to every word or sign. I felt so weak, so helpless to my grief. So I was more surprised when I heard the voice again, this time it said slowly; ‘You are strong. I made you strong,’ in an assertive yet comforting tone.

I knew then that what I was hearing was not my imagination.

I certainly didn’t feel strong at that point, my guard was well and truly down. I wasn’t trying to talk myself out of my despair. If anything, I needed to outpour. If you’ve ever faced a challenge, you may recall giving yourself a pep talk to spur yourself on. I’ve done it before a big race or when trying to run up a hill or push myself that bit further, for example. I used hypnobirthing with both my last births, so I’ve a good idea of using ‘mind over matter’. I know the strength of my inner voice. But when you feel such utter grief and despair, like your insides are being ripped out, like your very strength has been taken from you, it’s simply not possible to talk yourself out of it. You can only sort of ‘grow out’ of the mood over a period of time.

My tears now dried by the sun, my mind was clearer suddenly and I felt I didn’t have to do any more than trust the voice. I felt it would be ok; I believed she was ok. I was able to drive home and carried on my day, the grey cloud over me had lifted.

I’ve often remembered this encounter and wondered who it was. At the time I had no doubt it was God, no doubt at all. The voice felt like a father talking to his child. But, with the passing of time, I’ve doubted that it was even real. It can’t be Him! Can it? … but then the voice said ‘I made you’… why would I say that to myself? And if it was Him, why didn’t He say something more profound, biblical or poetic even? But God is real and he spoke to me in a real way.

I wrote this down as soon as I got home as I knew that in time I wouldn’t believe it had happened, and reading back it seems somewhat unreal and almost embarrassing (this silly woman thinking she’s hearing divine voices, her mind has been addled by her grief, poor thing). Yet I know it was something important and I don’t feel an urge to analyse it in great detail or try to explain it away. I’m not sharing this to get answers but to perhaps offer comfort.

I feel I know it was God who spoke to me. People who have had experiences like this often find it hard to describe, they just know. And I have this knowing too. On reflection, I feel privileged that He should do this so clearly, I know it is rare and many people wait all their lives for such an experience.

Despite the comfort I felt from this encounter, it’s not changed my moments of deep mourning for Abi. My grief is still like a seeping wound, but when the wound decides to open up fully, I try to remember this encounter. To remember that I am a strong person in mind and body, that I need to live my life going forward with grief not fumbling around in a circle of despair, that Abi is waiting for me and is being looked after, and, crucially, that I’m being looked after too.

Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(Isaiah 41:10)

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12 thoughts on “A brief encounter… of the heavenly kind?

  1. I have had a couple of similar experiences and my father had one shortly after he had had a lung removed from Cancer. He said he knew with absolute certainty that he would be all right and went on to live another forty years to the age of 82.
    One of my favourite films is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire; I find it comforting to think that you can be touched gently by an angel just when you need it most.

  2. Absolutely without a doubt, He was speaking to you. When we are weak, He gives us strength. Amazing what we can hear when we are in such a vulnerable state. Beautiful story…

  3. 17 years tomorrow my daughter was born, I had been on a CTG to monitor to keep an eye on her during my labour, I heard her heart beat get slower and slower until I could no longer hear it, I pushed like mad until she was born and for the first time I prayed that she would live, and on that day I heard a voice tell me she is okay, she is here with you, I calmed down, my husband was in tears, I then told him she’s okay, he looked at me as no crying was to be heard and he said I’m so sorry she’s gone, I said again to him no she’s okay god told me. Everyone said it was the pethidine but I know what I heard. Thank you for sharing, apart from my daughter I’ve never told anyone of my moment.

    • Thank YOU for sharing your experience! I feel emotional but also comforted to read that you had such a clear encounter. I believe He talks to those who are ready to listen, regardless of their faith or interest in religion. I’ve heard many similar stories since I posted this. It’s reinforced my belief and confirmed that it was real. Xxx

  4. Two weeks after Gift died I was home alone. The stereo wouldnt work and our computers were still not home. I began to sing. Then the words left me and I began to pray. I told God about how I failed. The one job I have as a mother is to be there when my child needs me and I wasnt there for him. I wasnt there to comfort him. He died alone. I sobbed this out to my God. I heard Jesus as clear as day say to me: ‘I was there with him.’

    It still brings tears to my eyes to know that my boy wasnt alone when he died, and that I am loved enough to be told when I needed to hear it.

    • How comforting to know that He was there. I’ve heard many similar stories since I posted this and have found further comfort myself knowing I’m not alone. Xxx

  5. What a beautiful and moving story. I’m not a Christian (I believe the word for me is agnostic), but you have me completely convinced that was God talking to you. You needed God to be there for you at that time and He was. x

    • Thank you Sarah. I’ve been sent a number of similar stories, from believers and non-believers. Those who don’t believe are equally certain of what they heard or saw, they just don’t attribute it to God. But yet their stories have confirmed to me even more that mine was real, so sharing has been a huge benefit. X

  6. I don’t know why but I’ve been reading through your blog (I’m only 22 and haven’t yet experienced a major loss of someone I love) but every post deeply touches and moves me. You have an amazing talent of putting the worst pain a mother or fahter can go through into words and even though I don’t really believe in God, for some reason I have been praying for your beautiful deceased daughter.

    I’ve never met her, I live in another country, but yet I can’t help but stare at the pictures you post of her here and feel deepl saddened and in disbelief about what has happened to this young, pretty girl who was on the verge of becoming a young woman. I can not even begin to imagine the your grief, but that’s why it amazes me so much to see you carrying on, being a mother to your children, a wife to your husband, a friend, a strong woman, and yet manage to keep your daughter’s memory alive and close to you.

    This story touched me in particular because I’ve heard a very similar story from my mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2007, a very aggressive kind of cancer and doctors told her they weren’t sure she’d make it. I was 14 at the time, my sister was 18, so we were both at that age where you still really need your mum around you. My mother went through so much pain and suffering after her diagnosis, but the worst of all (according to her) was the incredible fear of having to leave us alone, the thought of us not having her here when we needed her was unbearable for her. So one day, after a particulary bad chemo-session, she went for a prayer in a nearby church. She lit a candle and prayed to God, asking him to give her strength, to not take her away from her children until they were ready to let her go and able to move on without her. When she drove home, a very similar thing happened to her as it did to you, it had been raining all day as suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and she heard a voice telling her “it will be okay, you will be okay and so will your children”. That night, she had a dream in which she actually spoke to god and he assured her she would not be stolen away from us before we were ready and her time had come.

    After that, she seemed so much calmer, there was no doubt left in her mind that she’d have to leave us too soon. She is now 57, the chemo, radiation treatment and hormone treatment have obviously left their traces on her mind and body, but she is with us and that’s more than we ever could have asked for back in 2007.

    So, even though I myself haven’t quite found my way to faith (yet?), I completel believe that what you heard was God, assuring you that your daughter was with him and waiting for you.

    (excuse my english please, I am not a native english speaker).

    • Hi Sara, I just wanted to thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing your mum’s story with me. I found it fascinating and I hope you don’t mind but I shared it on my Facebook page too. Thank you for reading my blog xxx

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