Update on 1/19/19: My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream. Chris Brethwaite and I have also completed the screenplay to accompany my book.
I am pleased to feature another guest post. Chris Brethwaite’s beautiful story about a loved one’s communication from the other side of the veil is remarkable for several reasons. Please enjoy! I would love to hear your comments about after-death communications with loved ones.
There is a flip side to NDEs, ADC – After Death Communication. Rather than a percipient visiting the other side, someone on the other side makes their presence known to the percipient. This can occur in a number of ways – lucid dreams, symbolically (e.g. a rainbow arching over the cemetery on the day of their funeral), synchronicity (e.g. a meaningful coincidence at a meaningful time), sensing the deceased person’s presence, smelling an associated fragrance like perfume or aftershave, hearing their voice, being touched or held by an unseen presence, or seeing them in either a ghostly or solid form.
My first ADC experience took place during my senior year in high school. I had come home late one night from my job at a local pizza parlor, and had gotten a bowl of cereal. After I finished eating, I just sat at the table, unwinding from a long day of school and work. When all of a sudden, I saw and heard the cereal bowl move about four or five inches across the table. I was stunned. I had never witnessed anything like that.
I knew the bowl hadn’t slid across the table on a layer of condensation. We lived in Phoenix, and there was no condensation because of our extremely low humidity. Additionally, the table had a crinkle-like finish, and I actually heard the bowl scrape across the table surface. Not knowing what to make of the experience, I simply went to bed.
Several days later, I mentioned it to my dad. He had something quite interesting to add. A friend of his had recently dropped dead at work from a massive heart attack. One night, and quite possibly the same night I saw the moving cereal bowl, my dad saw his friend’s apparition standing in his bedroom doorway. I remember my dad telling me that the hallway light had been on, and that there was no mistaking who it was. Consequently, I believe it was this man’s soul who moved my cereal bowl. He wanted to make his presence known to me, and chose a simple, non-threatening way to do so.
About three years later my dad passed away from diabetes. About a month after his passing, my sister Maryanne awoke one morning at her apartment to find him standing at the foot of her bed, looking at her. He was only there for a moment, but long enough for her to be freaked out by it. It unsettled her enough that she slept with the lights on for the next couple of nights.
Fast forward to the fall of 2006. I was now living in Kansas City, and working as a humor writer for Hallmark Cards. One night I got a call from my mom telling me that she had gone to Urgent Care, and that they had diagnosed her with some kind of respiratory infection. Unfortunately, after a week or so, she wasn’t any better. So I flew to Phoenix to check on her situation in person.
Two days after I got there, I accompanied her to the pulmonologist’s office. He put her x-rays on the lightbox, and I was shocked to see all these white masses scattered throughout her lungs. The doctor said they could be benign and didn’t seem overly concerned. Her next step was to get a needle biopsy done at a hospital.
I forget all the details, but it wound up being a huge hassle getting the hospital to release the results of her biopsy to me. In any event, I’ll never forget sitting in the hospital parking lot and reading the lab report saying she had stage 4 lung cancer. This seemed unbelievable to me because my mom never smoked a day in her life.
I drove home, walked in her room, and sat on her bed. I then held her hand, and broke the heartbreaking news to her. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.
About a week later, my sister-in-law, Rena, and I took her to see an oncologist. The three of us waited in an exam room for what seemed to be an eternity while he looked over her medical records. Finally, he came in the room. He said he was sorry, but that my mom’s cancer was too wide spread to be surgically removed or treated with radiation. He added that even the most aggressive chemo would only extend her life a couple months. He said if she chose to do nothing, she’d have about three weeks to live. Rena and I both comforted her. It was not the news we were expecting to hear.
My sister immediately took leave from her job in Denver and flew home. A couple days after she arrived, I flew back to KC to take care of some personal business. While I was home, I picked out a song to play at her funeral. It was “O-h-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps. It had been a Top Ten hit in the summer of 1970. I picked that song because the lyrics made me thinks of NDEs, particularly the line, “Some day, yeah, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun. Some day, yeah, the world will be brighter.”
We had some odd things happen in the final weeks of my mom’s life. One night I was sitting with her watching her sleep, when I heard her closet door shut. I looked over my shoulder, and saw that it was open. I got up and checked inside, but nothing seemed amiss. Another time, I had just laid down on my bed when I heard the brass bell my mom would ring when she needed something. I was in her room no more than three seconds later, only to find her on the opposite side of the bed from the nightstand where the bell sat. It was obvious she hadn’t rung it. I don’t even think she was awake.
One night my sister was in the living room watching TV when she saw a pen on the coffee table roll 360 degrees for no apparent reason. She hadn’t jarred the table or anything. We pretty much shrugged off these events because we were physically and emotionally drained.
When my mom needed more care than us kids could provide, we admitted her to a hospice. One morning, about two days before she passed, while I was sitting with her, she seemed to see something or someone to my immediate right. There was nothing there but a blank wall. I asked her what she was looking at, but she was no longer able to speak. She had a look on her face of shock and surprise, as though she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. My personal opinion is she had a death bed vision. I’m assuming she saw my dad, or her parents, or an angel standing next to me. I was happy for her, and found the experience interesting, if not a little bit spooky.
My mom passed away at 1:47 a.m. on the morning of December 6, 2006. She was surrounded by those who loved her the most – me, my sister Maryanne, my brother Terry, and his wife Rena. After the nurse declared her officially deceased. We quietly gathered her possessions and left.
The next afternoon Maryanne and I had to go to the funeral home to finalize the arrangements, and to give them the CD of “O-h-h Child”. When I started the car, “O-h-h Child” was playing on the radio. My sister and I couldn’t believe it. I realize this could be nothing more than a coincidence. However, future events would cast serious doubt on that as an explanation. In any event, what would come in the months ahead would defy all rationality.
My mom had been a devout Catholic, and if you asked us kids, a very loving and saintly person. She had spent her whole life sacrificing for others. In the months leading up to her death, she had struck up a special friendship with Father Ben, a priest from her parish whose job was to minister to the sick and dying. My mom would frequently tell me that if Father Ben stopped by and she was sleeping, to wake her up. I assured her that I would. When she passed, it was Father Ben who celebrated her funeral mass.
Probably my mom’s one and only hobby was collecting small clocks. They were displayed proudly on a decorative shelf in her living room. I had one clock at my house that was similar to the kind she collected. In fact, I’m reasonably certain she gave it to me. On the one month anniversary of her passing, I noticed that it had stopped working. I figured it just needed a new battery. A couple days later I got around to replacing it. When I went to set the correct time, I realized that it had stopped at the time of her death, 1:47.
For Easter of ’07, my sister and I sent Father Ben a check to help with his ministry to the terminally ill. We knew this was something our mom would have wanted. Shortly afterwards, I received a Thank You card from him. The next day I went out to my garage to put a new license plate frame on her car, which I had driven back from Phoenix. The moment I set foot in the garage, I smelled votive candles, like you’d smell in a Catholic church. There was nothing in my garage that would smell even remotely close to candles.
Days later I was sitting on my couch reading a book about NDEs and ADC when I suddenly smelled votive candles again. I called my sister to tell her about the experience, and learned that she, too, had smelled votive candles. On the day I received the Thank You card from Father Ben, she had come home from a business trip to Houston, and had smelled them the moment she walked in the door. The smell was strong enough that she asked her then significant other if he had been burning candles for any reason, he said no.
Around the end of June, I experienced the votive candle smell again. I had a potential buyer coming over to look at her car and was busy straightening up the living room, when I suddenly walked into a “solid wall” of candle smell. It was overwhelming. I stopped dead in my tracks and stood there for a good thirty seconds inhaling the scent. Interestingly, this wall of smell was directly in front of my entertainment center, on which sits, the one cherished item I have from my mom – A Kachina doll in a glass case that she received when she retired as a nurse from St. Luke’s Hospital.
Things remained quiet until the morning of November 8th, when my sister called me at work. She told me that while she was getting ready for work, she had opened a compartment on her dresser to take out a piece of jewelry our mom had given her, and had suddenly smelled mom’s perfume. At that precise moment, the TV in her bedroom went gray. She knew she hadn’t lost cable reception because she could still hear the downstairs TV.
She went on to say she had nothing of mom’s that would smell of perfume, and added that it wasn’t even a recent scent, but rather, something our mom would have worn back in the ‘80s or ‘90s. Also, neither one of us could think of any significance to the date. Not that there necessarily had to be one.
That night I called my brother Terry in Phoenix and told him about Maryanne smelling mom’s perfume. I mentioned that we couldn’t think of any significance to the date. He quickly interjected, “I can.” He went on to tell me that he and Rena had gone to court that day to gain legal guardianship of our brother Mark who has severe Down syndrome, and that the guardianship was granted. It was the last piece of unfinished business from our mom’s passing.
This may or may not have a connection to my mom. Everyone can decide for themselves. About a year and a half before she became ill, I bought her a nearly new 2003 Oldsmobile Alero. She was so appreciative that she started crying on the showroom floor. I remember saying to her, “Mom, please don’t cry at the Pontiac dealership.” On a beautiful Saturday morning in November of ’08, I was sitting at my computer, and just for fun, was perusing the used cars on my Ford dealership’s web site. To my amazement, they had a nearly new Mustang for sale at 40% off the sticker price! I couldn’t believe it! It had only been driven for six months and had 6500 miles on it.
It was a beautiful candy apple red, and everything about the car was as if I had ordered it from the factory myself. I couldn’t get down to the dealership fast enough. I drove it around the block and bought it on the spot. My salesman told me I got the deal of the day. They even had to call a guy in Dallas who was getting ready to fly up to look at it, and tell him it was sold. I couldn’t help but think that my mom just paid me back for getting her the Alero.
On December 6th of 2016, the tenth anniversary of her passing, I had to run some errands. Plugged into the stereo of my Ford Escape is an iPod loaded with 647 songs. The first song that played? You guessed it. “O-h-h Child”.
Author’s Bio: Chris Brethwaite is a cum laude graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Additionally, he holds a Master’s degree in liberal arts from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. He is a long time IANDS volunteer, and former chapter head. He is currently working on a book titled, “A Paranormal Life”. He can be reached at ChrisBre@aol.com.