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My Aunty died last night.  She was 91 so it wasn’t a great shock but very sad.  Aunty Joan was Mum’s oldest sister.  She had been on my mind all day.  Yesterday I decided to write a short little book with my recollections of Gargie and her 9 children.  I sat down yesterday afternoon and starting typing.  I started with Aunty Joan as she was the eldest.  I wrote for a while and by evening I suddenly stopped, totally exhausted.  Actually, exhausted doesn’t begin to describe it.  I was completely drained.  I read back over what I had written, only to discover I had written it all in the past tense.. I went back and changed all the past tense to present tense as she was still alive.  I then took my depleted self off to the couch to watch some television.  Writing usually invigorates me, last night it totally stripped me of all energy.

This morning I was woken with a phone call telling me Aunty Joan had passed away last night.  I realised why I was so tired last night.. She had been sitting with me while I wrote, watching over my shoulder.  I’m sure she was beside me when I was writing in the past tense and I’ve no doubt she had a laugh when I changed it all back to present.  Once she’d finished supervising her bit of the story, she left me.. That’s when I grew weary.  A figment of my imagination you might ask?  I don’t know.. maybe so.. But I know that I was writing in a way I don’t usually write.. I know I had to get her section done, then the rest didn’t matter at that time.. and I know that the exhaustion I felt was not normal.

It is my belief that before a person dies, their spirit goes and says it’s goodbyes.  I believe this happens before death, not afterwards.  I’ve no doubt my wonderful Aunty came and said goodbye to me before joining a family reunion on the other side.  This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this phenomena.  I know I leave myself open to ridicule by saying this, but I don’t care.  I believe in life after death, I believe in spirits and I believe in the spirits ability to Astral travel.

When my mum was dying, a girlfriend of mine said that when she did pass, I should immediately look up and say goodbye as her spirit left her body.  I was all set to do just that but Mum pre-empted me. I had a dog at the time who didn’t like any of us much but adored Mum.  About 15 minutes before Mum passed, the dog let out the most unearthly sound I have ever heard.  Monty sat out in the back yard and let out a mournful, blood chilling howl.  It was a sound of grief and fear.  I knew Mum’s soul had left her body before her heart stopped beating.  Monty saw her leave.  I didn’t get the chance to wave to her but I knew she heard my goodbyes. I understand why the Irish believe they hear the banshee’s call before someone dies.. The local neighbourhood dogs can see the spirit of someone before they pass…

When I was about 13, one night Gargie woke me up calling out to me.. I shared a room with her and as a teenager I loved sleep and so didn’t welcome it being disturbed which she occasionally did.. This night, however, I felt there was something different in her voice.. I lay there for a few moments, thinking that if she called me again I’d get up.. She didn’t.. She fell back to sleep.. In the morning when Mum brought her in her cup of tea, Gargie said “Mary, I went to Ireland last night”.  Mum said, “what a lovely dream”.. Gargie was adamant it was no dream, she really went.  She was quite aggressive in her assertions that she had physically visited Ireland. She drank her cup of tea, went back to sleep and never woke up again.

Mum and I often spoke about it and were both quite convinced she really did go to Ireland to say goodbye to her homeland more than family, as her siblings had all passed before her. She died peacefully having traveled once more to her beloved Eire.

The same girlfriend who told me to look up and say goodbye to Mum, once told me a story of her boyfriend at the time’s father.  Sharon and her boyfriend had gone to bed and at 3.20 am, she woke up with her boyfriend’s father standing beside the bed next to his son.  Sharon was pinned to the bed yet wasn’t frightened, she just couldn’t move.  She could see the bedside clock so she recalled the time.  He bent, kissed his son, then Sharon fell straight back into a deep sleep.   They were awoken in the morning to the sad news that his father had passed away overnight… at, you guessed it, 3.20 am.

Do we get the opportunity to say goodbye? I don’t know for sure, but I believe from my own experiences that we do. I have certainly had visits from loved ones who have passed away when I have been at my lowest.  One night, as I lay in bed, my whole body wracked with grief and sobbing, the room suddenly filled with a familiar smell.. It was Mum..   There’s no doubt about that.. I wasn’t asleep and the smell lasted for about half an hour.  Mum always smelled like Johnson’s baby powder and Mum cream deodorant (I wish I could still buy it so I could sniff it occasionally).  After about 5 minutes when I’d calmed down with her peaceful presence and the smell still very much in the room, I phoned my best friend Anne and told her that Mum was in the room with me.. I stayed on the phone to her for about another 20 minutes.. When I hung up the phone.. the smell started to fade.

I wasn’t asleep or delusional.  I made a phone call during it.. It was real.  Mum did what mother’s do.. She came to comfort me when I was in despair.  My daughter has stroked my back and hair while I was in pain.  No, I couldn’t see her, but a mother knows when her child is next to her.  She was definitely there. Lachlan had a truck accident one day and when he told me about it afterwards, he said my father was in the truck with him and told him it would be alright, to just relax.  He did.. and it was.

I know non believers will always be able to justify such events with some logical explanation.  To me the logic is easy.  Our spirit is powerful.  It can beat death.  It chooses what it wants to do and where it wants to go.  Our earthly bodies entrap it and tie it down but when it decides what it really wants to do, it does it.  The human spirit is amazing.  Full stop.. It all makes sense to me.

I know last night there would have been a massive reunion in Heaven.  It would have been loud and joyful.  My thoughts and love go to my cousins, her sons.. but most of  all to her 2 remaining siblings, my beautiful Aunts, Grace & Poss,  who have watched their family dwindle from 9 to 2.  I know they feel the loss badly but are strong, amazing women, made of the same stuff their mother was.  We all love them dearly.

And to my Aunty Joan… thank you for coming to say goodbye.. thank you for becoming more than my Aunty, but my friend.  I will miss you.. Rest in Peace beautiful lady..

May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

The rains fall soft up on your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Slán go fóill (goodbye for now)