Now Rita’s a very spiritual woman, very religious, and this kind of thing has happened to her a lot. She finally decided she’s not crazy, she just sees people after they’ve died. What she does in response is she prays for them. So she was telling me, “Laura, I really think Dave needs our prayers. I think he’s stuck.” And that word jumped into my head. I’d completely forgotten my nightmare but that word “stuck” jumped in my head and it really disturbed me.
I hung up the phone. It was about eleven o’clock at night and I went running up and down the hall, stopping and looking at pictures that I have of him in my hallway and going, “Are you okay?” Because I had this distinct impression that he was okay right after he had died.
I was just absolutely baffled.
Somewhere along the line I met a woman who is a mystic. I called her and she said it’s not uncommon for people who have died a violent death or an untimely death to be stuck in—I don’t remember what she called it. Limbo or the bardo-maybe the astral plane. In Shakespearean plays, they called it the netherworld. You know, when spirits traipsing the earth are stuck between worlds and what not. Lots of cultures around the world have this same kind of belief.
Anyway, I began to realize that maybe, oh my goodness, Dave may be stuck. So I was talking with this mystic, Joene—I absolutely respect this woman and what she believes. And her mission on this planet at this time in her life is to be like an intercessor for people who are dying or have died. To help them to not be earthbound and to get them through to the light, or wherever it is they’re supposed to go.
We spent several hours discussing this and she agreed to go help Dave. She was tired that day but she said usually she would do this pretty late at night and she’d call me and let me know how things were going. My daughter had made an appointment too to see her for another reason.
Next day Janie goes to see her, she comes back in and she says, “Oh by the way, Joene says she got daddy through.” I mean, I was like, “What?” The next day I go back, I talk with Joene and she tells me that she saw him—that he was afraid of what he had to do. He thought that where he had to go meant he was going to hell. So she had to make it clear to him that where he had to go was not hell but he had to deal with the things that he did wrong in this life. She was telling me stuff that just confirmed for me, oh yeah, this is Dave. That he didn’t believe that God loved him enough to overlook his wrongs, his misdeeds, his bad choices and whatever. And she said, “What I did was I filled a hallway full of angels and love to draw him through so he’d know that this accounting he had to face would be done in an atmosphere of love and light and acceptance. Not hell.” So she got him through.
Well, I waited a month after that experience, didn’t have any more nightmares. Then I called Rita and I asked, “Have you seen Dave lately?” And she goes, “No, I haven’t.” And I said, “When’s the last time you saw him?” And she says, “Oh, just a few days after I talked to you,” and that made me feel he was really okay because that was when Joene got him through.
Laura’s husband seems to have made his transition quickly.
Was this because he was mentally ill when he took his own life? Or because he had been agonizing about his own worthlessness in the sight of God? I’ve collected several other upbeat stories of ADCs with the spirits of people who had taken their lives quite recently.
Here’s what Penny told me: When I was in college I had a friend who committed suicide and that was very hard for all of us. We were all like, Why? When someone takes their life it’s different from an accident or an illness.
There was no sense of saying goodbye so when he came to me in dreams, it was like goodbye. He was carrying his bicycle, he always liked to bike, he was free and I felt a sense of closure. I woke up from that feeling very good and very strongly that he was at peace. I had these dreams shortly after he did this and I’ve never dreamed about him since.
Lucy is a retired schoolteacher and mother of three who, unlike most of my informants, has had only one paranormal experience in her life.
My father was the most important person in my life. He had had heart disease for ten years. He was a very stoic sort of man who never complained but then when he was 70 he had a stroke. His right side was paralyzed - and he’d always been a very independent person.
The dependence that that created for him on other people was something he couldn’t endure. About a week after he returned home from the nursing home, he killed himself. It was amazing that he managed to get out of bed into a wheelchair. This gun was kept in a place that was very high but he managed to reach it and wheel himself out onto the back porch-he was a very fastidious sort of person - and killed himself. He left me a very touching note.
No more than a week after his death when I awoke one morning, he was standing at the foot of my bed. It seemed so real; it didn’t seem like a dream, it seemed like reality. He was dressed as he ordinarily did, an open shirt, trousers, looking serious, nothing unusual, he was a serious man. And he said, “Don’t worry about me, I’m okay.” He was reassuring me that everything was all right.
When Roderick was only 17, a friend of his, a few years older, committed suicide after the girl he loved jilted him.
“I come from a very small town where there was a memorial tower for veterans. Very high, about three hundred, four hundred steps.
“People walk up to the top of the tower. Don’t go if you have vertigo cause it’s kind of queasy. But at the top there’s a rim around it so you can’t fall off. You’d have to make a real effort. And at night, they close it. There’s a gate around it. But my friend broke in and climbed the stairs and he jumped off.
“Well, three or four months later he came to me in a dream, smiling. And quite happy. I know that sounds very stereotypical but quite happy and looking very bright and very young. He was young, but he looked brighter and younger. And he just said, “I’m okay.” People talk about, you know, if you commit suicide, you’re damned. That was not my experience with him. Maybe he had to do some explaining, maybe he had to do some sort of atonement, I don’t know. But he certainly didn’t look like he was in the fiery pits of hell.
“Elmer was not an intimate friend of Marietta, but she knew him well as a fellow resident of a small island community. Soon after he took his own life, she had an odd series of experiences that culminated in a breakthrough similar to Laura’s.
I” had a finger that went kind of numb. It was like I couldn’t feel blood in it and it was cold and very strange. I thought, “Well, maybe I should go to the doctor.” That went on for a while.
“We were building contractors so we were looking for a real estate agent to list our houses and we were interviewing some people. We were talking to this guy and we started talking about life and stuff and he said, “I’ve just gone to this very psychic person.” He said her name was Mother Cher or something. For some reason, I felt really compelled to call her.
“So I got her phone number from this gentleman and I called her and she started talking and then she said to me, “Are you having some numbness in one of your fingers?” Now, I tell you I almost fell off my chair. So I made an appointment with her. I went into her room, we sat and got quiet. Then she started to ask me, she said, “I’m picking up on a male and his name starts with E. Do you know anyone that’s made their transition recently? They’re trying to get in touch with you. And I’m like, “E, E, E?” And all of a sudden I said, “Elmer.” Because he had just committed suicide.
“And she said, “This man is calling out to you to have you help him make his transition.” And I’m like, “Oh, fuck, this is just amazing to me.” So she held my hand and we started praying and all of a sudden I had an energy go through me that was like a bolt of lightning! And it went through her and it went through me and she said, “He’s through.” I’m not kidding, Sylvia, it was like a bolt of lightning. And it wasn’t something that was hurtful. It was just ... whoa! It went through both of us and she said, “He’s through into the Light.” And my finger, within an hour, it was absolutely fine.”
R.J. is the gay man who reported two death coincidences in Chapter 2. When the AIDS epidemic started in the gay community, his “whole nursing career came into use because people would come to me with these stories about dying. And a lot of my friends died.” One man who was dying of AIDS decided to take his own life.
He called before he was gonna do it and asked me, “What do you think about this?” I said, “If you want to do this, go ahead.” He’s in Seattle and I’m in Eugene and he calls me and says, “I’m gonna have my favorite friends over to dinner, have my favorite chocolate mousse cake. I’ve loaded my portion up with the proper recipe from the Hemlock Society and I’m going. I’ll see you later.” Three weeks went by and I wasn’t sure if it was successful but I didn’t want to call. So I’m on my bike waiting to cross this busy street.
I’m looking at this white jeep turning the corner and here he is waving from the jeep—and he’d been dead three weeks.
R.J. has had numerous paranormal experiences. He shared many of his beliefs with me. Though he had encouraged his dying friend to take his own life, his strongest focus is on living fully.
The people I knew with AIDS in Hawaii, they had this whole drama going on, they had all these diseases. I used to get into these phenomenal conversations about what this was all about. What I started doing was trying to empower people to live. One of my friends, I said to him, “I love you dearly but I am so damn sick and tired of listening to you talk about dying. You are so negative that even this tree you’re sitting under is dying. Why don’t you try living?” I didn’t see him after that. Four years later he came back and said, “Look, I still have it but I don’t even acknowledge it. I gotta give you credit, you set me right.” I’ve just had a conversation with a young woman whose husband died suddenly a week ago. She’s totally distraught, needless to say, because they believed they had come together as two halves of one spirit. She said to me, “Do you think he misses me?” I said, “Darling, I’ve got bad news for you. He’s not even thinking of you.” She’s talking about how she wants to take her own life to be with him. I said, “Let me tell you something. If you take your life, unless you take your life to go toward something, you’re gonna go and you’re gonna see him but my mental picture of this is that there’ll be a thick glass wall between you and him for eternity and it’ll be worse than any hell as you can imagine.
Do some people who kill themselves have to endure long punishment after? Two women reported brief, cryptic ADCs that came to them many years after a suicide. Jan is a trim, chic person who works as a human resource manager. Some years after her former college roommate killed herself, Jan sensed contact with her.
We had lost touch with one another. We were living in different states and I had the opportunity to come visit her in the course of a trip I was going to take, so I wrote her a letter, told her I’d like to see her, and didn’t hear back from her. I was pretty disappointed. Then I got a letter from her parents telling me she’d committed suicide. I wrote them back and told them how sorry I was and said that I certainly hoped it was not a suicide but just a mistake. Because she used to take a lot of medication. But I never heard back.
Some years later—it’s not like I’d been thinking of her but she came to me in a dream and told me she was okay. She was sitting on the hood of a car, it was a sunny day, and I was putting money in a parking meter and she said, “I just wanted to tell you I’m okay.” She looked just the same as I had always known her. In this dream, I knew she was dead so I said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, I have to put money in this meter if I don’t want to get a ticket but I want to talk to you!” I was thinking, wait a minute! Did you really commit suicide? She said, “No, I don’t have time, but I just want you to know that I’m okay.” And when I finished putting the money in the meter and turned around, she was gone. When I woke up I remember feeling just so perplexed. And yet I thought wow, this is kind of neat, now I know she’s fine.
Christina is a cheerful, independent minded woman who has had many kinds of paranormal experiences, some very detailed and informative. One of her most slight and subtle involved a relative who took her own life some twenty years before.
“I was at the dentist’s office and suddenly I smelled her perfume. It was my Aunt Judy, who committed suicide. It couldn’t have just been another patient with that perfume on. I knew it was her but I don’t know why she was there with me.
Denise is a bouncy, pretty woman who wore a Star of David to our interview. She’s proud of her Russian Jewish roots but doesn’t practice any organized religion and has been married to two non-Jews. Her ex-husband, Rick, was a logger. He killed himself ten years before our interview, then repeatedly made his presence known in unwelcome ways to her and their daughter.
“We’d been divorced seven years when he shot himself but in this life he never left me alone anyway. He kind of like hounded me, he didn’t stalk me. He’d lost his mother years before that. He was two years older than me but I became his caretaker. He was so needy, so dependent. One day it hit me what I was really doing and I didn’t want to care for him anymore. When we were divorced, he would bring women over for me to check out for him. I guess it meant a lot to him if I liked her.
“He lived with a lot of guilt, not coming to terms with things that he did wrong. Not being the son that he wished he was to his mother.
“Not being the son to his father. Not being the husband to me, not being the father, because of his alcohol and binges. And prior to that, he’d been in Vietnam. He got into heroin there when he was seventeen—just seventeen years old! He just got off on the wrong track, he had a hard life. I had two children from before that he loved as his own. He never was physically abusive at all, it was the mental abuse on our family. When we were divorced, he was continually making promises to his daughter and breaking them. I’d tell him, “Don’t make promises, then you won’t break them!” He never paid support, never visited her regularly.
“Finally he told my daughter he’d be there for Thanksgiving and he didn’t show up. It was four days after that that he killed himself.
“He was a hunter, he shot himself, he left a note. Ugh. He said my daughter would be better off. That was ten years ago and she’s still having problems with it.
Anyhow, three days after he passed over, I had a dream. I was walking down a dark hall with doors on each side of the hallway. Now Rick was a logger so he was a real strong man. I just felt like someone came out a door and grabbed me from behind and I was like, “Is that you? I know it’s you.” And then I woke up and I said, “Oh, he came to me. He’s letting me know he’s here.” What a way! So from then on it was continual, in dreams. One time I woke up when I’d been dreaming about him and there he was sitting at the end of the bed.
“I was awake and there he was sitting at the foot of the bed and then he just disappeared. It was, oh my god! He looked the same. He was just staring at me and then he disappeared.
“So then at work, I’d be walking down the hall and I’d hear his voice; he had a real rough voice, and I heard my name being yelled out. And I’d turn around and stop-and no one was there. Then I’d be sitting at my desk in my office at the TV station and all of a sudden that sense came on me that he was right there in my face somewhere.
I’d say, “What do you want?” I’d say it out loud. I was alone in my office, no one could hear. For twelve years I was operations coordinator for programming there. This was all before I met my new husband.
“Then my daughter, she kept thinking she heard Rick. One day in school—she was ten by now, it was almost a year since he died she thought she heard him yell her name. She turned around and saw him sitting in a desk. She got so scared, she started screaming, running out of the room. She went to the counselor.
“Well, thank goodness, this counselor at her school, he’d had experiences with his granddaughter who died. So at least he didn’t say my daughter’s going crazy. I was grateful ‘cause I told him right in the beginning, “I believe my daughter. I don’t know what you believe in.” And he goes, “Oh, no, no.” And he explained his story. He said his daughter-in-law was a channeler. And he said to me, “If it’s too much and your daughter’s scared, you can ask him to go away.” So we did. Six months—nothing! It was strange, not feeling him anymore or dreaming about him. But at about six-ish months, I had a dream that he was walking in front. My view was like I was looking down on our house from above and I can see him walking on the sidewalk in a trench coat. He was walking along the sidewalk and trying to peek in the windows, trying to see if he could get a glimpse of us, wanting to come in.”
I asked her what was special about her dreams of Rick. How did they differ from ordinary dreams? Paranormal dreams are often described as “vivid.” In Chapter 12 I talk about this more. Here’s how Denise responded to me.
“It’s kind of a cliché maybe, but everything with him in it was so real. I woke up feeling I was in his world or something. Like we came and met in a different area. “I woke up just knowing. The brain isn’t thinking, it’s the intuition. I’d wake up knowing that was him coming tome.
“So then I meet my now husband. We date a while, then he moves in, then we get married. One time I wake up crying. In my dream Rick was laying in bed with my husband and I and it just scared me to death. I woke up and I grabbed my husband, I’m whimpering and I’m wailing. Three times my husband and I are asleep in the bed with the light out. We had no kids at home anymore, they’re all gone. And three different times, the light is on in the middle of the night. We wake up and my husband goes, “Did you turn the light on?” “No!” I tell him. You wake up and it’s light in your room and it’s so odd, it’s too much. When Rick comes, it’s not like an angel and soothing. He just never will leave me alone.”
For Rick’s transition to the afterlife, his suicide seems to have been the least of his problems! His is a classic case of the spirit who cannot acknowledge that he’s dead, cannot break his earthly ties.
This chapter’s last story is far more romantic. It’s a tale of a soul mate lost, then found, then lost and found again.
When Gary was in his twenties, he owned two rigs and was a long distance hauler. He fell in love with Susan, more deeply in love than he’d ever been before. She accepted his invitation to ride along with him for one trip, then for two years they were virtually inseparable, traveling together from one end of the country to the other. Gary recalled those years as incomparably sweet. Cramped together in a little semi, he said, they didn’t need to talk. They could sense each other’s feelings and have long conversations without ever speaking a word. Then Susan got pregnant. Soon she couldn’t endure their hard life on the road. He urged her to marry him but she refused. Back home she fell in with the wrong sort of people, got hooked on drugs, and her relationship with Gary fell apart.
“Every time I’d come home she’d look more pale, more out of it, not having that pregnant glow. I started to get really concerned but luckily it was a normal pregnancy. My daughter’s a very healthy girl.
“I was hoping that having our daughter would kind of pull us back together but it didn’t work. So I figured the proper thing for me to do was to become the custodial parent because of my income. Susan was obviously out of control of her life. So I sold my trucks to pay for my lawyers. After about eight months of nonstop court battles, the courts awarded me custody, then Susan disappeared before my daughter was a year old.
“She stayed gone for ten or eleven years. One day she came back, just showed up out of the clear blue and it was absolutely amazing.
“She looked healthy again, like the girl I fell in love with all those years ago. Her attitude was better, her mental state was better. Unfortunately in the process she’d picked up a husband and two other children so I figured, well, that closed the door on that. But we used to have long talks in the park and on the phone-about how she felt the same way I did, that instead of her being married to someone else it should have been us. Only now she had two more children. So it’s not like you can just pick up and follow where your instincts are. But for about a year we got incredibly close.
“Unfortunately she had a relapse and fell back into drugs again which I guess happens with addicts. One night her husband called me up in the middle of the night and told me that Sue took her life.
“So here my daughter was just getting to know her mother that was gone all those years and now I had to tell my daughter. The loss was just absolutely incredible for my daughter and me.
“So for maybe two years after that, I kind of let the feeling of loss turn down to a slow boil. Every once in a while I’d kind of catch her out of the corner of my eye, see her dancing off on the side of my field of vision. I kind of expected that, it was easy to pass that off. I’d go out to where she’s interred and talk to her every once in a while. Never got an answer, just a feeling of comfort. Felt better but I never got anything resolved.
“Then about a year ago I had minor surgery. I picked up an infection, they had me pretty severely medicated, and I had a dream where for some reason I woke up in an absolute terror. I don’t know what brought it on. In this dream, the door of the room I was in opened up and Sue came walking in and sat down on the edge of the bed, hugged me, whispered things to me and told me everything was gonna be all right. Told me to lay back down and go to sleep. And I did. In my dream I did and when I woke up it was like I could almost smell her scent, like she just left the room for a second to get something. Does that make sense? She had this particular perfume that she loved to wear—it’s not one you find a lot of people wearing. I hadn’t smelled it for a long time but when I woke up it was like just the hint of it, like a tease of a scent in the air but it was enough for me to pick up right away and to me it was incredibly real. When she was in my dream it was so lifelike. I could feel her body heat when she was holding me, feel her hair and stuff. She was just holding me and comforting me and then just kind of laid me down, told me to go to sleep, and I wake up literally expecting to see her sitting there at the foot of the bed. And I thought I should feel glad, because I was able to see her again, it was so realistic. It was hard to believe it was a dream but it really just opened that sense of loss again. It was like getting a taste of what you want all your life and then not being able to have it again. Then this past Wednesday I had an experience that just floored me. I had to actually leave work.
“The place where I work now, we do public opinion polls and surveys and we were doing this poll in San Jose. I’ve driven through San Jose but I don’t know anybody there and it’s all blind surveys, we don’t know who we’re calling or whatever. So I’m talking to this lady. I have no idea who she is, she has no idea who I am. And about halfway through the survey she goes, “Your name’s Gary, right?” I go yes-maybe I introduced myself at the beginning of the survey. She goes, “You’re 44, aren’t you?”* Yeah well, maybe she can guess from my voice or whatever. She goes, “I’m gonna tell you something, you may think I’m absolutely crazy but I have a message for you.” Okay, I figure, this is where they start telling me I’m taking up too much of their time and hang up. She goes, “There’s a lady named Sue or Susan, do you know her?” “Well,” I said, “I did know a Susan.” She goes, “Okay, I wanna tell you, I’m a psychic. I work with police departments and whatever. You may think I’m crazy but Sue has a message for you. She says that she watches over you while you sleep”—which made me think right away of the deal in the hospital—“and she wants you to know that when she left, the air was burning but she’s flying in cool air now.” And what really hit close to home was the way Sue took her life, she locked herself in the garage with the car running and got all that hot gases and everything in there. So I just stopped the survey right away. I’m thinking this can’t be happening. I’m peppering this lady with questions. “Did she say anything else?” I’ve got tears going down my face. People around me are looking at me like, Jesus, Gary, you’ve got a bad one there. She goes, “Sue wants you to let go, just let go.” So I’m telling this lady, “So how do I do that? That was my destiny to be with that lady and nobody can convince me otherwise, that was the lady I was supposed to be with.” So she’s telling me all these things. “Go home, light a white candle .... ” Things like that.”
*If Gary’s story sounds improbable, here’s another that matches it. A Scotsman from a family of psychics was quoted as saying about his mother, “if she never met you in her life before, she could tell ye your name and age an everything aboot ye.” [B. McDermitt. (1986) ‘Stanley Robertson.’ Tocher 40: 170,186.]
“Sue wants you to know that she’ll always be watching over you but to let her go.” I’ve known other people who thought they were psychics but they only talked in broad generalities. This lady got Sue’s name right from the start and then the deal about the hot air, flying through hot air. I never gave much thought to ghosts, whatever, but now, now I do. Everything is so layered on everything. You know, first Sue, then the psychic, and two days later I see your little ad in the paper. It’s all leading somewhere.
I couldn’t help but agree. He seemed to have been led to me for a very special purpose.
Gary was the seventh person I interviewed. The story he told me bore an eerie resemblance to a story I’d heard earlier from Beverly, whose death coincidence is cited in Chapter 2. The same year that Gary had lost his soul mate, Beverly, a little younger than Gary, and like Gary, an attractive, vivid person, had lost her beloved husband of nineteen years to an unexpected illness. Like Gary, she had clung faithfully to the memory of her lost love, refusing to seek a new partner. In dreams, she’d seen her late husband and smelled his favorite scent, Royal Copenhagen, while he told that he loved her and that he was okay but that she had to get on with her life. Once she awakened from a dream of him to feel his scent still on her. This is how she described that experience: I hadn’t had any of his stuff around for the last couple of years but when I woke up I could smell Royal Copenhagen all over my body. I could smell it on me so I knew we had met someplace. Although it appeared to be in the physical realm, I knew it wasn’t. I knew I was with him.
Maybe, I thought, the universe meant for these two loyal, lonely people to meet each other. And maybe it was my job to help make this happen. So I told Gary something of what Beverly had said, asked him if he’d be willing to phone Beverly, then asked Beverly if she’d mind if Gary phoned her. Their first phone conversation lasted two hours. Soon they discovered more similarities.
Each had a teenage daughter; both daughters had the same, uncommon first name. And Beverly’s own middle name was Susan.
I started wondering when I’d get a chance to attend their wedding! So far, no such luck. They saw each other for months but when last heard from, they’d broken up. Probably their friendship was just an important first step toward their letting go and getting on with their lives.
In the next chapter we’ll hear from other people who, like Beverly and Gary, have learned from scents and even subtler signs that loved ones have come to visit them.
“After a Suicide” is a chapter from When Spirits Come Calling: The Open-Minded Skeptic’s Guide to After-Death Contacts by Sylvia Hart Wright.