My daughter Randi’s life and the suicidal hell that led to her death are carved into my bones as if into marble. At thirteen, her jaw had been shattered by a horse and irreparably damaged. There were many jaw surgeries and she learned to live with chronic pain. She struggled with life, yet managed to become an ob-gyn.
At age forty-six, after her first mild suicide attempt, she spent three days in a psychiatric facility, where we were allowed one daily visit in a well-guarded, group room. My knees nearly buckled as we were screened for contraband drugs or weapons. Some patients seemed quite ordinary, others seemed dazed or angry. She lost her doctor’s hospital privileges, barely survived another attempt, her job contract wasn’t renewed, she went on disability.
The final week of Randi’s life her daughter Chelsey came home from college on Thursday and couldn’t wake her mom up. Randi convinced both a hospital social worker and the family that this overdose had been accidental: she couldn’t sleep, had taken too much medication. On Sunday, Chelsey drove her home and left for school, promising to return on Thursday. On the phone, I offered yet again to come. “Just come next week as planned.” I said I’d call in the morning. “Mom, I’ll sleep in and call you. We’re coming for Thanksgiving.” I relaxed. It had been an accident. I would plan our menu. For Randi, both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes were a given.
I waited all Monday for her call, disciplining my fears. She often didn’t answer her phone. If she didn’t pick up, terror drained the blood from my head. Tuesday I called her just before her one o’clock doctor’s appointment. She didn’t pick up. She didn’t pick up and she didn’t pick up and so it went until, in desperation, on Wednesday I called for a police well-check. It was the police who found her, the coroner who told me.
Once I could breathe again, I made phone calls and packed for the 200-mile trip to Randi’s. Her sister, in Mexico, asked us to call on arrival, but Randi’s phone wouldn’t allow an out-of-country call. We went to Walmart past midnight for a phone card. People were buying candy bars and beer, even laughing. I thought I should gently tell each one that Randi was dead. How could they go about such ordinary business, when the world had imploded? But no, only our own small world had imploded, shrapnel bursting inward to violently splinter hearts, opening mine wide to embrace not only my grief but the after-death contact that emerged from the open wound like a white healing flower.
Two Weeks Later—Randi’s First Visit
Goose bumps ripple up my left side. Opening an eye, I cringe at how dawn’s light barely brushes the window before burrowing back into sleep’s amnesiac blanket. I ignore the second rush, too. Because each moment I do not think of Randi’s death it ceases to be true, every morning she dies anew, so I push to sleep past first remembering. When this river of energy courses through my entire body again, I sit up. “Randi, is that you? If it’s you, give me a sign, move something, do something, so I know.” For a moment, the morning holds its breath.
I hear Randi’s dear, familiar voice say, Your body knows. There’s a long beat while I check. She’s right. My body—not my mind, still in a state of shock—does know this is her, she is with me, she is all right. It is as though a wide doorway has been opened into an immense cathedral of possibility that bridges a chasm between my abject misery and the cusp of new hope.
Her Visits Continue and My Life Is Forever Changed
I was a raw wound floating on a tempestuous sea of suffering and astonishment as I struggled with grief, lawyers, wills, my granddaughter while, almost every morning for months, my formerly depressed and pain-wracked daughter visited me. When I asked about the afterlife she said little. When I asked if it was hard to contact me, she said it took energy, but not that much because you come so far toward me. What’s hard is getting others to notice that I am with them. I’d love to say it’s my decades of meditations and mantras that made me come so far toward her, but I’m unsure the truth is so simple.
I worried our visits might interfere with her “work”. Mom, you don’t understand. That’s human thinking. I can be with you and with Chelsey and with my sister and doing my own work all at once. We don’t have those limitations here. Once she came as I was starting my mantras. “Can we wait to talk until afterward?’ She replied, I come for the mantras. Afterward she explained, The mantras have an effect on the world. There is a lot of heavy energy . . . sadness, fear, violence… Prayers and mantras are uplifting.
I cautiously shared what was happening with friends. When each person told me either their own contact story or one that happened to someone close to them, I grew fascinated and decided to formally collect these contact experiences and write about them, an idea which Randi supported. People need to talk of these things, to hear and read about them.
My days became colored by a renewed sense of purpose as the numerous types of after-death communication and their frequency were revealed. When I shared my project with my hairdresser, she told me of being at her computer, behind her a photo of her dad, and noticing two disparate odors—liverwurst and A&D Ointment. She swiveled around, asking, “Dad?” and received an answer. They engaged in as satisfying a conversation as though he were physically present.
“Why liverwurst?” I asked. A favorite food of his. “And A&D Ointment?” It was what the family had used on his diapered bottom as he lay dying at home. What else could have been so uniquely connected to her father, so instantly recognizable?
Another woman told me what had occurred soon after her brother took his own life. On a walk, she’d sat down in an old quarry, its rocks laid into a labyrinth, closed her eyes. Weeping, she felt suddenly bathed in peace and surrounded by her brother. When she opened her eyes, he sat facing her and to either side of her. Ten replicas of her brother sat cross-legged as she was, in the circle, each with arms extended over other versions of himself, the brothers beside her embracing her. I am okay, he said, gazing into her eyes. I am okay are the precise words I’ve heard most often quoted from deceased beloveds.
Dreams—The Most Common Form of After-Death Contact
I’ve found that dreams, not simply about or with the dead, but ones particularly vivid and easily recalled, sometimes bearing gifts of guidance, are the most common way our beloved dead contact us. Lisa was twelve when her grandmother died. Tell Freddy I’m not mad at him, she later directed Lisa in a dream. When Lisa told this to Freddy, her father, he burst into tears. Unbeknownst to her, he was suffering within a deep well of guilt for having been forced to place his mother in a nursing home after her stroke, against her wishes.
Eight Years Later
By now I have heard several hundred after-death contact experiences from well over a hundred people. I have interviewed the religious, the undeclared, and one atheist. Without exception, everyone—including the atheist—expressed wonder and a sense of reassurance. My own contacts, augmented by these stories, have brought a serene sense that death isn’t frightening, that life and the afterlife are a continuum, death a transition between two profoundly interconnected realms.
Though I’m still regularly aware of Randi’s presence, she rarely speaks anymore, though I’ve learned it’s wise to heed any advice she does offer. Recently Randi’s sister has been ill. I wanted to align a visit with a long-awaited neurology appointment still three weeks out, until Randi spoke to me (for the first time in months), urging me to go sooner. I recalled the story I’d heard of the mother whose deceased daughter directed her, as she drove, to slow to a stop. She slowed, then stopped at a green light in time to see a large truck zoom through its red light just where she would have been had she not stopped. I made my plane reservations. Within days the neurologist had a cancellation, so I was present when there was finally a useful diagnosis.
I am still a magnet for these stories, whether through my website or workshops, on an airplane or in a tiny museum where the docent, when a painting turns us to the topic of the afterlife, tells me of seeing his deceased grandfather behind the docent’s mother as she sobbed after her father’s death. The docent tells me he’s still in contact with his grandfather and they are closer than ever. Like me, he knows that life is made infinitely richer and sweeter, and often much smoother, by awareness of the presence of our deceased beloveds.
–––Adapted and reprinted with permission from Hampton Roads Publishing, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, The After Death Chronicles by Annie Mattingley is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.
About the Author-------------
The extensive after-death communication following her daughter’s suicide in 2010 inspired Annie Mattingley to interview scores of others who have had contact with deceased beloveds and to write The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil (Hampton Roads, 2017). The large questions of existence, especially those that lie on the cusp between life and death, have been central to her life, leading her to earn her MA in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies. Annie has co-published an engineering magazine, taught Journal-Writing as a Healing Art in universities, worked for a film festival, volunteered with hospice, and long been guided by her dreams. Currently she facilitates workshops for those in grief. She has lived in five States from coast to coast and has now settled with her husband in the sixth, New Mexico. Annie has two daughters (one living and one deceased), one stepson, two grandchildren, and a toddler great-granddaughter. You may read more about her work or sign up for her blogs at