TOMORROW is the day I die.
Please don’t freak out at those words… this is not some pathetic cry for help or a bit of middle-age attention seeking!
For as long as I can remember I have had a premonition that I would die on the 22nd of October, aged 57 years. So that time to die is tomorrow. I have been trying to get my head around this for a long time.
I know I have always considered 22 to be my unlucky number:
22 July 1984 The most shocking day of my life – to be told in another blog
22 September 1987 I was diagnosed with cancer
22 April 1988 I was told my cancer had spread to my right lung
22 May 1990 My best friend Andrea died
22 Feb 1992 My father-in-law committed suicide
22 August 2003 The last time I saw my two middle daughters
22 Oct 2005 I found out my wife was cheating on me with another man
I am an atheist, but also believe there is something unexplained and spiritual in our world which we simply do not yet understand. There is a personal juxtaposition of finding faith in something supremely powerful, which I did way back in my early 30s when I was battling cancer, to reasoning that same faith away with the science of reason.
Let me go back over half a century and tell of two personal paranormal experiences.
The first occurred when I was about two years old. I was playing in my bedroom when I suddenly heard a noise outside. As any inquisitive child might do, I looked out of my first floor window. I glanced right to see the unfamiliar hairy arms of someone emptying a large wooden pot of faeces out of a neighbouring window. The vision was scary. I cried and called for my mum to tell her what I had seen. I can still remember her chastising me for climbing on a chair to look out of my window and ordering me never to do it again as it was dangerous and I might fall.
The second experience was about three years later. I was five years old and was off school with a high fever and tonsillitis. I was sick and sweating, waiting for the doctor to arrive. I remember staring out of my ground floor front bedroom window to see a man walking across the street wearing a long brown leather coat and dark Donald Duck type mask. He was carrying a large bag. It was daylight and the vision was real and it has stayed with me ever since.
Only when I went to high school some seven years later did I learn that before proper sanitation in the 16th and 17th centuries, people would throw their waste excrement into the street, often from upstairs windows. I also learned that physicians or ‘quacks’ wore long leather coats and duck-like masks during outbreaks of plague. The beak was filled with pot-pourri to cover the stench of the dead.
Had these been visions from a previous life? Or were they memories locked in inherited DNA from my ancestors? I do not know.
There have been other unexplained events during my life for which there is no obvious scientific rationale. Three diverse and even perverse ones come immediately to mind.
My youngest daughter often enjoyed flights of uncanny luck. One Saturday, when she was only about three years old I took her and her older sister to a summer fete in our town. Both girls pestered me to have a go on the Tombola stand. For £1, the younger daughter chose three tickets. We opened her first ticket to find she had won a Barbie Doll. The second ticket, amazingly, was also a winner. It was another toy, which she gave to her sister. Then she turned and looked up at me and said: “I am going to win something for you, daddy.” She did… the top prize of a bottle of Bollinger Champagne! The woman running the stall looked dumbstruck as we walked away with our prizes.
On another occasion this same daughter chose four National Lottery numbers (my partner and I chose the other two). Needless to say when the Lottery was drawn later that evening, the first four numbers were those chosen by my daughter… the other two did not come up! We won £60. To this day I wonder if I had let my daughter choose all six numbers whether we would have become millionaires!
A few years later when my second daughter was rushed to hospital following a serious accident, my youngest daughter appeared to me in a dream calling the name of her sister and pleading for me to help. It was only later that I learned of my daughter’s accident.
The second family related experience involves my late father and my youngest sister.
My dad always had so-called healing hands. He was well known among friends and family for being able to ease arthritis and muscle pain by the heat which emanated from his hands. He also had second sight. One of his premonitions came when his twin brother died suddenly in 1978, aged just 48.
And it didn’t end there.
Some 23 years later, while I was staying with my parents awaiting the imminent birth of my youngest son, my dad’s twin brother returned. At breakfast on Christmas Eve 2001, my mother told me she had dreamed of my father’s twin brother… for the first time in over 20 years. One hour later the telephone rang. It was my wife ringing to tell me she would be undergoing an emergency Caesarean section delivery in a few hours time.
We gave our child a second middle name Geoffrey in recognition of my mother’s dream and my dead uncle.
It seems my sister inherited some of my dad’s powers.
When my dear father died five years ago, we were with him till the end. It was an agony of bereavement shared. But the moment I remember occurred about three minutes after his death, when my sister told us she could see his spirit leaving his body.
The unexplained took a further twist earlier this year.
My wife Gill and I spontaneously bought a copy of the DVD of The Exorcism of Emily Rose – starring Laura Linney and Jennifer Carpenter. It was a warm June evening as we sat down to watch the movie for the first time. It was dark and the film was gripping. Two thirds through the movie a priest, played by Tom Wilkinson, begins reciting an exorcism in Latin.
Then it happened… the DVD froze for 10 seconds and both Gill and I smelled the distinctive scent of fresh roses. There were no flowers in our house and neither of us were wearing perfume or after-shave.
It was bizarre.
But the following day, ‘bizarre’ became frightening, as we discovered three things:
1 The scent of roses often accompanies the passing of a spirit into the other world.
2 Our house was built on the foundations of a Victorian nursery.
3 The words recited in the movie were read from a true Latin script on exorcism.
Four days later, I had my nervous breakdown!
There is so much we don’t know about our world and ourselves. Our final frontier lies a lot closer than we think.
Somewhere I read that an average 14 year-old child today learns more in one month than an average person would learn in a whole lifetime in the 18th century.
A recent scientific paper reported: “It has been predicted that more advanced neurological studies may someday discover how to allow people to tap into the incredible latent powers of their own mind, and thereby unleashing some of the “superhuman” potential in all of us.”
So I am left torn between the lines: “Just because I believe, doesn’t mean I don’t think as well” to a more pragmatic view of: “One day science will understand and explain everything”.
I return to the beginning… I have every intention of NOT dying tomorrow and blogging again on Wednesday.
Oh, and I intend to blog from my study here in Shropshire and not from some ghostly alternate plane!