Finding what is lost

A few years ago we were up at the farm with the girls as we always are over one of the school holidays. My in laws had a close friend of theirs who lived not far from them ride on their property every week. She was about my age, maybe a little older, but her youngest was just a few years older than Daisy. She was a great accomplished rider who loved horses and one day on her ride she had an accident, my mother in law found her a few hours after the accident had happened and unfortunately a week or so later she died in hospital from her head injuries. It was so sad for her family, for their friends and community – just a tragic accident that happened before it should have.

We were there a few months after her accident when we were driving around in their gator to check out some damage from a storm a night before. I didn’t realise we were in the exact spot where the accident had happened when Maggie said to Sue and I completely out of the blue, this is where Katie was. “She can’t get home Mum”. She didn’t know Katie well, I mean she was maybe almost 3 at the time so wouldn’t remember her even though she had met her. But there it was. Over and over, she can’t get home. Sue and I just looked at each other, amazed at what she was saying. And that was that, and while she mentioned her a few times on the rest of the holiday as she had asked about her and in our true parenting style, told her what happened with the straight facts and it interested her in the way someone dying really interests a 3 year old, that was that and she hasn’t really mentioned it again.

When we arrived at the farm after Christmas and Rob and I got our heads around the fact that Alan was going to leave us soon, we didn’t know how soon, as it turned out just a few days later I remember Rob coming to bed that first night.  He was upset of course, so sad that he knew he was never going to get the chance to have another conversation with his Dad again – and we both talked about how we thought it would be soon. I didn’t think he would sleep, but he did and eventually I could hear his sad slow breathing turn to sleep. I was awake though. AWAKE. I had a weird restless in and out of thoughts and worries. I think I tossed and turned for about 4 hours before giving up on the charade. In the night though, the dark middle when I was awake looking at the sky from the bed I had such a sense of two of Rob’s aunties who have died being there. Sitting with me. I asked them, maybe out loud, maybe in my mind I can’t remember, what was going to happen and while I certainly didn’t see anyone, I knew, like I’ve known things in my life even when you can’t possibly know (marry Rob, move to the country, have a third child) that the end was coming. Be ready. Be ready. It’s coming. Be ready. And despite the palliative care nurse telling us just the very next morning that he could last 6 weeks, I knew: it’s coming. New Years Eve. Be ready. It’s coming.

Rob and I were swimming in the pool with Maggie in the last half hour of Alan’s life. It was such a beautiful afternoon despite the worries of what was happening at the farm, and beyond as the state seemed to be on fire with the New Years Eve fires. Rob ended the swim before us, saying he had to get to the house, and it was about 10 minutes later that Alan died. 5.30pm in the afternoon. It’s coming, be ready. How can you ever be ready? I still am amazed at how the moment someone dies they are truly not there. Just an empty body, their spirit gone. It is so beautiful and so shocking that our lives and who we are, is so tenuous. When I was reading Leigh Sales book this line said it all “I saw the emptiness of death and felt the fullness of love” and at the moment it is so true. It’s shocking and eye opening and life changing. Empty death and life, so full of love. Later that strange, sad and shocking night, when we walked past and could see his body lying there in bed I tried to get the girls into an exhausted sleep as they were so sad. Harper was in bed asleep, Daisy tucked on the couch with tea and blankets to try and get warm even though it was a hot summers night, I was dressing Maggie for bed. She asked me straight, looking over my shoulder, “who is that man there?” to the empty space behind me. I looked and she asked again, only able to say to her “I’m not sure my love, maybe someone come to help Nala on his way.”

Be ready, it’s coming. We’re here.

I can’t stop thinking about these moments and the small ones that have happened since. The songs that come on shuffle as if directed from Alan, the African parrot (the same as Sue’s childhood pet from Africa) arriving on our literal doorstep at the farm a few days later, butterflies at the memorial, references to the moon over and over again. Maybe our minds make them up and see the connection to make us feel less alone? I don’t think so, I know they are something more. I know that spirits are all around us, guiding us, telling us, maybe it’s our own gut instinct and truth, maybe it’s just nature, a silly bird or butterfly who happens to be there. I don’t know how it’s a 3 year old saying something out of the blue just because.

I’ll take the messages while I can get them. I will listen to that inner voice, I will be guided by what I feel and know because it hasn’t gotten me into too much trouble so far.

What do you think?
Had some messages from somewhere beyond us?
Do you think that kids know what’s what until it’s learned out of them?
And isn’t it hard that big life things like this happen and you just have to keep going on with life and work as if nothing much has changed when so much has changed? 

The painting above is by Brian Kershisnik and is called She will find what was lost isn’t it something else? I found this on Pinterest last year when we were at Alan and Sue’s house for a weekend with all of Rob’s cousins as part of his living wake. Alan knew he was dying and spent the last 12 months or so of his life (when he could) travelling the world and saying goodbye to his friends all over the world. This weekend was part of that process, and I found this image that spoke to me so much about it at the time. I wrote about it in this blog post. The artist says “My intention for this piece was to speak to the most intensely private and intimate kind of supernatural interference, influence, and assistance… Many unseen forces are interested in you, love you, and work to influence matters for your profound benefit. Most of what we all do is resist it, misinterpret it, or mess it up, but my experience indicates that these unseen efforts persist impossibly. I thank God for that.”


  1. So so beautiful and well written Beth. My Mum has just lost her Mum and The cockatoo’s (My grandparents’ chosen bird) flies over at almost always poignant moments. An entire flock flew over on the moment of her burial. So yeah, I think you’re right. Thanks for being able to communicate that strange otherness and fierce love and sadness. It’s strangely comforting xx

  2. That is the most beautiful piece you have ever written. So many feelings. Life, love and family is truth. Thank you. Xx

  3. Linden Pirie says

    I was crying on the bed after my grandma died. I was 33 years old. I heard her voice say “dont cry love, ot all right.” She was there beside me. I saw her then she was gone. My most beloved person in the world.

  4. Oh Beth, beautifully written as always. I am so pleased you are open to the signs from your loved ones in Spirit.
    I am a Medium and all the things you have shared are ways in which our loved one lets us know they’re not really gone they are still with us.
    Dreams are another beautiful way we can ‘visit’ with our loved ones.
    Children are incredibly sensitive to the Spirit world and often connect more readily than adults.
    Much love to you and your family, thank you again for sharing xxx

  5. All so true my friend… butterflies 🦋 have always guided me and made me stop to pause.. most have popped up to reassure me I am where I am meant to be… ❤️

  6. Yes, animals and dreams bring me signs, comfort and a moment to pause.
    I do think our culture does us a dis-service in the way it allows such a short time for grieving and then it’s just business as usual. Life does go on as it must, but grief takes its own sweet time and we would do well to remember that.
    That picture is so beautiful, and came at a perfect time for me. My dad died almost 12 months ago and yesterday I was really feeling it, like there is no-one now who has my back, who loves me unconditionally and would always be there for me. I felt quite alone, but that print and this “Many unseen forces are interested in you, love you, and work to influence matters for your profound benefit.” have come at just the right moment for me…..surely that is a sign.
    cheers Kate

  7. Christianna says

    Those little signs from the universe are beautiful, keep listening. X

  8. One of my kids was very in touch with with spirits & his own past life when he was younger. It blew us away when he spoke of seeing his pop sitting on a cloud or when he’d talk about when he was “ the other Isaac. Not the one now but the one I was before”. But he grew out of it. I don’t know why some of us are more open to other parts of the world & ourselves & why sometimes it disappears with age. Like I’ve said before, I take what comforts I can from where I get them. I don’t care if other people don’t believe or think I’m a little woo woo. I know what feels real & that’s all that matters.

  9. Beth, as a long-time lawyer, as a skeptic, as an analytical person who has no prescribed religion, this still resonates with me- largely because I have held onto dear loved ones as they took their last breath, as I told them that I would look after their loved ones for them always, and that we would all remember them not as they lay here now, but at their most vivacious and amazing selves. There is an undeniable sense of other when you are so close to death and dying. As if life is momentarily paused and those who have come before you are all there, to witness this loss- to hold you up and prepare you for all that is to come. This is where I find the strength to kiss and hold onto the lifeless bodies of my loved ones. To prepare them for their final journey to who knows where. To prepare those still here for the hardest yards of grief- and to prepare myself for that overwhelming sense of loss that can feel so senseless and unfair at times.

    When my grandma died, I was there again to hold her and love her. When I was preparing food for her 40 day memorial service and making filling for spanakopita in a wok to feed the hundreds who I knew would come again to pay their respects- I spoke to her- our loud in that moment- is she not laughing that I am making this traditional dish in a huge wok? How I missed her laugh and her smartass comments about how I make it. And in that moment I felt her, and was heartbroken by the phone ringing to sully that moment. The phone rang out and set off the answering machine. They hung up/ left no message. But inexplicably- the machine rewound and began to play and old message: “ Annamaria mou, it’s Yiayia (grandma) agapi mou (my love). I miss you. You didn’t call yesterday so I am checking everything is ok.” And just like that – her voice, her love, my grief, the loss, the heartache at not ever again being able to pick up the phone and call her from the car on my way home overwhelmed me. Just like that, a sign from beyond that we loved each other. That we missed each other before she was ever gone. And she will protect me always.

  10. Yes, all the signs are there for comfort….when my Mum died I saw white feathers reminding me of her but especially when I needed the reminder…like the day my daughter opened he doors of her boutique, my Mum loved fashion, there she was…a white feather on the doorstep….
    My sister-in-law is a keen golfer and lost her husband at Christmas time…when they played golf he always commented on the magpies on the course….since he died a magpie has landed on her golf bag several times during her round of golf…a magpie came and sat on my back verandah just days after James died and sat for ages…he was just paying a visit…..they are all signs that our loved ones are still with us in spirit…I love your story….

  11. In the words of Iris DeMent…
    ‘think I’ll just let the mystery be’

  12. Rebecca Francis says

    I am very moved by this painting. I am 51. Both my parents, my husband & 4 other very significant people in my life have all passed in the last decade. Although I have a few amazing friends, I have no close living family. I walk this earth now with no one to watch over me as I watch over my 11 year old daughter… and I feel the burden of being the only one in her village every single day. I look at this painting with hope that all of these significant people are supporting me from the other side & giving me the strength to be enough for her. I have never seen or felt any signs from any of them… except we recently bought a puppy and I swear I see my mother when I look into her adoring eyes. Maybe this is the first sign….

  13. Your post speaks to me so much – I had a similar experience after my sister died many years ago when we were both in our late teens. I remember a few days after her death, not being able to sleep and going out to our verandah in the middle of the night. I was sitting there, feeling cold, and sad, and I was overcome with this feeling of someone, something, placing a warm protective weight over me, like someone had placed a big warm quilt over my shoulders. I knew, just KNEW without a shadow of a doubt it was her, comforting me. It was so lovely, and I think about that moment a lot ❤️ I’m glad you’ve been open to, and received comfort and support from the energies around us too ❤️

  14. Beth, this post has resonated so much with me- thank you! My Dad died 3 1/2 years ago and I really ‘felt’ his presence in the early days after his death. A few days after his funeral an owl appeared in a tree right next to my parents house – in broad daylight! It was winter, the tree leafless, so he was well and truly in plain sight. It was weird that the first thing I said when I saw him was, ‘I think that’s Dad’. While he was only there for a day, his visit gave our family great comfort in our time of deep grief. He hasn’t made a return visit (yet!) but on occasion he leaves me, my Mum, and sister, a well placed feather.

  15. I love this, thank you

  16. The day after my partner died unexpectedly (age 31) while I was away for work. A few days later, I was sitting next to a window overlooking my in-laws’ beautiful garden that is always full of birds. I was chatting to my MIL about the funeral when an insistent tapping noise made me turn and look out the window. A young kookaburra (the fur on his head was slightly askew) was trying to get my attention. He looked me straight in the eye and I knew it was J, saying goodbye.

  17. Such a beautiful post, thank you. I’m crying as I write this. Maggie such is a special person but of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. After my parents died 15 and 10 years ago I noticed some strange coincidences, including weird behaviour by birds. I didn’t and don’t know what it means and I’m okay with that.

  18. I was recently 14 weeks pregnant when I discovered there was a problem in my pregnancy.
    I remember lying on the bed that afternoon crying until I eventually fell asleep. A little while later I woke up to what I thought was my husband standing behind me but there was no one there. From that day till 10 days later when I lost the baby I had this constant feeling of someone always standing behind me. Sometimes I even felt their hand was on my back. I feel I can’t tell people because they will think I’m crazy.
    I’m someone who loves hearing these stories but had never encountered anything of the like. But for those 10 days I felt like I had someone watching over me.
    It is amazing what we can feel/sense in these times.

  19. My dad got the diagnosis that he had the bad cancer, and I flew up to see him. As soon as I arrived I took my brother and sister in law aside and told them that dad did not have long to live, even though he had been told he had maybe a year ahead. Something about him, his voice had changed or something else just made me know straight away. We were lucky to get 5 more precious weeks with him, to tell him how much we loved him and that he had done a great job with us.

    On the way to the hospice, several butterflies flicked around the ambulance the whole time it was in the driveway. I like to think that it was signs of family come to get him. One day months later when I was thinking about my dad, my cat carried in a live butterfly into the bedroom, which flew onto my hand and just sat there. It then allowed me to carry it out back into the garden.

  20. Yvonne Duke says

    What a lovely post and what a stunning picture.
    I lost my daughter in 1998, my Nana in 2000, Papa in 2002, Dad in 2006 and my Mum in 2016. Also relatives along the way.
    Life goes on, it just does, but we never forget and many a time I find myself shedding a tear.
    Hold your memories close x

  21. Beautiful post. Grief is so hard, but finding messages in whatever form they appear help us through. 20 years ago I had a baby who died at 4 months old, she was born with a fatal genetic disorder. Fast forward around 15 years, my partner took our 1 year old twins for a drive on the anniversary of my daughter’s birthday, and I took down the box from the top of the cupboard with her special things inside. I hadn’t opened it for a few years, but when I took off the lid, a butterfly flew out. I never told anyone as I felt they wouldn’t believe me. I don’t believe in ghosts etc, but I can’t explain that one! I laughed and thought, ‘well holy shit, she’s still with me’.

  22. Jacqui Kidman says

    So beautiful

  23. Beautifully written Beth!

  24. Thank you, thank you Beth for your sharing so beautifully. I’m sorry for all the loss that your readers have shared here, it’s a heavy load. Just reading the above replies about grief makes me ponder on how our society, be it modern or just our western thinking, does not properly handle the importance of the grief process. To talk and share about our experiences of such loss is intrinsically human, and yet we often save it for a therapy session (if we can afford it), but where are the true deep connections to our community, that allow ALL to move through this inevitable moment during life?
    I do think if we’re open to hearing the messages of comfort in Spirit then we can receive them, even in our sleep if we have distraction during the day. When my mother-in-law passed in the hospital, we were staying in her home. She had a very constricted convalescence period before she passed, so my daughter only saw her immobile. When she passed, my little daughter pointed her out in the house in Spirit, and said she was there walking around but in such a matter of fact way, that it really opened my eyes to how natural and simple it is, but still so hard to let go for us here. liz XO

  25. So sad and so beautiful at the same time. Thank you for sharing this. You have touched my heart. Hugs across the interwebs for you. Xx

  26. So so beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this xx

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