Until seven years ago, in fact, Annie, now 51, was one of kids north face jackets them. ‘I was the last person to believe in this stuff,’ she says. ‘I thought when you died you died, there was nothing fancy about it. I was agnostic, a sceptic — all those things. Raised in Oregon in the U.S. as one of seven children, she moved to Britain 13 years ago and settled in Canterbury, Kent, after meeting her husband Matthew, a cider producer. Despite the physical distance between them, however, she remained incredibly close to her mother, Betty.
Reaching out: Annie pictured with her late north face gatebreak mother, whose presence she has felt from beyond the grave
‘I was the last child left at home with Mum, and when my mother and father divorced I also lived with her for a couple of years as an adult. We were more like close friends.’ Her mother, she says, remained in reasonably good health until, aged 78, she became ill very suddenly. ‘She fell ill on Boxing Day 2004. No one thought it was serious until tests showed that all her major organs were shutting down,’ Annie recalls. ‘I desperately wanted to fly home but by the time I realised how serious it was, I couldn’t get a flight — because of the time of year everything was fully booked. All I could do was sit and wait for the news.’
Yet instead of a telephone call from a family member, she now firmly believes she received a spiritual message from her mother in the form of those acute physical symptoms.
‘My mother died on January 2, but at first I didn’t really compute what had happened as I was dealing with the most horrendous grief. I was distraught, and cried constantly. At the same time, I was just grateful I’d had a chance to say goodbye,’ she says.
‘As time went on, I did try to talk about north face outlet what had happened with my siblings but it was difficult. I encountered a lot of resistance. Most of them seemed sceptical.’
As she tried to make sense of what had happened, Annie was also battling other sensations. ‘I had this extraordinarily profound conviction that my mum was back with me,’ she says. ‘In the darkest moments of my grief, I had very distinct sensations of her stroking my hair to comfort me, just as she used to do when I was a child.’
'In the darkest moments of my grief, I had very distinct sensations of her stroking my hair to comfort me, just as she used to do when I was a child'
There were other peculiarities, too.
‘I started to find hair pins, of the kind my mother used to wear, dotted around the house. They would be in random places — by the coffee-maker, on the sofa. My husband noticed them, too. I had very short hair and didn’t use anything like that, so it was hugely odd.’ Annie continues: ‘My mother was a smoker and I woke up in the morning to the smell of cigarettes even though our house was totally smoke-free.
‘It took me a long time to admit these things were happening, although it helped that I wasn’t alone. My husband is a very rational man, with a science degree, but he was there when a lot of these things happened.’
Intrigued, Annie started to research her experiences, discovering that they had much in common with people who had undergone near-death experiences.
‘Those people often end up with heightened sensation, a sort of sixth sense if you like, which is how I felt. I was taken aback, but it was also a relief to find I wasn’t alone, that what I’d felt was normal.’