Shaken, not stirred

February 4, 2016

shaken-not-stirredThe unexpected death of a loved one can shake you to the core.

Oh, of course, I should have expected it. She was, after all, undergoing treatment for two different cancers and had been for almost six years. She’d been hospitalized more than a couple times with countless other long visits for blood and platelet infusions. But when the end of her life on earth came it was without warning. Quickly, silently and, we’re told, painlessly.

“Brain bleed,” her daughter’s voice told me on the phone that morning.

“Is she going to die?” I asked.


I clutched the phone more tightly.

Shaken is the word.

Not stirred.

Stirred is what we all were, her dear girlfriends, as she fought that long battle. Yet another valiant cancer warrior. Only it was our beloved friend. We rallied around her as if our combined effort could keep her with us and maybe it did. The girlfriend who kept her company several nights a week. The one who brought her salmon from the farmer’s market every Saturday. The ones she went to early dinner with when she felt up to it. And me, the one who would zoom over to any hospital she was in to encourage her, make her laugh and hear her concerns. We were stirred, alright.  We all knew the end game.  We just weren’t expecting it that day or that week. Or even that year. Last year. About six weeks ago.

Shaken is the word.

She had had a beautiful birthday the week before. Family and close friends gathered at her home. She looked beautiful. And happy.  I had offered to have my husband bake her cake, something he often did when she needed to gain strength.  She said she wanted dark chocolate with dark chocolate frosting.

“Can you get fancy?” she asked with a naughty grin.

“How fancy?” I said, in that tone of voice that always made her laugh. The same one I’d use when I said “what, me vacuum?”  I needed clarification. “Do you mean rosettes-on-top fancy?”

“I’d like vanilla creme and bananas between the layers and the top to be covered with walnuts.”

We could do that.  “Absolutely,” I told her. “Absolutely.”

At home, my husband quickly Googled “how to make vanilla creme.”  We bought the ingredients and he baked a cake that everyone raved about, including her.


The cake.

A few days after her party, she made sure to tell me again how delicious it was and how she was still eating the leftovers.

“Michael could open a bakery,” she said. “If you ever have to bring a dish to someone’s house, that’s what you should bring.”

In those last days, she gave me instructions for the rest of my life. I didn’t recognize them as such at the time, but now, in retrospect, I know they were. She knew I was pursuing a particular goal and she’d had a dream about me that gave her an opening to exhort me to continue. The dream was extremely detailed, down to what I was wearing. She told me what she wanted me to do. In those words.  “I want you to…”

I said I would.

Only days later we gathered around her hospital bed as the priest anointed her in the last rites. Together, holding hands and touching her, we recited The Lord’s Prayer with him in the ancient ritual that Christians had done for centuries.  She was “brain dead” they’d told us, a ventilator mechanically pumping air into her chest while we waited for one of her kids to get back to town. She’d had a catastrophic bleed and was gone. And yet, during the prayer, she moved her head, twice. And a few minutes later, another time. Although one of us had been with her every minute since her bleed, she’d not moved before then and she didn’t after, even when they removed the ventilator tubes. Except for when her daughter arrived and spoke to her and held her hand. She moved then.

So, brain dead? Obviously consciousness does not reside in the brain and it does survive physical death. As much that idea scares us a bit.

“I have no good explanation for that,” her doctor (and mine, too) told me.

A few minutes ago, while I was writing this, a wicker basket on the shelf above my computer fell off the shelf and into my lap. For no reason.

The day she died, on the way to the hospital, a candle app on my phone lit of its own accord. Michael was driving and I looked down on my phone and there was a lit candle.

“What a coincidence!” I said to him.

In the hospital, it happened again. And then once again.

It hadn’t happened before, ever. It hasn’t happened since.

It isn’t even on the same screen as any app I regularly  use. It’s a few clicks away.

There are no coincidences.

I think of her beautiful hands, those long fingers and soft skin unmarked by age spots. I could almost see her mischievous grin as she pushed the basket off the shelf and lit the candles to get my attention.

The day after she died, a close friend of mine who had often sent her Reiki, called me.

“At about 2am I woke up,” she said, “and felt a cool breeze float by my face. That’s always my indication that a spirit is present. And then I heard, clear as a bell, this:  Tell Carol I’m free.”

shaken-not-stirredAnd then, a week after her death, I received a text from her phone. At the time it was sent, no one had been near her phone. In fact, it was in her home and no one else was in the house or had been, for hours. We thought perhaps it had been sent earlier and delayed after sending, but when her phone was checked, the sent date and time were a week after her death. Of everything that has happened, THAT was the one that freaked me out most. We looked for a rational explanation and found none, because the text wasn’t delayed in the system after sending, it was sent after her death. It wasn’t “scheduled” because she had absolutely no idea how to schedule a text.

The text read, “Tell Riley we are on our way.”  She did come over to see Riley about a week before she died and it wasn’t unusual for her to write a text and forget to send it. Which is what I suspect she did with that one.

But other texts were sent from her phone after she wrote that, so it didn’t just go off when she touched her text screen. Other people had handled her phone in the days since she left us and it hadn’t sent then. And her daughter even texted me a phone number from her mother’s phone a few days after she died. This particular text didn’t send then, either.

This text? It was sent days later and just hours after I’d been at her interment. There, I told her to come visit, as I did several times at the hospital and again at her wake. Apparently, she did..

I’m pretty sure she’s watching this unfold from the afterlife and laughing at my struggle to accept her contact.

There are things we can’t explain, at least not yet. She and I had talked about these things over the years and we’d talked about the afterlife not too long ago. I told her what I thought happened after death.

“I hope you’re right,” she said.

“I am,” I told her.  “I’m right about this.”

Now she knows, too, and is telling me she’s there and I was right.

I’m thinking that I’ll continue to hear from her in big ways and small.

In fact, I’m counting on it.

My very favorite photo of my friend and one of her grandchildren, taken about a dozen years ago.

My very favorite photo of my friend and one of her grandchildren, taken about a dozen years ago.


67 comments on “Shaken, not stirred
  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I definitely think there are things that we can’t explain out there.

  2. Lore says:

    So tender….tears forming….I felt much of this…and you know that today is World Cancer Day?
    Hugs to you, Carol.

  3. K. Lee Banks says:

    What an amazing and beautiful story! I have had my share of experiences since my parents died that make their presence seem so real. I think maybe God gives us these glimpses behind the “veil” so to speak… these moments of comfort about lost loved ones, just when we most need them.

  4. This story gives me goosebumps and hope. Thanks for sharing, Carol.

  5. Angela Mager says:

    Such a beautifully told story. Your love for your friend is palpable. I was so moved by the incredible, unexplainable happenings. How precious to have these moments of connection and hope.

  6. pia says:

    Over 35 years ago (wow, we were so young!) my first, and best friend, to be diagnosed with AIDS (long long story about the diagnosis) was very sick.
    My parents asked me to go on a road trip from Salzberg to Rome with them. In every church I would light a candle. My prayer was, sadly, that he would die as I knew there were no miracles then—and he was so horribly sick.
    The weather was incredibly hot for October. We stayed in some cheap but very atmospheric hotel in Venice. It began thundering and lightening something fierce. I went to my parents room and said “I don’t need to pray for Billy anymore.”
    When we arrived at JFK a friend was unexpectedly waiting for me. Before she could say anything, I said “don’t tell me. Billy died on 10/09, 7:35PM Rome time.”
    I had known another friend was going to die 15 years earlier and cut short my life in Israel to warn him. Only my boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out how to.
    There were other instances. I cut myself off from that part of me. It was a skill, or something, I didn’t want.
    On the other hand I made a lot of money for charities when I would don my psychic hat—but the migraines that always followed weren’t worth it.

  7. This is such a heartwarming post. I agree there is something after life and your friend surely is sending messages to you, so you’ll know she is free. I had similar things happen to me when my mother passed on 3/24/09.

  8. deanna says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you had a beautiful connection that was felt on a deep level. you were lucky to have each other. what a special bond.

  9. What a great read and you told it so well. It’s such a tragedy when we lose loved ones. Even though I’m a Christian and I believe I’ll see them again, it’s still dreadfully painful.

  10. tara pittman says:

    What an amazing story. God is stronger than medicine.

  11. Barb Best says:

    Uplifting! Beautiful tribute to your friend and to the power of love. The mysteries of life and death are indeed profound.

  12. What a gorgeous piece. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your friend and your experiences with her before, during, and after. It wasn’t until my father died that I fully and totally believed that consciousness never ends. There were so many signs and signals and visits. The one that was the most dramatic was the time I found a pen from the Daytona Auto Auction (my Dad had worked there) on the front seat of my car (in Connecticut)…I had never seen it before and my father had never been in that car. Thank goodness for these messages because they are so very comforting.

  13. Laurie Stone says:

    Chills. My Dad died six months ago and I miss him everyday. I want to believe I see signs of him here and there but am never sure. This was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

  14. andrea says:

    the memories of our loved ones and friends will always be with us forever

  15. Eugenia says:

    Ohh, how much I understand you ((( Some years ago I lost my cousin from Cancer, he had just turned 18. It’s such a tragedy ((( It’s World Cancer Day today. Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story. Big hugs to you!

  16. Kate says:

    That was so touching, Carol, and I have goosebumps! You’re so fortunate to have that contact. I lost my father nearly seven years ago and how I would love a sign of any kind. That was beautifully written, and I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

  17. What an amazing story! So sorry for your loss Carol.

  18. This is so intense. I, too believe there is more after death here on earth. So glad you are open to this. I think the loss of our dear, dear friends is often not given nearly enough credence. The loss of a friend is as gut-wrenching as the loss of any other loved one. I wish yiu grace in your grief and moments of laughter and joy when your friend contacts you, or you just think of her. Love to you, Carol.

  19. This brought tears to my eyes and a warm glow in my heart. I believe in signs like this. What a beautiful story and beyond life long friendship.

  20. Nancy Hill says:

    Lovely. Your telling of these moments moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing it. I don’t get many messages from beyond any longer, I think most of my family has moved on to planes that no longer easily connect with this one. This reminded me of the times they did send little greetings.

  21. Tammy says:

    Love this post, Carol. So full of love and peace. I too have lost someone very close to me this year. I cannot bring myself, yet, to write about it. The hurt runs deep, as you well know. Thank you for this, my friend. I can’t explain a lot of things, but it doesn’t stop me from believing. The believing gives me a little sanity, peace and hope.

  22. Jen Lawrence says:

    Oh Wow! I think I would freak out if I got a text from a deceased loved one. This was so touching. I always pay attention to signs though…

  23. Lesile Rossi says:

    sounds like you had a great friendship! most people can only dream of one of those and i’m sure she loved you very deeply.

  24. Teresa Bowen says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is always comforting to think that the people we love care enough about us to communicate with us even after their time here has finished.

  25. Alana says:

    I’m left speechless, because recently I dreamed of my best friend from childhood, who died (cancer) in September. In the dream, she appears, looking like she did before the cancer got really bad. I say to her “..but, I thought you were dead! I was at your funeral! [I wasn’t but I visited her family two days later]If I tried to touch you, would my arm pass through you?” She just smiled a little smile. Even more spooky is the phone call my husband possibly got from my late father shortly after he died…one day I will have to blog about that one.

  26. John Milnes says:

    I totally understand what you have gone through. I lost my mother at the age of 15 and my father at the age of 29. Both of my parents died in very sad ways. My mother died of cancer and my father died in a very sad accident. I took me a long time get over each of my parents death. It taught me how fragile life was.


  27. I offer my sympathies and a sigh on World Cancer Day. I hate cancer with a passion. Beautiful lives cut short. I am so very sorry, Carol.

  28. Oh Carol. You have me in tears. I am so sorry for your loss. Groundhogs day was the first time it would of been my grand mother’s birthday since we lost her in May and I didn’t realize till this week how shaken I still was by it.
    I think it’s beautiful she told you goodbye. A few years ago one of my dear friends died in a car accident. The night of the accident we were supposed to hangout and didn’t. I couldn’t sleep for days after he died. Finally the night of his funeral I fell asleep and had a dream about the night he died, I kept telling him I loved him and then I woke up and as if someone ran past the down of my bathroom, it shook. I always believed that was his goodbye to me.
    I haven’t shared that story online but you beautiful post makes me want to, for the simple fact it’s amazing to hear others have had these moments.
    God bless you

  29. laci says:

    So sorry death is my #1 stuck in fear emotion uggg !!

  30. Kusum says:

    So sorry for your loss, you have done a wonderful job with the post – heartwarmingly-beautiful! I am sure it must have been one of the hardest things to do, reliving the moment while penning down your thoughts. Hugs to you!!
    xx, Kusum |

  31. Elizabeth O. says:

    What a beautiful story. I am sorry for your loss and I’m glad that her suffering is now over. It’s funny how she tries to remind you that she never left and that she’s still around to watch over you.

  32. Diana says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, The day my son passed away, at the cemetery, as many were getting ready to leave, after the minister had spoken, the wind blew, it wasn’t a windy day, it was a beautiful but sad day and but it was from him, my 22 year old son who had died suddenly, came by to tell everyone he is on his way to heaven.
    I am sorry for your loss, it is hard to lose someone we care about.

  33. I am sorry for your loss but your story and your friend’s story is so heartwarming.

  34. Patricia says:

    Goodness, what freaky occurrences afterwards! I’m sorry for the loss of your friend but glad you can take some comfort in the ways she is contacting you after death.

  35. nicole escat says:

    This is absolutely a beautiful story I’m sorry for the loss. I enjoyed reading this and I’m so glad that you share this with us

  36. I couldn’t stop crying when I read this, this woman remained positive and full of humor right until the end despite having a six year battle and dealing with two cancers. It is amazing that she is still there with you and left you with a legacy x

  37. what a beautiful story – your friend sounds like an amazing woman

  38. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story about friendship, life and yes, transition. May the peace that passeth all understanding descend and embrace all of you! Namaste.

  39. Kyle says:

    This was a wonderful read Carol. I’ve passed on to others to appreciate…Thank you. Kyle

  40. Lexie Lane says:

    Such a beautiful story. I will save this! Thanks for that.

  41. The only time I can say I felt the passing of a person was when I was little I dreamt my Grandpa was holding fort as a host at a mega party at his home, dressed in brilliant white I couldnt look too closely. And he was as fierce as he had always been in life…A week alter we got the message that he had passed on, on that day!

    I dont know whether that freaked me out coz I never had similar dreams after. My belief is Our Spirits Live on they never die coz hey are not meant to! They are what passes on and thus can communicate powerfuly with the living…if we paid attention.

    What a touching, moving heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Dogvills says:

    What a heartwarming story. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

  43. Liz Mays says:

    This is both sad and beautiful. I absolutely believe those who’ve passed reach out to us afterward to let us know they’re ok.

  44. Amy Jones says:

    What a beautiful story! its hard to lose somebody but trust god and everything will be ok

  45. MyTeenGuide says:

    losing someone we truly loved is painful. but we must remember that everything happens for a reason. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and beautiful friendship.

  46. Angie Scheie says:

    So touching! As I read this (with tears streaming down my face) I had so many different emotions. Sadness for you, for losing such a dear friend. Sadness in general, that we all have to lose those that we love here on this earth (at least for a time). Anger at cancer and its unbiased attack on those who deserve it the least. Awe and goosebumps at the supernatural, and the things we can’t explain. And gratefulness for friendship and its power to transcend even death.
    Hugs to you, and thanks for sharing this piece of your life with us.

  47. Victoria says:

    What a beautifully written story! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  48. I’m so sorry for your loss. This story is so moving—-I know she is trying to contact you to let you know that she’s happy and pain free now. I lost my sister seven years ago and she has been communicating with me ever since. I truly believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

  49. Patty says:

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. But she will always be with you – obviously. And you better do what you said you would or she might bug you!

  50. Very touching Carol. Cancer has killed several of my close family & friends. It’s the saddest thing I have experienced when loosing someone to this brutal disease. Loosing a good friend is very very hard. My heart goes out to you.

  51. What an amazing story!! I’m so sorry for your loss and so glad that you share this with us!!

  52. Mardene Carr says:

    I am about to start crying because I cannot talk about death without thinking of my parents who are both gone. Sometimes it hurts like hell. SIGH

  53. This was an awesome read! Thanks for sharing this beautiful message

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