Chasing Shadows: A Mother's Attempt to Process Her Grief

Chasing Shadows: A Mother's Attempt to Process Her Grief

by Sue Parker


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It is often said life is at its cruelest when a parent outlives his or her child. As unnatural as that may seem, many parents find themselves in that position. Whether caused by disease, illness, accident, crime, or suicide, parents can find themselves making funeral arrangements rather than planning a child’s birthday party, graduation, or wedding.

Author Sue Parker knows firsthand what that is like. In Chasing Shadows: A Mother’s Attempt to Process Her Grief, Parker shares her experiences after the death of her youngest child. For much of 2012, Rowan said he wouldn’t live to see 2013. After all, the Mayan calendar ended on December 22, 2012, so he reckoned everyone was going to die. Rather than dwell on the negativity, he grabbed every opportunity with enormous enthusiasm, including a quad bike ride that cost him his life on Boxing Day. Bereft, heartbroken, in a state of total shock, and struggling to survive, Parker felt she had two choices. She could follow him over a cliff or try to make some sense of the tragic turn her family’s lives had taken.

Everyone’s experiences are different, but in Chasing Shadows: A Mother’s Attempt to Process Her Grief, those going through similar circumstances may find help in knowing what to do next…how to go forward. You’ll discover the path forward is not always easy, and there will likely be times when you find yourself wondering, Why bother? Through her experience, Parker shows you can go on, and you should.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452527147
Publisher: Balboa Press Australia
Publication date: 01/08/2015
Pages: 254
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chasing Shadows

A Mother's Attempt to Process Her Grief

By Sue Parker

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2015 Sue W Parker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-2714-7


Some History

Along with the arrival of 2012 came an unequivocal statement from our youngest son, just short of seventeen years, that he wouldn't live to see 2013. We listened to his explanation of why with some well-meant amusement—the Mayan calendar ended on 22 December 2012. so consequently we were probably all going to die! As the year progressed, and he grabbed at every opportunity with enormous enthusiasm—a 10 day voyage on the tall ship, the Spirit of New Zealand; a family holiday to Thailand; a week's scuba diving course, giving him his first "dive ticket"; the lead-role in his school's production of Man of Steel; the lead of his Kapa Haka group; his speech asking the school to vote for him as 2013 Head Boy and subsequent designation of this role—he still insisted that he wasn't going to see 2013. When asked how sure he was, he replied, "A hundred percent sure." On the evening of 22 December he stayed awake into the early hours, waiting for the end to come. Around 2:30 a.m. he texted his older brother, Francis, saying, "hey buddy I'm still alive, how about you?"

Four days later, 26 December 2012, our youngest son was taken from us in a tragic accident that left us all bereft, heartbroken, in a state of total shock, and struggling to survive ourselves.

OK. What do you do? The first week or two come and go in a daze. You dream of him; you wake up thinking that it was the worst nightmare in the world. You spend ages in his bedroom soaking up the smells and memories of fun, snuggly, and warm times—times that you can see in your head and wish you could capture with your arms and your lips and your eyes. Then there are photographs. Wow. Photographs keep you ticking over. Your eyes need to devour every photo that you can get your hands on. It's a little, I am sure, like a drug: you need more and more. You print off copy after copy of photos and cover every wall space and table space with framed beauty. Thank God for Facebook—vacuous in so many ways but cathartic in the number of photos that his friends have posted for us, for themselves.

At this stage I feel I have two choices. I can either follow him over a cliff—not a hard thing to do—or I can try to make some sense of the whole hideous thing.

I have dreams about him. I have reveries that set themselves apart from dreams; they seem more real than dreams, playing on my mind as being more "real". I think I am beginning to learn a difference between these things. A "dream" I have ten days after Rowie left us falls into the second category. He is in his coffin, being carried by his friends, but he sits up and cries to me, "Mum, please, I'm not dead—help me—I'm not dead—please." Nightmare? I think not; this seems too real to be a nightmare.

Bear with me—I need to think a little about the next bit of this story.

Dream or Reality?

This was a hugely distressing phenomenon.

My father died back in 1986, and we were very close. He was a veterinary surgeon and a confirmed atheist. I spoke to him constantly after his death (without reply) and had the odd dream about him. One night I had a "real" experience of him. He was saying, "Time to let me move on now, Sue—I'll still be around, but you've got to get on with your life." This was different from a dream—an almost tangible meeting with him.

I had another "real" experience with Rowie some six weeks down the track. I had been going through an angry phase of my grieving—blaming myself for not having said no to his going to his girlfriend's on Boxing Day; blaming his dad for having to work on Boxing Day, making it a "non-event" which freed him up to go away for the day; angry with God for taking our beautiful, warm, funny son when there are so many mongrels out there in the world (yep, a truly unchristian attitude, to be sure!).

That night I had a "real" visitation from Rowie again, with a totally different feeling from a dream. This time we were in the local community hall, and he was hiding behind a curtain, peering out at me with scared eyes. He was scared that I was angry with him. I realized that it was time to forget my anger. I needed to start reading and researching to find out what other people say about death, dying, the afterlife. I wanted to know with an absolute certainty that I would see Rowie again one day and that he would be there waiting for me.

One of my work colleagues suggested I read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, On Death and Dying (1969). This started me on a journey that I am only twelve months into as I write this chapter, but it has already opened my heart and my mind up to many amazing things. Another colleague said to me, "It is what it is"—a statement that baffled me at first but one that I now understand. She suggested I read some written material from various modern-day mediums: James Van Praagh, Kelvin Cruickshank, Lisa Williams, and Allison DuBois, to name but a few.

These guys opened up my mind to all sorts of other possibilities: pre-set death dates, soul lessons, soul purpose, spiritual growth and evolved consciousness, and reincarnation.

I then progressed to authors with experience of NDEs (near death episodes or experiences). This part of my journey was fascinating (more on that later).

One favourite book of mine, The Art of Happiness, by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, should be read by every man, his wife and children. If everyone could adhere to his Holiness's simple guidelines to happiness—love, compassion, and forgiveness—the world would heal itself overnight!

In my next blog I would love to share with you my views on a simple statement, "there are no coincidences," because this statement has cropped up in every book I have read. It is a statement that has proven itself tenfold to us since Rowie died.


There Are No Coincidences

When my father died, it was sudden and unexpected, even though he had suffered with high blood pressure and emphysema for many years. He died in the afternoon on Saturday, and we were unable to find my sister to tell her until the following Tuesday. The first time we were all together, we experienced a strange phenomenon. We were sitting in the lounge talking when one of us noticed a woodpecker hammering away at the willow tree outside my parents' bedroom. This beautifully coloured bird hammered away at the tree for some twenty minutes or more.

We had lived at this house for many years and had never seen a woodpecker before. We never saw one again either. My father loved birds, particularly robins and woodpeckers. Even though he was a confirmed atheist, I was inclined to have an open mind when it came to religion and felt that if he was given the opportunity to send us a sign, this would be the sign he would send.

The day after Rowie died, the sun shone bright and hot (December in New Zealand being the height of summer). We sat in the garden as a procession of kind, well-meaning people arrived with flowers, food, and words of comfort. Boxes of flowers started arriving, the flowers protected by slivers of shredded paper. As we were sat there, I noticed just three pieces of shredded paper that had escaped their confinement: one shaped like a perfect R, one shaped like a perfect C, and one straight. I laughed and pointed them out to the family. "Rowan Cai. Shame about the other one—it should be a P for Parker," I exclaimed. Within minutes the heat of the sun had turned the third piece of paper into a perfect P—RCP, for Rowan Cai Parker. Was this a coincidence or a message from another plane?

Grief can play tricks on you. I know this. These initials were witnessed by the whole family though. At this stage I'm not sure any of us really believed it was a sign, but it was certainly something to think about. The first week saw us amazed at many little things that triggered the "coincidence" comment: pictures fell off the wall, and the metronome on the piano lost its cover and the mechanism started up.

These were the first of many little unexplained events. It was only after reading several books and seeing the same remark, "there are no coincidences," that I began to look at these small happenings, trying in my own mind to measure probability of this series of "coincidences" against caused happenings. At this stage I began to understand that there were too many of these occurrences to be anything other than "caused" events. One thing I am sure of is that Rowan is not the kind of guy to give in easily. He always was and still is a very persistent soul. I have said many times over the last few months that it is my intention to prove that Rowan is very much alive still—though not physically, unfortunately—and that there definitely is an afterlife. He is still a part of our lives, as he constantly reminds us in one way or another.

I would love to share my experiences of some wonderfully gifted people—people who can speak to those in spirit; another chapter, another time.


Mediums and Other Gifted Souls

Our undertaker, Raewyn, was truly wonderful. I know it is her job to be kind and understanding, but she went the extra mile. She suggested we read a book by a UK medium who she felt would provide some comfort for us. The book certainly did, and ten days after Rowie died, we contacted a local medium in a town not too far away from us. She warned us that it was so very soon after his passing that she might not be able to contact him.

We did a phone reading. She began by blowing my socks off. She said that Rowie was with her and that he was "stoked with the tie"! These opening words were mind-blowing. Francis, our eldest son, had placed his rugby club tie in Rowie's coffin (his dearest wish being that the two of them would one day play together on the same team). Only family and very close friends knew this. There was no way that someone living in a town a hundred kilometres away from us would know this. (I should also point out that Raewyn had no knowledge of this medium.)

Her next statement was even more astounding. She said that she could see Rowie standing there with a grin on his face holding a book with one hand and pointing at it with the other. She laughed and asked, "Is it a Where's Wally book?" This was truly amazing, because for Christmas we had given him a Where's Willy book. The cover looked identical to Where's Wally, with only a slight difference—he was looking for a little willy, not Wally! This was only known again by immediate family who'd been present on Christmas Day.

Lynn, this incredible medium, spent an hour talking to me about Rowie. She told me many other amazing things, like Francis's nickname for him, Skin. She told me that she was making notes and that she would put the notes in the post to us so that we could think about the things that hadn't immediately struck a chord. True to her promise, the notes arrived, and we have been constantly amazed over recent months by her accuracy. We should point out at this stage that she did not charge us for this reading; she did it because she had a deep empathy for our situation.

Lynn did another phone reading with me and came to see us at home for yet another one. In every instance she proved her honesty and sincerity. Rowan came through every time with humour, love, and credibility.

The next eight months saw me travel extensively in my pursuit of spiritual reality and truth—to Christchurch twice and to San Francisco for the most amazing experience of my life so far.

As we discussed earlier, there are no coincidences.

A short while into our journey a face appeared on my Facebook page that was familiar. The name was not so familiar as the face, but I felt a need to follow this up. Linda, an old, warm, funny friend from my previous life in the UK, had a married daughter, Jodie, who had started a blog as a medium and Channel of Heaven. As I began to follow this blog, Jodie discovered that her mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I followed this short, poignant story, heartbreaking for Jodie and very sad for me and many others, of Linda's bravery in the face of a debilitating, aggressive cancer which ended her life very quickly.

It was no coincidence that Jodie and Linda appeared in my life again after twenty years or so. I realized very quickly that Jodie, so like her mother in many ways—vibrant, warm, beautiful, funny—was going to play a very big part in our lives. I felt the need to pop across the Pacific to catch up with her for a chat! Funnily enough, Rowie got there before me ...


Near-Death Episodes (NDEs) or Astral Travel

As stated earlier, I have spent much of the last nine months reading copiously. I have read many books written by parents who have lost children. The "Matthew" series of books are fascinating; Matthew, Tell Me about Heaven is the first written by Matthew's mum, Suzanne Ward. She writes about Heaven as told to her by her son, who died tragically at the age of seventeen. She continues to write a blog that amazes every time.

Another wonderful story is entitled Heaven Is for Real, by Todd Burpo. This tells the true story of Colton Burpo, the four-year-old son of a small-town pastor in the United States. After surviving emergency surgery, he began talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating. He also tells of what his parents were doing and saying whilst he was in surgery. He describes being in Heaven, seeing God and Jesus, and meeting long-dead family members.

A New Zealand story, Dry Your Tears, by Little Grace is written by the mother (Annette Hanham) of another seventeen-year-old tragically taken in an accident and tells of her journey through the grieving process. Daniela I. Norris wrote On Dragonfly Wings: A Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship, after losing a younger and much loved brother. Australian medium, Charmaine Wilson wrote her autobiography, Spirit Whispers, driven to this by the untimely death of her daughter, Crystal. Each of these books referenced other literature which drove me on to read more and more. James van Praagh's Growing Up in Heaven: The Eternal Connection between Parent and Child, discusses the journey of children and adolescents who have passed from earth to Heaven. This book describes the path of the youngsters' souls and their continuous connection to the living. It's a mind-blowing and comforting read for anyone going through a journey similar to ourselves.

Having satiated myself with other people's child-related tragedies, I moved on to books written by people who had returned to us after near-death episodes (NDEs). What transpired here I found fascinating. Everyday folk started telling of near-death experiences suffered on the operating table in the late 1960s—the tunnel with a white light at the very end—stories we have all heard and listened to with a touch of cynicism. Suddenly eminent surgeons who have also treated their patients' stories with cynicism began experiencing similar things.

I read a wonderful book on holiday, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander. As mentioned before, my father was a veterinary surgeon with a typical scientist's attitude towards life and death; you are born, you live, you die—the end. This made Proof of Heaven an even more intriguing read for me. Another holiday read, To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels and Life Again by orthopaedic surgeon Mary C. Neal, was equally inspiring. These stories aren't written by religious fanatics; they are written by members of the medical profession who have found it hard understanding what they have experienced but nonetheless believe totally that they have seen Heaven first-hand.

These NDEs can equally be classed as "astral travelling"—which I believe can also be attained through meditation, something I am trying very hard to do but as yet without success. My brain shoots here, there, and everywhere, not allowing me the peaceful state of mind needed for meditation and thus astral travel. This is something I will succeed in doing one day—something I need to be able to do. I'm only twelve months into my journey as I write this chapt chapter, and Rowie is only twelve months into his journey. We both have a lot to learn.


Excerpted from Chasing Shadows by Sue Parker. Copyright © 2015 Sue W Parker. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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