...I was still getting messages coming through while I was seeing patients. For the want of making any decision, I decided to just sit back and see what would happen.
On the sixth of December 2004, a sixty-six year old woman entered my room and sat down. Normally bright and bubbly, Lucy burst into tears. I enquired about her background. She was born in Ireland but she had lived in England for years. Had anything changed recently? No. She had suddenly been plunged into an extremely deep depression.
‘I can’t go around like this, Doctor. Can you give me anything?’
Not entirely happy to do so but feeling that I did not have much else to offer her at that moment, I printed out a prescription for an anti-depressant.
I was just about to hand her the prescription when I felt that familiar almost physical slap to the back of my head.
I clearly heard a voice that commanded, ‘Ask her about her father!’
With that, I thought that I could vaguely see the outline of a man over her left shoulder. This was utterly unexpected and quite took me by surprise.
I heard myself saying, ‘Lucy, tell me about your father.’
Quick as a flash she stopped crying, looked at me and said, ‘He was killed thirty-eight years ago on the eighth of December by the IRA. Do you think that’s why I’m depressed?’
At which point I described the person I thought I had seen over her shoulder. It was a good description of her father. Furthermore, in two days it would be the anniversary of his death.
Her transformation was sudden, startling and quite wonderful. She stopped crying, grabbed my arm and looked at me intently.
‘Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me,’ she said.
Lucy explained that although an Irish Catholic, her father had been critical of the IRA. She was living in London at the time that her father had been murdered by the Republicans. Since that time, she had always felt the protective presence of her father around her. When Lucy mentioned this to her family, she had been told that as a Catholic she was not supposed to believe in such things.
We discussed her feelings relating to her father’s death and the fact that it was probably the anniversary of his death that had triggered her reaction. I also told her that I did not necessarily subscribe to the after-death survival hypothesis.
‘Well you believe what you like, Doctor. All I can tell you is that you’ve confirmed what I always thought. Now I know why I was so depressed I won’t need your pills.’
She left the room all smiles while I sat dumbfounded.
One month later, she returned.
‘What’s wrong Lucy?’ I asked.
‘Nothing at all.’
‘So why have you come to see me?’ I asked.
‘I’ve come to tell you a story,’ she said, sitting down and rubbing her hands together in excited anticipation of my reaction.
A couple of weeks after our last meeting she had gone to a party at her Irish social club. A rather creepy man who claimed to have the ‘second sight’ had approached her and said, ‘Lucy I’ve got something to say to you.’
‘What is it?’ she asked.
He motioned her towards a small room off the main function hall.
‘It’s very personal so why don’t you come into this room?’ he suggested.
‘I’ll do no such thing. If you’ve got anything to say just come right out and say it now,’ said Lucy, doing her best to sound shocked at his impertinence.
‘Well, did you know that there’s a fellow looking over your left shoulder? I think he’s your father.’ He then described exactly what I had seen.
She glared at him and said curtly, ‘Well of course I knew. My doctor told me that last week!’
Lucy looked at me and smiled. ‘You know what Doctor? That sure took the wind out of his sails.’