Visitations from the Afterlife: True Stories of Love and Healing

Visitations from the Afterlife: True Stories of Love and Healing

By Lee Lawson
New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Hardback, xviii + 233 pages.

Lee Lawson is a West Coast artist, some of whose paintings are used on the dust jacket and to preface the book's 82 anecdotes. Those anecdotes are from the hundreds friends have shared with her, as well as five of her own experiences, about visits from deceased loved ones. She says, "People from all over the world, of every age and of every walk of life, have contributed to the following stories of visitations from the afterlife" (17). The stories are classified under 14 different headings such as "Stories of Love and Healing," "Saying Good-bye for Now," and "Making Peace: Forgiveness and Reconciliation."

The final chapter has stories of symbolic, but highly unusual and personally significant, visitations. Some might be explained in terms of the Jungian concept of synchronicity, but some seem to suggest that a dead animal somehow managed to influence another animal of a very different species to convey a feeling of continuity and love to its owner.

Although many of the stories do not accord with Theosophical theories about survival, found for example in The Mahatma Letters or the writings of H. B Blavatsky, C. W. Leadbeater, and Annie Besant, there is a tone of sincerity about them that calls upon the reader to think more deeply about the adequacy of theories. It is obvious that the author has reworded some of the stories that people have told her, since her style is evident in their retelling, but many of the stories have quite different styles and undoubtedly were written by the people to whom they are credited. In any event, they are all worth reading.

The author summarizes the point of the stories as follows: "The greater message of every visitation is that life continues after the death of the body and that we will be together again. You can trust that separation is temporary.... A visitation from the afterlife tells us all that, for those who live, good-bye means good-bye for now, until we meet again" (46). Curiously, however, she repeatedly talks about "inconsolable feelings of loss" (xv) and "a tear in the very fabric of your being [when a friend or loved animal dies], a wound that, I believe, never fully heals" (23). This is certainly at odds with the experiences of most of the narrators of her stories, as well as those of Phoebe Bendit (in This World and That), myself, and others who have experienced such visitations. It is also at odds with her advice about letting go of departed loved one. (46).

The introduction to the book is by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian psychologist and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, who mentions J. B. Rhine, John Lilly, Raymond Moody, and "the Theosophists," bur doesn't seem personally familiar with the literature of those sources herself. Despite these few flaws, I found the book very interesting and reassuring. As the author writes, "A visitation gives me the knowledge that even though I understand little about why and how life goes on, it does go on for all of us. Existence is a safe place for me and the people I love. I cannot lose my life, and I cannot lose other souls who are dear to me. Our survival is assured" (221).


January/February 2002