I have always loved words, whether spoken, written or sung and, when I’m not scribbling in a fancy notebook, I can be found daubing paint on a canvas, knitting colourful jumpers or doing puppetry on TikTok. My writing career actually began at the age of ten when I proudly won a school competition with a poem about woodlice. However, my parents had other ideas and insisted I should train for a ‘proper job’, so writing took a back seat and remained a hobby for many years.
Yet it was my experiences as a teenager that would eventually lead to my second writing prize, this time a national one, for Love, Death and Beyond. As happened in many British families in those days, I was confirmed into the Christian Church; but it didn’t take long for me to reject the faith as patriarchal nonsense. I couldn’t believe in a wrathful old man in the sky who liked to blast people to Hell if they got things wrong.
Nevertheless, I became acutely aware of my own mortality and, with no supporting belief system, developed a terror of death. My fear of what awaits us all at the end of life dominated my thoughts for many years, making me miserable at teenage parties and equally dismissive of other world religions with their apparently easy answers. In fact, I did have a keen interest in spirituality and even had paranormal experiences of synchronicity, precognition and clairaudience, but I dismissed them all as coincidence or hallucination because I was so afraid of being ridiculed.
I had no idea at that time that it would be my deep connection with animals that was to lead to my eventual spiritual awakening.
As an adult, I trained to be an Occupational Therapist and also became a Buddhist for a while, influenced by my boyfriend’s wonderful mother! However, even though I read and travelled a lot, and found a lot of it helpful psychologically, meditation didn’t ease my fear of death. If anything, it made it worse.
The freedom to write full-time came, a somewhat mixed blessing, when I became physically disabled after a serious car crash. Unable to work anymore, I retreated into the wonderful world of words and, immersed in fiction and memoir, I was able to escape my physical pain and existential fears. A gently successful literary pathway followed with two stories on local radio, publication in anthologies and being part of a scriptwriting team for two BBC-produced docudramas. I also had three plays staged by amateur theatre companies and the Derby Shakespeare Company.
As I tried to recover from my injuries, I also began to write memoirs about my earlier wild travel adventures including a stint out in the South Seas surviving on a desert island with just one companion and a BBC camera. This memoir was long-listed by Mslexia in their 2014 competition.
Throughout all these efforts I was supported by my three dear pets. Timmy and Dolly were cats who lay across my feet as I dictated my words onto the computer, and my dog Betty gradually helped me learn to walk again, staying by my side and comforting me during my divorce. But after thirty years of disability, my health declined again; I was housebound and life was feeling particularly bleak.
And that’s when I thought back to my meeting decades earlier with a cute, chestnut-coloured hamster called Beryl.
Although religions had tried to teach me about a world beyond this one, it wasn’t until I’d seen Beryl’s soul rise up from her body at the point of death, in a golden hamster-shaped mist, that my mind had begun to open to the possibility of spiritual worlds. Indeed, after this there had been many other paranormal events. I had also seen Timmy’s soul leave her body, heard clear psychic messages of comfort from Betty after her death, and eventually experienced undeniable angelic contact and human after-death communication.
As a medical scientist, I had at first dismissed all such things as wishful thinking. But then, a scientist has to accept the evidence of their own eyes and ears – and there was a lot of evidence. I finally understood that many people have these experiences and that it was time for me to record my memoir – and lose my fear of ridicule – so that I could share my comforting message of personal transformation. Love, Death and Beyond is meant for anyone living in darkness who needs reassurance in the face of fear, as I did for many years, and it’s also a book for animal lovers who may wonder where their dear pets go after death and whether there is a Heaven for them too.
My rich and varied experiences have allowed me to view ‘the bigger picture’ and to revisit the great world religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, in a new light. This new confidence and belief was of incredible benefit when I collapsed with heart failure a few years ago: as I was taken to hospital, I felt real hope rather than terror. This positive attitude at a time of great need was nearly all down to the messages and visions given to me by my animals. Without them, I honestly believe I would have remained sceptical and living a life of fear.
In the future, I shall write about relationship, about how we treat ourselves, each other and the planet, with the particular backdrop of climate change. Rather than exploring the dystopia in which we live, we need books that bring inspiration and hope because surely there’s enough sadness in the world. It’s time for literature, music and art to come together in the spiritual awakening of humanity.
Love, Death and Beyond won the Local Legend national Spiritual Writing Competition.