Lorna Byrne sees angels. She sees them everywhere; she has seen them since she was a child. She has written several books, detailing her visions and offering hope. We all have angels watching us, she says. Just as we were told as children. They are ever present.
The first time I heard of Lorna Byrne was in May 2008. She had just published “Angels in My Hair,” and was going to be speaking, and signing copies, at Dubray Books in Bray, Co. Wicklow, about 20 minutes away from where I was living at the time, the village of Roundwood in the Wicklow Mountains.
I had few connections in Roundwood. My partner, Fred, and I had moved there only recently. But then Fred died, in December 2007, at age 39. There is a lot I don’t remember about that time. I cried every day. I cried every time I drove. Also in the shower. I took the dog for long, long walks in Wicklow beauty spots. Vartry lakes. The Vartry Reservoir dam. Glendalough. I was possessed by him those first months, intensely connected.
I don’t believe in angels. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in personal gods who see everything we do and either guide or judge us. But my pain, and my desire for a connection, were huge. On the scheduled night, I found myself driving the long, straight road out of Roundwood, through housing estates, fields and bog, toward the Sugar Loaf and then into Bray.
Dubray bookstore was packed. Mostly women; a few men. I saw Lorna — a petite woman in her fifties with straight, dark hair and a calm, peaceful bearing — at the front of the room. I couldn’t get very close. I managed to find a place to stand at one side, where I could see her.
What I wanted, was a sign. For her to see me. And to see him, with me. And to have that communicated: “Yes, he is with you, he is there.” Any sign — our eyes meeting; a nod. That would be enough.
She spoke, briefly, about her life as a mystic, and about her book. She assured us that the room was full of angels. Most of them were laughing. And then she took questions.
A traveller woman pushed up to the front to speak. “My 14-year old daughter committed suicide last week,” she shouted. A shocked gasp escaped the crowd; calm empathy radiated from Lorna. The traveller woman continued speaking, telling her story. I couldn’t get all of it, just the feeling behind it: shock, anger, confusion.
Suddenly, she broke down, ran up to Lorna and hugged her, still talking. The hug lasted awhile, and when it broke off, someone else spoke.
A room full of pain is what it was, and what, in my heart, I knew it would be. A room full of people who needed to hear that what we see and feel with our limited senses is not all there is. That we are not alone; that there is a connection between this world and the world after death and that we can access that connection. Or at least be near someone who has access to that connection. The saint, the priest, the healer. Anyone who can give temporary ease to a permanent grief.
I lingered a bit, near the end. She was signing her book. The line was long. I was at the back, near the front of the store, where “Angels in my Hair” was piled high on tables. I thought “I will wait. I am not so needy. I do not really believe.” But I hung onto my original vision. I would eventually reach her. She would sign my book and she would see me, and him, and show me or tell me: he is here. I read random paragraphs while waiting for the line to subside.
And suddenly, I put the book down and left. And walked the few blocks to the carpark. And drove home to Roundwood.
Grieving is grieving; there is no escape from it. Of course he was with me — I invoked him, every day. I spoke to him; I asked for his advice; I laughed with him. This is the way of it. Grieving is not a process of letting go. It is a process of understanding how you will never be the same. I would not get a shortcut out of that pain from a kind-faced stranger’s acknowledgement of it.
Lorna Byrne may see angels. The human brain is capable of anything. And maybe she sees something — energy, spirit, light — that is actually there. Her message — of hope, of kindness, of connectedness — cannot be faulted.
My personal feeling is that we largely bumble through life on our own. But perhaps the angels give witness. And perhaps that is all we want.