Richard Lawler - Astrologer

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When did you last see my daddy? JC, Auntie Aileen &, Stewart.

Ann Riley was at her father's bedside when he died. It was a painful goodbye, but did it have to be a final one? After 18 months of grieving, Ann tried a clairvoyant. Here is her touching - and surprising - account of what happened next.

June 3 2008 was the worst day of my life.

As I boarded a plane at Heathrow, destined for my childhood home, I knew that my father was about to die. He was 74.

I reached Belfast City Hospital to find my mother, my sisters and Auntie Aileen, my daddy's youngest sister, standing quietly around his bed. They were waiting for him to be brought up from theatre, where doctors had tried to stem the massive internal bleeding that had bloated his body beyond recognition.

The nurses, who had cared for my father through two-and-a-half years of cancer treatment, gently moved him into his bed. His surgeon broke the silence.
"All the best. JOHN." she said, in a typical Northern Irish way, as if he were about to go out for dinner.

We smiled at her, knowing that she had tried her best to save a person who made the world a more interesting place.

The nurses tucked him in and left us as a complete family for the last time. They were glad that JC. who always made them laugh through their very difficult job, was with his girls. When you watch someone die, your first thought is that it's not like in the films. Perhaps some people do flutter their eyes slowly while clasping the hand of their nearest and dearest and whispering a soft but audible "I love you and don't forget to look after the dog". But that is not what my daddy did. He didn't want to leave us. He appeared terrified. He was trying to talk but couldn't. His once bright blue eyes were growing darker as his pupils sought their last rays of light.

"I'm cold," he whispered, so I pulled back the heavy hospital sheets to rub his freezing, swollen feet. As I did so. he turned his head questioningly towards my mother. "It's Annie," she said. My other sisters were trying to comfort him too; to let him know that they were there, to make him feel how much they loved him.

Slowly his breathing became more laboured. And then it stopped. Then he almost jumped, and I thought, "Very funny. Daddy, typical you, pretending to die..."
His pupils were black now. We all looked to Auntie AILEEN. an intensive care nurse, who nodded sadly.

The nurses took us elsewhere for a cup of tea while they "made him comfortable" so we could say our last goodbyes. I stayed for only a few minutes because I couldn't bear looking at my dead father. I wanted to remember his cheeky grin, not this grey shell.

I left the room and a nurse gave me some leaflets on bereavement. One said that I might expect to have moments of extreme sadness and anger ("Why hadn't he / I / they done x. y or z?") but also periods of helpfulness. Perhaps she meant helplessness, although looking back on the days that followed, we all made each other many pots of tea.

Eighteen months on, I can't stop wondering if my father is up there, wherever that is. Psychics and clairvoyants claim to have contact with those who have "passed over", and I too have a certain spiritual belief; I think everyone has a soul that lives on after physical death. Maybe because I watched him die in pain, or maybe just because I'm nosey, I decided to find my daddy.

Every day, after dropping my daughter EVE at school. I pass a large oak tree. On it is pinned a card, which reads: "RICHARD Lawler, Clairvoyant". There is a phone number underneath, and one morning recently. I rang it. RICHARD was not quite what I expected. He wore a pork-pie hat on top of his unruly hair, and what looked like a giant ball of Blu-Tack on a chain around his neck, with a paperclip stuck in it. Before he gave me a reading he knew only my name and birthday. I didn't reveal that I'm a journalist, but within minutes he said, "You have a strong association with a writer". Then he told me, from the 12 tarot cards I'd picked, what my future held (a film script. yippee) and a house-move (true). Next he said that when I had arrived I'd had "a lot of yellow and black around me, like a wasp", but now I was "orange, like a barrister presenting his case."

My father had been a QC and I waited for more, but RICHARD switched track and said that my mum's mum was talking to him. She was telling me to "get an agenda, not to be interrupted, to write about what interests you and to follow your destiny".

I was five when my grandmother died, so this made me sit up.

Then someone else came through. "An UNCLE?' suggested Richard. This man was showing him the fields of Antrim and a farm in Ballymena; he was putting large bets on horses and was a bit of a lovable rogue. I was baffled, but my mum later recognised this man as "Uncle STEWART", one of my father's best friends. who died several years ago and matches the description closely.

Finally. RICHARD asked me if I wanted to know anything else. I said I was hoping to contact my father. He asked me what Daddy did. and I told him. He warned me that people who'd had successful careers don't talk to him as much, because they'd been so happy in the material world that it was hard for them to accept they were now in a spirit one.

Richard's eyes remained closed, as they had for most of the reading, but they flickered beneath the lids, as though in a vivid dream. "Yes." he said, "your father is here." I was scared and excited and sceptical all at once. "But," Richard continued, "he says he doesn't want to talk to you."

Sunday Express MAGAZINE * 25 APRIL 2010 MODERN LIFE

Now maybe RICHARD hadn't really contacted my dad and was stalling. But my father never wanted to talk to me.
If I phoned home he'd say a gruff, "Hello." then, "here's your mother." He wasn't trying to be rude to me; that was simply the way he was. He wasn't into chit-chat. He also never told me. or my sisters, that he loved us. He did love us and we know that; it wasn't in his nature to show feelings.
So when RICHARD told me, 'He wants you to know that he does love you." I was shaken, though still doubtful. Had RICHARD guessed that was what I needed to hear? But then he said. "Your father thinks you made a reasonable choice in your husband. Not that it's any of his business."
Eleven years ago. when BEN and I announced we were getting married, my dad's words were, "You can marry whomever you like. It's not any of my business".

I now feel a little more at peace, and I think he does too.

Ann Riley Sunday Express MAGAZINE * 25 APRIL 2010

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