The spirits of our lost children came back to bring us comfort too: After Nicola Horlick revealed how her dead daughter, 12, returned to help her grieving family, others reveal their own extraordinary stories
Known for her no-nonsense attitude, City superwoman Nicola Horlick is someone who suffers no fools.
Yet this week in the Mail she shared her astonishing account of how, from paintings mysteriously falling to the ground to more visceral encounters, her daughter Georgie came back to ‘help’ the family after she died from leukaemia aged 12.
Her compelling, and deeply moving, words struck a very personal chord with some of you, our readers, who yourselves have lost children. Your responses came flooding in, telling us how you, too, had been visited by your sons and daughters from beyond the grave.
‘Our lovely Lisa had only passed two weeks earlier when she first visited us,’ says Clive Wilson. ‘We were in bed, sobbing ourselves to sleep when Trish saw Lisa’s face appear and heard her say very clearly, “Mum, Dad needs you.”
‘It was typical of Lisa to be concerned for me. Since then, she has visited us regularly. Sometimes she is vividly present. But there have also been quirky incidents which have no other explanation.’
Special presence: Lisa Wilson at her graduation in 2001, a year before she died in a car accident in Australia
As with Nicola, Lisa’s death has convinced previous sceptics Clive, 70, and wife Trish, 72, from the New Forest — who say they are not strongly religious — that there is an after-life, and that the dead can communicate with the living.
Lisa was just 23 when she died in a car accident in 2002. A go-getter, she had saved up to go travelling after graduating in 2001 from Solent University in Southampton with a degree in business management.
She had travelled through the U.S., Fiji and New Zealand, throwing herself into exploits that Clive admits ‘left us sick with nerves like climbing glaciers and bungee jumping’.
When Lisa reached Australia and the homeward stretch, her parents finally felt able to relax. However, in November 2002, Lisa was driving to Uluru with friends when the car swerved off the road. Lisa, who was in the passenger seat, died instantly.
‘It’s impossible to describe our shock and devastation,’ says Clive, who also shares two sons with Trish — Scott, now 46, and Ross, 44. ‘We flew straight out to Australia to bring Lisa home.
‘That’s when Trish first sensed her presence — when Lisa told her to comfort me.’
Over the next few months Lisa visited her parents several times. ‘When I couldn’t sleep, I found comfort lying in her bed,’ Clive tells us. ‘Once, I sensed her so vividly lying beside me that I carried her on my back, along the landing, so that she could comfort Trish, too.
‘Her presence was so intense. It was like feeling waves of electricity charging through me and Trish said I was glowing all over. It was extraordinary.’
But as well as a physical presence, Clive says Lisa presented herself in physical ways — even giving her parents ‘gifts’.
‘A few years after she died, it was approaching Father’s Day and I was particularly low,’ he says. ‘I happened to be visiting a whisky distillery in Scotland where I picked up 15 miniature bottles to give as gifts.
‘When I came to unpack them later that day, I found an extra bottle I hadn’t picked up or paid for. I believe it was Lisa’s Father’s Day gift.’ Since Lisa’s death, the couple have raised £300,000 to fund bursaries, The Lisa Wilson Scholarship Fund, for students at Solent University.
‘It has been a huge comfort,’ says Clive. ‘But the biggest comfort has been knowing that Lisa is still around — still watching us, still loving us as we love her.’
Lilian McDade knows how he feels. It’s the visits from her youngest son Daniel that have helped the retired teacher from Glasgow through her unimaginable loss.
‘Since he died, Daniel has visited me regularly and sent hundreds of communications,’ says Lilian, 75. ‘We were extremely close while he was alive and I believe he still wants to show his love.’
Daniel McDade died from a viral infection which went to his brain, at the age of 21, in 2002. His mother Lilian said visits from her youngest son have helped the retired teacher from Glasgow through her unimaginable loss
The baby of the family, coming after siblings Jamie, now 46, and Angela, 43, Lilian describes Daniel as ‘the light of my life’.
‘He was a handsome young man with a huge circle of friends, and a great job in fashion retail. He loved clubbing and sports,’ she says.
‘When he died of a viral infection aged 21, just six days after falling ill, I was in complete anguish. I honestly didn’t know how I would survive until, six months after he died, I had the most wonderful, life-affirming experience.’
Lilian describes how, out for a winter walk one day, Daniel returned to her.
‘I saw him standing at the top of a snow-covered hill surrounded by fir trees, all twinkling with coloured lights,’ she says. ‘He was wearing the long, black coat that still hangs in his wardrobe.
‘Walking towards me, he smiled and said, “Look at the winter wonderland I have made for you.” Then he put his arms around me and gave me a huge hug.
‘I felt at peace for the first time since he had died. Daniel and I both loved winter time, so the gift made perfect sense.’
The visit sparked the beginning of Lilian’s healing process, and further signs from Daniel, both directly and via other people. ‘After that, I started receiving communications from many different sources,’ she says.
‘A teacher friend of Daniel’s returned from a skiing trip in the Dolomites that they were due to take together.
‘He told me that he had clearly sensed Daniel standing at the top of the mountain beside him — ready to ski down together. Someone who didn’t usually believe in this type of thing, he was astounded.
‘Another time I had been to the spot where we scattered Daniel’s ashes. I was walking home, sobbing, when I heard Daniel’s voice clear as day say, “I’m not up there, Mum. I’m coming back home with you”.’
Others also reported seeing Daniel.
Eight years after his death, Lilian received an astonishing report from a friend who was house-sitting for her while she was on holiday.
‘Again, someone who would normally be sceptical about ghosts, he told me that, on several occasions, he saw a young man standing in the corner of the living room,’ she says.
‘In all the communications — whether direct to me or through other people — the most astounding thing is that Daniel’s personality shines through. His kindness, energy and sense of humour are so vivid.
‘I miss Daniel desperately and mourn the life he should have had. But I am so grateful to have these wonderful experiences. They are much less frequent now, but Daniel still checks in on me about four times a year and always when I need him most.’
However, many of the parents we spoke to also shared how they had seen their child in other forms than their physical one.
For Lucy Herd, who lost her son Jack aged 23 months in 2010, after he tragically drowned in their garden pond after climbing over a wall, her little boy always appears to her in the same, magical way.
Jack Herd died, aged 23 months, in 2010, when he drowned in the garden pond after climbing over a wall
‘It was between Jack’s death and his funeral that he first came back to me,’ says the 46-year-old from Wokingham, Berkshire, who also has a son, 25, daughter, 20, and seven-year-old Noah, who was born after Jack’s death.
‘I’d gone to visit him at the chapel of rest and when I came back outside I found myself looking up, screaming at the sky, like a wild animal in pain.
‘I blamed God for taking him away from me. My world was shattered: I had no idea how I was ever going to live again.
‘But as I was screaming into this clear blue sky, out of nowhere, a rainbow appeared. It stopped me and I just stood there looking. It was a bright, warm day. Why was there such an incredibly vivid rainbow above me?
‘As soon as I saw it, I had this overwhelming sense of peace. I knew it was Jack who was trying to tell me everything would be OK.’
It proved to be just the beginning.
In the first year after Jack’s death, Lucy saw more than 150 rainbows.
‘Before than, I’d just have seen a handful,’ says Lucy.
‘But now there were so many and they appeared on occasions when you’d never normally see a rainbow, which is why I know it’s Jack. I saw them in front of me in the fog when I was walking with the dogs, I saw “moonbows” at night and “fire rainbows” on clear days.
‘This is what those rainbows that arrive without rain are called, I’ve since discovered. They aren’t common and usually appear to sailors at sea, or in icy places.’
She adds: ‘Rainbows are totally appropriate for Jack because his personality was so colourful and magical. He was a little ball of energy, a boy with an infectious laugh who would say hello to everyone and blow kisses to old ladies in the supermarket queue.
‘When he’s with me, I sometimes get this almost childlike energy — I can feel his mischievous excitement for life.’
Of course, Lucy says that things were never the same after his death.
Like so many couples who suffer such a loss, she and Jack’s father struggled to grieve together and their relationship didn’t last. But throughout, Jack’s rainbows were a comfort.
‘If I am looking for a rainbow, I will never see one,’ says Lucy. ‘But when I need it — on his birthday, anniversaries, when I’m feeling low or need reassurance — somehow they always appear.’
Always by my side: Beth Deacon-Bates with baby Roy in 2019
Tragically, Beth Deacon-Bates and her husband Jack never got the chance to really know their little boy Roy, who died at five days old in 2019 after he was born at 28 weeks.
Yet Beth swears she has still been able to watch Roy grow up.
‘Food has always been a huge passion of mine but after Roy died I lost the desire to bake,’ says the 28-year-old from Colchester, Essex.
‘Then, one day, a couple of months after his death, as I stood looking at my baking equipment, I felt a presence in the doorway.
‘More than that, I could see a mist around it, too, that couldn’t be explained by anything that was going on in the kitchen. I just knew it was Roy.
‘It was incredibly comforting and gave me a shake-up to continue with life. I started baking again and started seeing him regularly after that.’
Beth acknowledges that ‘it might sound strange to anyone who hasn’t felt this’, but she adds: ‘It’s as though he’s on the edge of our world and keeping an eye on his family.
‘He can’t be fully present in our dimension, but he is very definitely there and my son’s presence in the doorways around my home gives me solace.’
Since Roy’s death, Beth, who also has sons Vincent, four, and Edmund, one, has begun fundraising in his memory. And, she says, Roy has been present for that, too.
‘Training for a half-marathon wasn’t easy. Yet every single time I went out for a run I’d see a fox, even in the middle of the day when they’re rarely out,’ she says.
‘We would make eye contact with each other. I just knew it was Roy’s way of making a connection.
‘When we sold our house in October last year, I feared I’d no longer see Roy in our new home. Thankfully, I still feel his presence lingering in doorways.
‘I experience him in the form of the age he should be, so at the moment I see him here as a toddler, though I don’t see him in detail.’
Though Jack doesn’t share his wife’s view that Roy is still with them, Beth says he is supportive.
‘As for me, when I do die, I know I’ve got my next chapter with my son,’ she says.
‘As Roy’s mum, this gives me immense comfort.’