Long before I was ever religious and in my teens I had some strange things happen me in my youth. In fact the earliest was when I had been a small boy. Although I almost never share the nature of my conversion with anyone because of its spectacular nature that even I find difficult to accept as coming from God…I don’t mind sharing these small things.
The first was when I was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. My father had many different Holy books. One such book was very ancient in style. I recall flipping through it as it had many pictures depicting ancient customs of Judaism. They were paintings. I stood in the complete silence of a dimly lit kitchen casually turning the pages.
I landed on a painting of a man making a sacrifice of an animal to God. That is when I audibly heard a loud screech of my name ….”STEPHEN!!!” in my right ear. It was a female screech and not that of a man. I threw the book and ran away. To this day I’ve never really understood it. I did not imagine it for it really was an audible screech which is why I reacted with shock. I immediately told my father who then threw the book away.
The next was in my teens at the age of 17. My neighbour was a young man. He was going to a house party that night. As I retired for the evening I went to close the curtains. From across the street I saw him. He turned and looked at me. He was wearing a wooly sort of jumper, holding some beers. He waved and I reciprocated the gesture.
That night he came to me surrounded by white light. He was smiling in a mischievous manner. It’s as if he was communicating to me, “Look where I am and what I’m doing.” He was dressed in a football teams coat called “Man United”. I had never seen the coat before. Then I woke up and it had been morning. I thought nothing of the dream until my mother came crashing through my bedroom door. “X is dead. He died last night at the house party across the road. He died in his sleep.”
I was so shocked and immediately told everyone about this dream. He was my next door neighbour. Although we were not close because of the age gap, we spoke often. Then at his funeral where I saw him in the open casket…what was he dressed in? The football coat I saw him with in the dream 😲
3 years later I’m 20 years old. It’s the spring of 2005. Night came and I had a dream of a young girl hanging herself from a wooden beam in a dark attic. I awake from the dream and think nothing of it at all. I come down stairs and my mother breaks the news to me that my cousin whom I’ve never met nor known has committed suicide by hanging herself in her own home.
I told my father we must go to the funeral as I’ve dreamt about her. I took the dream as a sign we should visit. After some protesting he agreed. While there I fell in love and stayed for 3 years. I had a child out of wedlock with my then girlfriend and we lived together. One night I again dreamt of my cousin who hung herself. Remember, at this time I’m not religious so know nothing of Catholic Churches teaching on purgatory or the Orthodox teaching on tollhouses.
I enter a little door that opens up into a big room. She is there beside an old woman dressed in a grey skirt with old lady tights and shoes. She had short hair not long. She had her arm around my cousin and they both looked very sad. They were stuck there and could not leave the room. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t leave. When I awoke I couldn’t understand it. It was not until 10 years later that I read the Orthodox understanding on what happens the soul after death did I begin to make a connection. The Orthodox Church believes in tollhouses. When the soul dies it passes through a series of floors in a tollhouse. The soul stays or leaves according to those who pray for it here on earth. My description is not perfect but I think that’s it.. Now, I think that old woman was her grandmother but perhaps her mother’s grandmother whom I’ve obviously never met because I didn’t recognise her.
Then I began praying the rosary and then the Jesus prayer. And when I came home to Ireland at the age of 23 in 2008 that’s when the dreaming began to reach its zenith as well as many other things which I simply cannot talk about. Maybe one day I’ll write them down for my sons and their eyes only. This is why I’m here today and so obsessed with Christianity. However, I’m not perfect but the Lord has led me to where I am today. I owe it all to his undeserved grace upon my sinful soul.