Feathers Brush My Heart: True Stories of Mothers Touching Their Daughters' Lives after Deathby Sinclair Browning, Sinclair Browning
One night, while sitting around a campfire with friends, Sinclair Browning shared the story of her actress mother, who used to warm-up with breathing exercises before going on stage. Lying on her back, she'd blow a feather up in the air and repeat the phrase "I love you." For years after her mother's death, Sinclair would find white feathers in locations that defied explanation, and feels certain they were her mother's way of contacting her from beyond. That night at the campfire, other women stepped forward and told similar stories. Sinclair realized she was not alone, and the inspiration for FEATHERS BRUSH MY HEART was born. From the mother who saved her daughter from a fatal car crash by warning her in a dream to one daughter's mysterious encounter with a beautiful stranger, whom she later recognized in a family photo as her dead mom, these touching stories will turn skeptics into believers and affirm that a mother's love lives on forever.
Author Biography: Sinclair Browning, a cowgirl, lives on a ranch in Southern Arizona with her husband.
- Grand Central Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.64(w) x 8.22(h) x 1.08(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 Years
Read an Excerpt
Feathers Brush My Heart
By Sinclair Browning
Warner BooksCopyright © 2002 Sinclair Browning
All right reserved.
I am fifty-five years old. I have had broken bones, had stitches, given birth, lost my father when I was eleven, had a home burn to the ground, been divorced, lost close friends, and buried all of my grandparents as well as my ex-husband.
But none of it compares to the grief I felt when my mother died. That was a pain that was so deep, so wrenching, that the scar tissue still wraps my heart. It no longer threatens to strangle me, for the wound is now softened from time to time with my mother's afterlife gifts to me.
It is only recently that I have come to understand that my mother's gifts are not unique, that mothers everywhere send their children gifts from the afterlife. Unfortunately, we don't always receive them. Sometimes our radios are turned too low; more frequently we question what we instinctively know. In her book The Secret Language of Signs, Denise Linn says that in every moment the universe is whispering to us. There are signs everywhere, personal messages from a world beyond our own.
But let me go back to the birth of this book.
Every year I go on an all-women's horseback ride. This is a great Concept-125 women and their horses camped out in the pines of northern Arizona. It is always a fun-filled four days, with campfires, catered meals, and lots of talk and laughter. Sort of like a giant slumber party for grown-ups.
One trip a few years ago was no different and yet it was very, very different.
Late at night, with the moon turning bloodred in eclipse, my friend Linda Gray and I begin talking. As the night wears on, she tells me a wonderful story about her mother's afterlife gifts.
After her mother's death a butterfly perched on Linda's shoulder.
"I knew it was from my mother," she says.
That started a steady stream of shoulder perchers, later followed by hummingbirds. I will not relate the story here, for Linda does it better justice in "Soul Birds."
When she finishes her story, I tell Linda about my experience with my mother's afterlife gifts.
"You know," Linda says, "I'm usually the one telling the story, and here you are telling me one."
Suddenly it hits me. If we have these stories, surely there must be other women who have had similar experiences. I go to bed, excited at the prospect.
I awaken in the middle of the night and begin taking notes. Suddenly a book begins to take form.
Over coffee the next morning a friend who is camped next to me says, "You know, I could hear some of your conversation last night and it sounded so interesting. I really wanted to get out of bed and join in, but it was too cold. What were you talking about?"
Another friend joins us, and I as speak to them of butterflies and hummingbirds, they both begin to cry.
That night, during the cocktail hour, I mention the subject to two elderly sisters who come on this annual trek. One of them begins telling her story. They are both crying. By now I know that my chance conversation with Linda has evolved into something so powerful, so strong, that it strikes a deep, resonant chord in all of our hearts.
I go to Carroll Gabrielson's motor home, where she sits with another woman. Carroll is in charge of the ride. "I want to talk to you about something, and if I'm out of line, I want you to tell me."
Carroll assures me that she will.
I tell a little about my mother and her gift to me, and say I am thinking of writing a book. And then I take a deep breath.
"I'm wondering if I could get up tonight and tell a little about the project and see if any of the women here have similar stories."
I'm apprehensive. Rejection is never pleasant. It is only when Carroll reaches into an overhead bin and pulls down a box of Kleenex that I realize that she and the other woman are crying.
She, of course, thinks it is a wonderful idea.
After the program that night, under the northern Arizona stars with campfires flickering and women huddled around them, I begin to speak. I tell about my mother's afterlife gift as though it were the most natural topic in the world. It's dark and I cannot see many of the women. I'm somewhat afraid that I am throwing a damper on the evening. After all, who likes to talk about death? As I walk back to my seat several women stop me.
"We have stories," they say. And the sharing begins. A woman approaches me.
"I'm going to tell you a story," she begins. "I have told it to very few people because most won't understand or they will scoff at it. After hearing you, I want to share it because I know you will know what it means."
She has said it all. These are secret stories. Stories we whisper to one another under the cover of night. Stories we pass on with the caveat, "You'll never believe this, but ..."
Years ago my husband had a friend, Charlie, who was quite ill. On his deathbed Charlie vowed that if there was a way to tell my husband that things were all right where he was going, he would do so. Months passed and whenever I asked my husband about Charlie, he'd laugh and say, "He hasn't called yet."
Then one morning he awakened and said, "You know, I had the strangest dream about Charlie last night. I was walking through a park and he was sitting on a bench reading the newspaper. I sat down next to him and said, 'Charles, how's it going?' and he replied, 'Everything's just fine here.'"
My husband doubted that this was a message. I didn't. I've since learned that one of the easiest ways for spirits to communicate with us is through our dreams. It is also one of the easiest ways for us to understand their messages.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote an interesting passage on dreams. He said:
What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and there plucked a beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?
There is no question that seeing our mothers, whether in vision or dream form, is a powerful thing. After my mother died, at times, for no apparent reason, I'd tear through the house desperately seeking a picture of her. It was almost as though I needed to remember what she looked like. Then, when she came to me in dreams, that was even better, for she was even more real. She walked and talked and had all of the endearing mannerisms that I remembered about her.
Since ancient times, people have studied their dreams in an effort to delve into personal exploration. Dreams are also one of the easiest ways for spirits to communicate with those of us still in the physical world.
Some mothers have appeared as visions, others in dreams. It's not uncommon for the mother to appear in a much younger incarnation than the age she was when she died. In some cases, she has appeared not only at a younger age, but one that the daughter did not recognize! The common denominator here seems to be health. Regardless of what the mother died of, no matter how devastating the death, she appears healthy, happy, and whole, with a spiritual glow about her. Mothers trapped in wheelchairs walk and those shriveled from cancer are vibrant again. This is a great gift for those of us who have lost our loved ones to debilitating disease.
I believe that as women, we are the intuitive ones. We must constantly be open to things we do not understand. To receive, without question. To trust our hearts. In The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupey writes, "It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
On an earthier note, it's kind of like seeing a mountain lion. Years ago I was feeding my horses early one morning and I caught a flash of color. Later I told my brother Lance, "You know, I saw this thing, but I didn't really see it, but I think maybe it was a mountain lion."
"If you thought it was, it probably was," he said. If you think you're getting a message or a gift, you probably are.
I don't know what the ethics are in all of this spirit business. Maybe there are rules that say you can't pick up the chalk and leave the message on the board. But I do know that the more we talk, the better off we are all going to be. If we, as women, share these feathers that brush our hearts, we will start a spiritual revolution that will rival any that has come before.
Seventy women, from varied geographical locations, occupations, and ethnicities, have contributed stories to this book. Not all of the women have had great relationships with their mothers before they died. One woman was so abused that she still bears scars from her mother "teaching" her to stay out of the kitchen.
Like their contributors, the afterlife gifts are diverse, ranging from tangible objects to visions and dreams, from sounds and smells to life-saving warnings.
For the last three years, I've shared the wonderful stories that have come my way with those who believe, while opening the realm of possibility to those who do not. Women have found catharsis and healing not only in writing the stories, but also in hearing them. By sharing the afterlife gift stories, many of which go far beyond mere chance, we get a definition of what lies beyond death. Contributor Sandra Heater, Ph.D., writes:
I was having a lot of trouble with losing my mother and completing the grieving process. It was a very difficult emotional thing for me to do. Unfortunately, there's no way to rehearse that loss. You feel totally bereft and nothing else quite fills that void. Reading other women's stories about their connections with their mothers is a validation for me. When something that is extraordinary and forceful and inexplicable happens on one level, I am reassured that these things do occur. Any time we go into an unknown realm, there's a human need to be reassured that it's all right to be where we are. These are affirmations that what happened to me ... was not a figment of my imagination.
Feathers Brush My Heart has gone from an idea one dark night to the book that is now in your hands. I must say it's been a whirlwind odyssey.
One of my discoveries during the process has been that the subject of death is not a gruesome one. For what we call death is only a door opening to a place we will never really understand until it is our time to be there. Those who have crossed that threshold do not cease to exist. They are as real in their world as we are in ours. And, if we're lucky, and aware, what comes through after death from those loved ones who have gone before are gifts of love, humor, and hope.
This journey has also taught me another important lesson: It only takes one.
One person to come forward, without embarrassment or fear of censure, and say, "This is what happened to me, and I am not afraid to tell you about it."
By sharing, we open our hearts to one another, and there is no greater power on the face of this earth. In closing, I would like to encourage each of you to share your stories. Each telling will get easier, I promise. And as you share, perhaps more and more people will come out into this open field, and all of our stories, singly and collectively, will raise the consciousness of our great, glorious world.
Peace and faith be with you.
Excerpted from Feathers Brush My Heart by Sinclair Browning Copyright © 2002 by Sinclair Browning. Excerpted by permission.
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Feathers Brush My Heart is a wonderful collection of stories about women's experiences of the love connection they have with their mother's--even after death. This book will make you laugh and cry, but most of all it will warm your heart with your own memories. The book opened my eyes to my own relationships with my mother and daughter. It's comforting to know that these bonds will endure all time--a connection that is truly lasting.
FEATHERS isn't a book just for daughters, or those with great mom relationships-it's for anyone who's ever been touched by death, or felt the synchronicity of thinking about someone and then got 'a sign,' or simply hopes there's more to life than death. The diversity of the writers and their stories makes this a delightful collection put together with skill and sensitivity by Sinclair Browning, a master story teller in her own right.