Irish author Lorna Byrne on the angel who said her husband would die young: 'Why would you say that to a person and shatter them?'
For decades internationally-acclaimed Irish author Lorna Byrne carried a terrible burden. She talks about living with the knowledge that her husband would die aged 47 - and not being able to tell him.
'Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper," wrote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, "so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer she can, as it were, creep into God."
Lorna Byrne couldn't have been more than 10 when God despatched angels to tell her something about her earthly life lover - and her future with this man she wouldn't meet for years.
She had been seeing angels since she was a baby so she wasn't surprised when they came to her by the river that day in 1961 near where she lived in Dublin. They informed her that she would be visited by Elijah up ahead on the riverbank.
The angels told Lorna that Elijah would show her a vision that she must never forget. Not longer after, she saw Elijah walk towards her from the far side of the river and she was enraptured. This was because his feet, she recalled, were not touching the water. The angel invited her to sit down and held her hand. It was like, she recalled, her hand got lost in his - as if her hand became part of Elijah's hand.
Then he showed her a vision in the middle of the river of a pathway engulfed by trees. Lorna saw herself sitting at one end of the pathway. At the other end she could just about make out the appearance of a man walking towards her. As he got nearer, Lorna saw that he was tall and handsome. Elijah told Lorna to keep looking. He also told her that she would marry the young man and that she would recognise him from this vision when she saw him again years from then.
"You have to grow up first," Elijah told Lorna, who was born on March 25, 1953. The angel added that she and the man would have children and would be very happy together but - crucially - "you will end up looking after him".
When Lorna asked the angel what he meant by looking after him, she was told that God won't leave her with him forever because his health would be poor. He would die young.
And so it proved. Her husband Joe Byrne was taken from her aged 47 on March 26, 2000 at their cottage in Maynooth.
"It was very hard," she says adding that the angels told her that he would die at 47 but she was told that she could never tell her husband this fact.
"Why would you say that to a person and shatter them?" she says now. "Because a lot of times if you say that to a person they can stop living their life, or they can go off the wall and not actually enjoy life." She says it was "very hard" to know he was going to die at 47 from the first moment she met him - when she was 16 and working in her father's garage, Grosvenor Service Station, in Rathmines. It was the angels who told her to look out the window...
There he was, this young man coming up the road, exactly as angel Elijah had shown her when she was 10. She recognised him immediately from the vision by the riverbank. "I knew he was coming into the garage." She remembers telling Anne, the lady who worked at the office, 'This young man is coming looking for a job and I don't want him to get it.' It was because I was so excited, but yet I was so afraid. I knew I would fall in love with him and he with me, and have happiness, but I knew he was going to die young. So in a sense, even at that moment, I was trying to run away. Yet I knew I couldn't," Lorna says of that fateful afternoon in 1969.
On August 18, 1975, Lorna and Joe, who was two years her senior, got married in Our Lady's Nativity in Leixlip. Joe started to get ill before they married. He would get a flu "but he would really get sick".
After they got married he got appendicitis and rather than being in and out of hospital, Joe ended up being "an emergency case. It took him months to get better". Then he was in a car crash in 1984. "At that stage his health really started to go bad. He got diabetes. Then it was his heart. Then he started to have minor strokes. If I sat here and started thinking of them I could probably keep adding to the list but it was like his body broke down."
What was it like to keep such an enormous secret inside her? She knew that when he was sick at 30 and at 35 and 40 and 45, that at 47 he would be dead.
"I used to beg God at different times to let him live a little longer and to keep his health as good as possible," she says. "But then when his time did come - the last year or two he just went downhill an awful lot. One particular time when God did take him I begged God to give him back to me. When God did, it was like Joe opened his mouth and everything came in. He came back to life. Joe turned to me and said: 'I think I was in heaven.' He couldn't understand why he was still here."
God gave Joe back to Lorna for a few years, she says. "But I was reprimanded by God never to ask again."
It is up to you whether or not you choose to believe any of what Lorna Byrne says, or if you decide to think of her as a fraud. I was very moved by her.
Lorna very kindly came to my home to do this interview. There were pictures of my late mother in the house. I was curious to see if she would see anything of my mother's angel in my house. I knew my sister Marina, a big fan of Lorna's, had given my mother Maureen a copy of Angels In My Hair, Lorna's book, not long before she died in October, 2010.
She spent nearly two hours talking in the front room about endless subjects. When she left at 6pm I gave her a gift of a DVD of Wim Wenders' movie Wings Of Desire, about two angels who watch over post-war Berlin.
She writes in the international best-seller Angels In My Hair: "You may find it hard to believe; if you don't believe you should question your scepticism. If you are cynical, question your cynicism."
"It doesn't matter if people laugh at me or ridicule me or anything like that," she says now. "I just have to give the messages I was asked to give. I was told to speak the truth. I can only tell you what I see every day and what I know. I can't tell you any more than that. But I will start up and fight for mankind because I believe we are worth it. The human race has got great potential."
"We're not just human beings," she adds. "We're spiritual beings. We have a soul as well. That's the spiritual side. But people are afraid."
Does the material side of us scratch the soul like a mark on a CD?
"No. Your soul is beautiful. It doesn't scratch your soul. I know lots of people will say your soul is marked but your soul is beautiful because it is that speck of light of God and that is a part of him. I think that is incredible that he gave us a speck of himself. And that when a human body dies, we live. I can only tell you that. Your father and your mother, all those who have gone before you, you will actually see them again."
The angels told Lorna when she was a young child that one day she would write about God and them. She can remember years later as a married woman walking home one day with her daughter Ruth in the pram. The angel Michael stopped her and told her it was getting near time for her to write.
"I got really annoyed with him. I said: 'I can't read or write. How on earth does God expect me to write a book?' He just said help will be sent. After Joe died I said one day to the angel Michael, you can tell God I'll do it but I haven't the faintest idea how."
She uses speech recognition software whereby she speaks into a computer and it transcribes her words.
She finally published her first book Angels in my Hair in 2008. It was a huge hit. She has since written the equally-heralded Stairways to Heaven, A Message of Hope from the Angels and Love from Heaven, and is currently working on a new book.
Asked what she was like as a mother (to Ruth, 32, Megan, 19, Owen, 35, and Christopher, 39) Lorna says with characteristic humility, even for a squillions-selling author and globally acclaimed mystic: "I think I did my best. I love my kids. Like every mom, at times I'd let a roar at them." She says she saw angels around her children "all of the time".
Was she ever terrified that the angels would tell her something terrible would happen to her children? "I've told God I don't want to know."
The first time she saw an angel she was in her cot as a six-month-old. She reached her hand out to play with it. Her mother Josephine was standing over the cot in the family home at Kilmainham wondering what the young child was so fascinated by.
When she was two years of age Lorna used to played with her little brother Christopher. She says now that she didn't know that Christopher had died before she was born. Christopher was, she says, buried in an unmarked grave in a baby's graveyard in Dublin.
"I used to play with him physically. One day playing in front of the fire our hands touched. I just laughed because it was all so wonderful. It was then that the angels said to me that I must keep it a secret. They told me that my little brother had died before and that he was a soul not an angel."
It wasn't until Lorna was 15 that her mother told her that she had a little brother who was born with heart problems and who died at 10 weeks old. Lorna never told her mother that she knew. (Lorna has seven other siblings - three sisters and four brothers.)
Why does she think God chose her?
"I think the angels have always taught me to be compassionate and loving. I do love everybody. Even the killer I would love. I wouldn't give up. I'm just an ordinary person. I don't know why God choose me. I'm dyslexic. I couldn't read or write. I can read now a bit.
"I often remember as a child comments being passed by grandparents and aunts and uncles like: ''She is lucky she hasn't been locked away', because they considered me retarded."
The reason Lorna ended up in working in her father's garage at 17 is because, she adds, she "couldn't continue in school because I couldn't read or write and I was just sitting there in the class. The teachers just said to my ma and da: 'Lorna can't stay in the National School in Raheny.'"
Lorna never put much thought into what she wanted to do with her life growing up in the way most people would have "because I always knew that one day I would have to do what God asked me to do".
She laughs that if she was alive a hundred or so years ago she'd "probably be burnt at the stake!" She says that her books are about "helping people to change - to be open".
To the possibilities within us all?
"That possibility is there within each and every one of us. That hope is there."
How do people awaken it in themselves?
"All I can say to people is that the trigger-point can be anywhere."
Lorna says she has "always been awakened. I have never not seen angels. I don't know what life is like for you not seeing angels. They are real. I would have priests, nuns, rabbis, ministers, imams, all different religions, and the one question they always ask me, which I'm shocked by - even a priest asked me this - is: 'Is God real?'"
"I have to tell you," she says, "God is real."
Why would God give the world babies with cancer? Or Auschwitz, for example?
"God hasn't done any of that," she says, "we have. I think that's what we have to acknowledge. We can use God as a weapon. I jut feel we have to change. We have to look at the children of the world and open our hearts and have more love and compassion. It is the people who have the power, not the governments. I am going to do something that the angels keep telling me to do, which is write out the birth-right of every child of the nation of the world. Every child has the same birth rights no matter what culture or country they come from."
I ask Lorna Byrne if Joe said anything to her before he died.
"No one has ever asked me that," she answers almost shocked. "I knew his time was getting close. I did my best to give him everything he desired. Once he had a craze for pork steak. I went down to the butcher's and cooked it for him and gave it to him on the couch with the fire lighting - and him not really being able to eat it.
"He was telling us he loves us and that he knew his time was getting near. I didn't say anything to him then. Then just seeing the way it all happened with the children coming in that evening - and each one of them sitting beside him and talking to him. The next morning he told Ruth and I to go into Dublin. He gave me money to get a present for a birthday."
Lorna later found out what her dying husband did while they were gone. A neighbour told her that when Ruth and Lorna were in town they saw Joe outside pushing Megan, their youngest daughter, then a toddler, on the swing.
"I don't know where he got the energy - how he managed to get out of bed," she says. "The last few days were really hard."
Did he give Lorna permission to go on with her life and meet somebody else if she wanted to?
"He did. He would say: 'You're still young. You can meet somebody else.' I used to say: 'I'm not particularly interested in anybody else. You're there in the bed. Will you go away!' I would laugh and joke about it. But sometimes when you are attached to somebody so much ... I did meet someone a number of years afterwards but I have no one in my life in that way. I say to God: 'Well, if you are going to send someone into my life now, I literally don't know how a man would cope. I really don't! Like my own children would say: 'Mum, we need to make an appointment to see you.'"
If you would like to see Lorna speaking in person a fundraising event is taking place tonight at the National Concert Hall, Dublin at 7.30pm where she will be interviewed by fellow author Cathy Kelly. All proceeds go towards the Lorna Byrne Children's Foundation chosen charities for 2015: UNICEF Ireland, Blue Box and APA - A Partnership with Africa. Tickets are available on the door t or from www.nch.ie or (01) 4170000 from €15 - €25.
Sunday Indo Living