I was in a hurry, irritated from a day at work and in no mood to be driving to the family home for a dinner that would no doubt involve an argument with my younger brother over soccer results.
Yet there I was, at 7pm on a soggy Sydney winters evening driving my dodgy little Sigma from my home in Cronulla to my mothers home in Engadine. It's a drive I have made more times than I can count, but this night I arrived shaken, disturbed and yet strangely comforted.
On the highway between Sutherland and Engadine, a 90km hour zone, with the music blaring and only my off key singing to keep me company; I decided to change lanes as the exit was coming up. I put the indicator on, looked over my shoulder to make sure the lane was clear and turned the wheel to move the car into the other lane.
It was then that I heard someone say my name, very clearly from the back seat of the car and felt a hand on my shoulder. Naturally I freaked out and my instinct was to take my foot off the accelerator and pull back into the lane I had come from and check if someone else (namely an axe wielding maniac as per urban legend) was in the car, however, a quick glance in the rear-view showed no-one in the back seat.
As I moved my eyes from the rear-view mirror back to the darkened highway ahead, a dark blue Holden Commodore sedan, it’s headlights off, flew past me straddling the two lanes of the highway, doing what I estimate to be about 160km/hour. Its speed was such that it rocked my vehicle as it passed. Had I moved into the other lane at the time I had planned, the driver would not have had time to slow down and I have no doubt that I would have been killed...the realisation of this was what made me pull over to the side of the road.
Turning off the stereo and trying to remember to breathe, I realized my mobile phone was ringing. My mother, a little shaken herself, asked me immediately if I was OK (she's always had parental ESP, it's a bit of a family joke), I told her immediately what had happened and asked her how she knew, what she told me next left me in no doubt that those who go before us, guide and protect those left behind if they can.
At the same time that I was planning to pull into the right hand lane, Mum was standing in the kitchen when she thought she heard a knock at the door. Assuming it was me she walked to answer it. As she walked through our lounge room, she saw her Nana standing there looking worried. Mum asked her why she was there (Grandma died 15 years previous), she said Grandma just pointed to the phone and mouthed my name and disappeared again. Mum said her blood ran cold and she dialed my number straight away.
Although in an event like that, your perception of time becomes skewed, from our estimates, it was about 25 seconds between the time I heard and felt the presence in my car and the time Grandma appeared to Mum at home. I have since felt her presence at times when I have needed comfort the most, and her perfume ‘Tweed’ sometimes wafts past me in my new home.