The Death Letter Project
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Bernie Hobbs | Writer / Performer

I was seven when my sister Clare died suddenly. A year older than me, she left a gaping hole in my life.

I believed Clare had gone to heaven, but as good a place as that sounded I didn’t want to lose anyone else from my family to it. For some time after Clare’s death, each night in bed I’d ask God to not let Dad, Mum, Therese, Anne, Brian, Mary, Frank, Damien, Keiran, me, Patrick, Madonna or Philip die in the next ten years. And it worked. It was thirteen years later (1985) when Dad died from a heart condition.

 My brother Frank’s death from a car accident early in 1999 was a complete shock. We were still reeling from losing him when six months later my youngest brother Phil, his wife Annie and their daughter Cassie were killed in another horrific accident. Annie was six months pregnant with twins. I was incredibly angry, but relieved that they’d gone together. I couldn’t see Phil or Annie coping with the loss of Cass. 

I no longer believed in the life after death scenarios of my Catholic upbringing. But I believed in something.

My thinking had shifted to us all being part of something much bigger – each of us had a soul that was part of some single universal spirit, and our soul rejoined that spirit when we died. With each death I was able to feel that my loved one continued somehow, and that they were at peace, back where we all belonged. That coalescing with the spirit gave me the comfort I needed. They weren’t alone.

 A year or so later sitting by a creek in the bush I realized we are all part of something bigger – and we do rejoin that bigger thing when we die. But it’s not a spirit: it’s the molecules that make us up. Constantly recycled through us and all the living and non-living things in our world, those molecules connect us.

 When my uncle died last year, it wasn’t the molecular connections that comforted me. And it wasn’t a spirit or soul. I knew Reg would live on in all of us – our existence now and after death is in the connections we have made with others. That’s where the real spirit lies. That’s the point of life.

Editor's note: Bernie Hobbs is an award winning science writer, presenter and performer. She has worked extensively in television (The New InventorsCatalyst, the experiMENTALS), on radio and online since joining ABC Science in 1997.

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  • We do rejoin that bigger thing when we die - I like how she spoke of the steps to her feeling of death. - Fern Smith (email)
  • Love this letter from the sparkling Bernie Hobbs. She brought enlightenment with humour on ABC. - Dorothea Ratcliffe (Facebook)
  • Love this! - Von Coves (Facebook)
  • Love this letter ... Colleen Pettiford (Facebook)
  • Incredible story with pain and beauty and another amazing picture - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)
  • Beautiful but so amazingly painful for her. - Rohana Hayes (Facebook)