Losing a child is perhaps the most painful thing that can happen to a parent.
Sonia Brakowski, of Magnolia went through that agonizing experience in 1975 when she and husband Edward lost their 10-year-old first-born daughter, Annette, to cancer.
Brakowski worked to cope with that loss for more than 32 years when, almost out of the blue, she reconnected with Annette in a way she never thought possible.
Visiting family in her native England, Brakowski met Margaret "Maggie" Thornbury, a Warwickshire native who, it turned out, was her cousin. Thornbury also was much more: a psychic who, after Brakowski had returned home, contacted her via email with some disturbing news.
"She said she didn't know how to tell me something, and maybe it was something I didn't want to hear," Brakowski said. "She'd had this child appearing to her and she felt a very strong daughter connection to me."
Thornbury said Annette had contacted her and described not only herself but the outfit she was wearing when she was buried.
"When I read that, I just sort of flipped," Brakowski said, adding that she and Thornbury had never talked about Annette or psychic events during their only two-hour meeting.
That was in 2007, and Brakowski has had almost regular messages from Annette, both through Thornbury and through her own developing psychic talents.
In 2012, Annette said she wanted her story to be told.
"I said 'no, I don't even have the first clue about how to write a book,'" Brakowski said. "But she was very insistent, and she even gave me a title, 'Annette Opens the Door.'
"She said it was both her story and my story."
That her daughter could be so perceptive was no surprise, Brakowski said.
"For her age, she was very wise," she said. "There were many things she said to her dad and I that it wasn't until after her passing we realized how smart she was."
During the year between Annette's diagnosis and her passing, the family never discussed death, Brakowski said. In those days, you just didn't talk about cancer, she said.
Although the family never had been particularly religious, Brakowski realized Annette had a deep faith for someone of her tender years.
The message she wanted to convey was that death is not the end and that life goes on, Brakowski said.
"She told me it was very sad to see us so broken up after her death," Brakowski said. "But she said she was in a place where she was happy and at peace."
Annette also talked about meeting deceased family members, described what was going on with various family members, and even noted that after three decades Brakowski "still had the red rose."
Page 2 of 2 - It took a while for her to realize Annette was talking about a perfume bottle shaped like a red rose. It was a present Annette gave her mother on her final Christmas.
Writing "Annette Opens the Door" has been "an amazing journey," Brakowski said. She's working on a second book, which will continue talking about Annette's messages and her own personal journey.
"It's about how we come back to Earth not as punishment but so that we can learn more wisdom," Brakowski said.
Brakowski realizes her experiences may be met with skepticism, but she doesn't consider that a deterrent.
"There's no way you can change someone's mind or what they believe," she said. "I don't try to do that. Everyone has the right to believe what they want.
"I just know that my life has changed 180 degrees."
"Annette Opens the Door" has been downloaded 294 times and has sold 105 copies.
Proceeds go to the Autism Speaks research organization, Brakowski said.