When our daughter was approaching the age of 3, she very often liked to be called by a name other than her own. She would insist on being called by a name of her choice, sometimes taking on a name of someone else in the family or sometimes coming up with another name that had no relation to anyone we knew. One such name was "Zelda." She would answer only if addressed as Zelda.
It was also during this time that my husband noticed she often referred to her "other mother." I had heard her say this, too, but simply assumed she was role-playing and fantasizing about her doll babies. However, after hearing this reference on many occasions, my husband thought it was more than playfulness and one day asked her what she meant by her "other mother." "Do you mean mommy?" he asked. "No," our daughter replied. "It's my other mother."
Curious to know just a bit more, my husband gently asked where the other mother was. Our daughter said that she and her other mother died in a fire when their house burned. She was very matter-of-fact in stating this and did not seem at all troubled to let us know she had died in a fire. We wondered why she would say something like that as she had no knowledge of house fires and no concept of death. It was hard for us to believe the story, but she remained adamant when asked about it over the course of several weeks. She insisted that she and her other mother had died in a fire.
We have since learned that death is the most common event that children remember from a past life and these "when I died" statements are the single best indicator of a very young child's past life memory. It is not something that a toddler thinks about or jokes about and most three-year-olds do not describe details about their own death. A violent death is most often the reason these memories are recalled.
Over the next months, occasionally our daughter would spontaneously reveal other facts about her other mother. Some of the comments that we remember: Her other mother cooked on a stove, but not like the stove we had. Her other mother's stove had "a fire in it."
Her other mother wore long dresses and high shoes - not high heels, but shoes that went higher up her leg.
They lived in a house that was wooden and
"made of trees." In fact she excitedly pointed to a log cabin once when seeing one during a television program saying that was what her house looked like. She did the same when seeing women with long skirts - that was how her other mother dressed. When seeing a horse and wagon, she again would point and happily say that was the same as their horses.
Her father had four horses, a wagon, and he chopped wood. He was also a printer.
We did not push her for details, being somewhat uneasy about these stories of a previous life and still thinking it was probably a bit fanciful on her part. But one day our daughter said that her other mother
"took in wash." That startled us. How would a child of that age come up with this particular phrase? It's not as if she heard it before and it certainly was not part of our usual conversation. It was a phrase that required some knowledge or previous experience, as it surely was not part of modern-day culture. This simple statement made us believe that our daughter's memories were based on a real previous life experience even though our religious convictions taught us to dispel such thinking.
Her references to the other mother and related stories gradually faded. We did not encourage her memories thinking that it would be better for her to forget and this reference to another life also made us feel a bit uneasy. The memories seemed to be simple thoughts that crossed her mind every now and then, triggered by immediate surroundings, pictures, or activities. She was never troubled by them and has little recollection of her past life or her memories about it when she was just a toddler. However, now that she is an adult, still a few glimpses remain to this day.
She remembers sitting on the floor and having her other mother nearby, her long skirt made of soft material with dark vertical stripes, wearing an apron, and buttoned shoes.
She remembers a large black wrought iron stove with a door, when opened revealed a fire inside.
She remembers clothes hung on a line outdoors to dry.
She remembers there were other children in the family.
Perhaps wanting to be called by a different name when she was a very young child was a throwback to a previous life when she did, indeed, have a different name. In hindsight, we now wish we had pursued further questioning when our daughter's past life experiences were vividly recalled when she was very young. Interestingly, her twin brother, born just four minutes earlier, had no such memories or flash-backs.