Real (dead) ghosts

I’m stealing inspiration from my good friend Karen Spears Zacharias and writing about ghosts today. Be sure to read what she has to say, too. Karen is full of good ideas.

Like Karen, I believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in werewolves, zombies, monsters, and certainly not in vampires, but I do believe in ghosts.

I’ve written before about the spirit world encounters I’ve had with my father since he died three years ago. Most notably, the doorbell we installed (and later uninstalled) for him so that he could notify my mother and I when he needed help in his last days. The doorbell still has a tendency to go off from time to time in my mother’s house. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, I guess Dad’s got better things to do now, but we do still hear it on occasion. The last time I heard it was in May when I was back in Nashville to attend my niece Caitlin’s wedding. Caitlin is the first of Mom and Dad’s grandkids to get married and it was a big day for all of us. Dad would have loved it. My sister Laura and I were getting ready at Mom’s house when the bell went off, then went off again, and again. No one had heard it in months but we all agreed that it was Dad sharing in our wedding day excitement.

Another encounter came years earlier. My grandmother died after a long battle with cancer. We all knew her time was coming and I was expecting a call to say that she had passed. One morning I was out for a run, it was February and chilly, a gray, rainy day. Midway through my run I began to crave silence and took off my headphones. Then I stopped in my steps. I knew without being told that she was gone. I walked back home and found a black cat — no kidding — sitting on our porch. I’d been inside the house for about 15 minutes when my phone rang, it was my dad calling to tell me that my grandmother had died.

My husband and I flew to Nashville for her funeral, and though expected, the occasion that was sad nonetheless. We all had loved her mightily. The family gathered the night before at the visitation and we all stayed late to share memories and cry. The next morning my husband and I were awakened early by another call from my father. This time he had called to tell us that my aunt, his sister, had also died. She’d suffered from lupus and other health problems and her mother’s death had apparently been too much for her weakened heart to take. She had died in her sleep. As soon as we’d finished with my grandmother’s service we began to plan my aunt’s. My husband had to get back to work, though, and caught a flight back to Fayetteville on the day of my grandmother’s service. He called me as soon as he got home — the very day my aunt had died — to tell me that the black cat was again on our porch.

There were other encounters, too. The house we lived in then was a beautiful, old house, built around 1920. Many times when I was alone in the house I would catch a glimpse of something brown and yellow darting past. In time I became convinced that I was seeing an image of a young black boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, wearing a yellow t-shirt. I even had the newspaper’s research librarian look for old stories of a tragedy or crime that might have happened in the house but she found nothing. Another time my husband and I came home to that house late, around midnight, and as we pulled up in front we both saw — for the briefest of seconds — someone hanging on the porch from a noose.

In that same house my husband was awakened one night by a woman in a long white gown who slapped him across the face and then disappeared. I never saw her, but he was adamant and I believe him. And then we bought two old rifles from a gun show — a German mauser and a Polish mauser. My cousin came to visit us around that time and woke one morning to tell us about the strangest dream she’d had about two soldiers who had been in our kitchen arguing. She described the uniforms of the Germans and the Poles perfectly. And this was my Homecoming Queen cousin — she’s no history buff.

Other weird things happened in that house — pictures fell off the walls for no reasons. Doors slammed without explanation. We loved that beautiful house, but were kind of relieved to leave it, even though we moved only one door down. We haven’t had any ghostly experiences in our present home, even though it is just next door, leading us to think that maybe there was some dark history in the old house after all.

I do believe in ghosts, but I’m not afraid of them. I think they’re just spirits that are — for lack of a better word — stuck. For whatever reason, good or bad, they just aren’t ready to leave Earth, so they hang around to watch, encourage, celebrate with, and sometimes to frighten us. Just like living people, some are nice and some are not so nice but all can only hold as much power over us as we allow them to have.

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