Day 299: Ghost Stories: Part Five

On Halloween, when children are dressing up like ghosts and goblins, I think it is important to remember that those who have left this life have not left our lives– they watch over us.

This is Marta’s story:

My Uncle Jim was diagnosed with cancer in late April of 2008.   He had been rushed to the emergency room because he suddenly had an excruciating pain in his kidneys.  He and my aunt thought it was kidney stones; four hours later they were told it was cancer, and it had already spread.  It was already in his bone, his lungs, his liver, and his kidneys.  You see, my uncle did not know anything was wrong; he was already in constant pain because he had MS, so when symptoms of cancer arose, he did not notice because he always felt discomfort and he always felt pain.  He was in Florida at the time, so Marta and her family flew down to help my aunt close their winter home and bring Uncle Jim home to see his primary doctor.

The doctor at home confirmed the diagnosis.  After some soul-searching and reflection, he decided to deny treatment.   They were not going to be able to get rid of it, so chemotherapy and radiation would only make his final days that much more painful.  He wanted to enjoy his family up until the end.  However, on May 9th, he was rushed back to the hospital because in such a weakened state, he contracted pneumonia– his lungs were full of fluids.  He spent almost a week in the hospital while arrangements for hospice care to facilitate making his final days comfortable.

Marta and her brother Chris took turns staying at the hospital through the night with him.  They wanted him to be comfortable, but they also wanted to be in his presence as much as possible.  Just to touch his skin and hold his hand was important.  One evening, my uncle was lucid and Marta felt she needed to talk to him.

“Dad, you have been the best father to me.  I have been blessed by having you in my life.  You have taught me kindness.  You have taught me strength.  Most of all, you have taught me to love.  I love you Dad, and I will miss you so very much.”  Tears streamed down her face because she knew he would not see her daughter grow; he would not see any other grandchildren.  She cried because she would not be able to learn from him anymore.  She cried because soon, she would no longer hear his voice.

She continued, “Dad, what are your wishes for after you are gone.”  She squeezed his hand.  It was the hardest question she ever asked someone, to admit that death was near.

“I want to be laid out at Golubski.  I want my funeral to be a celebration of my life.” He looked her in the eyes.  “Marta, I want you to promise to always keep the cottage in the family.”

“Dad, I don’t want to talk about money and property.”

“I do.  I built that cottage out of love.  I built it for our family.  The future generations are our family.  I want the children to grow up there like you did.”  He paused for a second to catch his breath.  Even conversation was laborious for him.

“Marta, when you are at the cottage, look up at the sky.”

“Okay.”

“When you see a bird flying over head…”

“Yes?”

“And it shits on your shoulder, that will be me.”  He smiled and she laughed, brushing tears from her eyes.  Her father always had a funny sense of humor.

Within a few weeks of that conversation, he passed away.  The funeral did not focus on his death, it focused on the man he was in life.  Marta actually spoke at the wake, and she told the congregation gathered the bird story.  We all laughed, and everyone looked at each other and nodded their heads.  “Yes, yes,” we all agreed.  “That would be Jim.”

A month later, we were at their cottage.  Marta’s mom, my Aunt Pam was having a difficult time without Uncle Jim.  They had been married for over thirty years, and their love was strong.  She felt hallow without him.  Marta and Aunt Pam took a walk so they could talk and cry together.  A half hour later they returned, still crying, but laughing, too.

While they were on their walk, a bird flew over head, and wouldn’t you know, it shit on both of their shoulders!

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Day 296: Ghost Stories: Part Three

This is Kim’s story.

Kim’s mom died when Kim was only nine years old.  She was close to her mother, the way any nine-year old is close to her mom.  As she grew older, even though her father remarried, she often wondered what life would have been like had her real mother been part of her life.  Would she have dated that nasty boy in ninth grade?  Would she have chosen a different profession?  She especially realized how much she missed her mother once she started to have her own children.  The color of her youngest daughter’s hair was so much like her mothers, and when her oldest daughter laughed, she was reminded of her mother’s laughter.

Although Kim thought of her mother often over the years, she wished she would show up in her dreams.  She had heard many stories of people dreaming about their loved ones, stories that were probably nothing more than the product of an active imagination, yet, when she heard these stories, she could not help but wonder if it was something more.

Kim’s friend Susie often dreamt of her own mother, her mother that had passed away a few years earlier.  Susie always said that she knew her mother was gone, but she was there talking about life in the present: Susie’s children, Susie’s husband, Susie’s job.  Susie’s mother had never met her youngest daughter, but that did not stop her from commenting about the child’s interests.  Yes, Kim listened to Susie and wondered… could these apparitions in her dreams really be Susie’s mother?  If they were, why did her own mother, after thirty years, not want to visit?

This last July, for the first time in her life, Kim dreamt about her mother.

Kim’s mother walked into the room and sat down on the bed.  She shook Kim and “woke her.”  She put her finger to her lip to indicate that they needed to whisper; her mother did not want to wake her husband.

“Hi Baby,” her mother said in the dream.

“Hi Mom,” Kim said.  She leaned in and hugged her and held her for a long time.  Kim breathed her in: jasmine and rose, warm and exotic.  She had not smelled the scent in years, and there it was, her mother’s favorite perfume: Youth Dew by Estee Lauder.

Her mother pulled away.  She touched Kim’s face with her fingers.  She looked her in the eyes.  “I don’t have much time,” her mother said.  “I just want you to know I am proud of you.  You are better at life than I was.  Your children are lucky to have you.”

“Thank you.  I wish you were here to watch them grow,” Kim told her, enjoying the feeling of her mother’s fingers on her cheek.

“I am here.  I am in your heart.”  Her mother rose.  “I’m sorry, Honey.  I have to go.  I have to pick someone up.”  And with that, she walked out of the room and disappeared.

Kim startled.  She awoke.  She was lying down, not sitting up.  For the first time, she remembered a dream involving her mother.  It was so real.  Had it been her imagination?  She breathed in?  Could she smell her perfume lingering in the air?  Had she dreamt about her mother because she had been craving to dream about her for so long?  She had no answers, and it was only 3:00 am.  She lulled herself back to sleep.

At 7:30 AM, Kim was busy getting the kids ready for school.  The coffee was brewing, the waffles were warming, the girls were in the bathroom brushing their teeth.  The phone rang.  Who calls this early in the morning? she thought.

“Hello?” Kim said into the phone.

It was her aunt, her mother’s brother’s wife.  She was crying.  “Kim, I am sorry for calling so early.  I just wanted you to know.  Your Uncle Pete died in the middle of the night.”

Kim’s entire body covered in goosebumps.  Could her mother’s cryptic last statement been about Uncle Pete.

“I’m so sorry.  When did this happen?” Kim asked.  She already knew the response.

“About 3:00 am.”

Day 295: Ghost Stories: Part Two

As I stated yesterday, I do believe that those closest to us communicate with us and take care of us from the beyond.

This is Bob’s story:

Bob and Sandy had a good marriage, a marriage that other people envied.  It was a marriage filled with warmth and love; a marriage focused on their children and family.  They shared a love that was  immeasurable.  However, after 37 years,  Sandy passed away.

Four years prior to her passing, Sandy was diagnosed with ALS.  The diagnosis, although dreadful, did not defeat her.  She maintained a positive demeanor, even as her muscles started to fail her, she always found a way to see happiness in her day– a friend came to visit, one of her sons stopped over with a grandchild, Bob brought her flowers just to see her smile.  Yes, even when she was fully immobile in a wheelchair, she still smiled with her eyes.

About a month after Sandy passed, Bob was still busy putting her estate and affairs in order.  On a Thursday morning, he had made an appointment to meet with the lawyer about rewriting his own will.  He got in the car and began the half hour drive across town.  Out of nowhere, a random thought popped into his mind. Go see Ken.

Ken?  Gosh, Bob thought, I haven’t seen Ken in over six months.  Why would I be thinking about Ken on the way to the lawyer?

He ignored the thought and continued on with his day.  He arrived at the lawyers on time, discussed his issues rather quickly, and was on his way out of the office in less than an hour.  He had changed his will to make his children the benefactors now that Sandy was gone.  Pressing the button to get onto the elevator, his heart was heavy.  He missed his wife terribly.  Go see Ken.

For the second time he thought about Ken.  It was odd and peculiar to him that his mind kept going to Ken.  They were friends, but in the past few years, they had lost touch.  Sandy’s ALS had consumed him, and he had let many of his relationships lag.

Walking to the parking garage, he thought that when he got home, he should give Ken a call to see how he and his wife Amy were doing.  Last time he had actually seen Ken and not just talked on the phone was probably about the time Sandy was diagnosed.   Sandy and Bob had gone over to their house for dinner.  Sandy was still walking at the time.

He got on I-76 and started to head home.  Go see Ken.  Again, he thought those same words– go see Ken.   The thought was not look Ken up again or give Ken a call.  The thought was a directive: go see Ken.

Bob could not ignore it.  He got off the highway and turned around.  Ken’s house was nearly a half hour in the opposite direction.  Even though he needed to clean out the garage and check in with his son, he could not shake this idea.

When he arrived at Ken’s house, he parked in the driveway and walked to the front door.  Suddenly, he felt foolish.  It was a Thursday and he was popping in unannounced.   Ken was probably at work.  Amy was probably not at home.  He probably just drove a half hour out of his way to knock on a door to an empty house.  Needelesstosay, he got out of his truck and walked to the door and knocked.

Within seconds, he could hear footsteps coming down the steps.  Someone was home.  Amy opened the door, saw Bob, and immediately threw her arms around him and hugged him.

“Oh Bob, I am so sorry about Sandy.  It has been so hectic around here.  I am so sorry we were unable to make it to the funeral.”  She squeezed a little harder to let him know she meant the words that were coming out of her mouth.  Bob felt her warmth, and it made him a little misty-eyed.  They let go of each other and he smiled.

“Amy, thank you.  It was hard at the end, but I know Sandy is in heaven looking down on us,” he said.

“She sure is,” Amy agreed.

“Is Ken around?  I was at the lawyer’s today, and Ken kind of just popped in my head so I thought I would come for a visit,” he said.

Amy shook her head.  “No, sorry.  I don’t think you know, Ken fell and broke his hip a couple of weeks ago.  He is in a rehabilitation facility.  I can’t bring him home because we don’t have a way for a wheelchair to get in the house.  It might be a couple of months before he will be able to come home.  It was shattered pretty badly.”

Right then Bob knew.  Go see Ken.  He knew why the message was so clear.

“Amy, call your boys.  I have a wheelchair ramp that you can have.  If they can come over today, you could probably have him home with you tomorrow.”

Amy’s eyes filled with tears.  For the second time, she squeezed Bob with a hug.  “Thank you,” she said.

“No, I think it was Sandy.”  He smiled, looked up into the sky and winked.  Even in death, Sandy was still looking out for people.