So my mom has known me my whole life. She knew I saw ghosts way back when. The truth is, she does too, she just doesn’t like to talk about it.
And as my husband, Oscar, the ultimate skeptic, has experienced some of what I’ve experienced because he lives with me, says– It’s like this- You didn’t ask for this. You don’t go on television. You don’t try to make money off of this. You hate it. You don’t see this ability as a gift. You see it as a curse.
Right. It is a curse. I hate it. But sometimes it has its perks. Take my dead relatives, for instance. I seem to be their first stop on the road to the beyond.
So I had this cousin… We’ll call her Deidre. She was my second cousin? I’m not sure how the cousin system works. (My husband and I are distant cousins.) Deidre was my father’s first cousin. She was older than my father, as in eight, ten, or twelve years older. She always liked me. Why? Because we were both wild childs. I know childs is not a word but it sounds better than wild children. I was a difficult teenager. She had been a difficult teenager and boy oh boy did she live a colorful life. I can’t even tell you. No, really, I can’t. It’s kind of a family secret. Let’s just say it involved notorious bad guys.
Anyway, she was drop-dead movie-star gorgeous, outspoken, independent, tough as nails and she got me. She totally got me. So despite the significant difference in our ages, we were very close. She had two children, also much older than me. I was good friends with her son, not so much with her daughter.
When she was older, not old, but older, she got lung cancer. Yes, she’d smoked a whole lot and she’d always been married to one smoker or another so she had a lot of nicotine exposure. Smoking was big back in those days. I have to admit she did look cool with a cigarette in her hand. When I was fourteen I took up smoking for an entire year, trying to look as cool as Deidre.
In the end I didn’t like the way it made my hair smell so I quit. And I never managed to look as cool as Deidre.
Something weird happened to me when Deidre died. There I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, minding my own business, reading a copy of People Magazine (because what else are you supposed to do in a long checkout line) when out of the blue I couldn’t breathe. I really and truly could not breathe. I felt like I was gonna keel over and die right then and there. I must have been weaving around because the guy behind me grabbed my arm and asked, “Are you all right? Do you need to sit down?” He started waving for the manager.
But as quick as the feeling came over me, that’s how fast it left. By the time the manager reached us, I was fine, but very shaken up. I had no idea what had just happened. And by the way, there was a clock right above my head and I glanced up at it– don’t know why but I did. It read 3:15 (Pacific Standard Time).
I managed to get my groceries checked through and I headed home. Pulled into the garage, grabbed a couple bags and walked into the kitchen. There, reflected in the large window over my kitchen sink, was Deidre. No shit. Deidre. It was winter and it was cloudy outside so I could see her reflection clearly. She was leaning against my refrigerator, looking all sexy-gorgeous, arms crossed over her chest, giving me this sly knowing smile.
I looked at my refrigerator. Couldn’t see her. I looked back at the window and there she was, clear as day.
I said, “Deidre…”
She blew me a kiss and vanished.
I dropped my grocery bags onto the table and called my mom.
“Mom! What happened to Deidre?”
“She died. She just died.”
“When did she die? When?”
“Maybe fifteen minutes ago?”
“But what time? Do you know what time she died?”
“Maynard, what time was it when Diedre died? 5:15. Your father says 5:15 (Midwestern Standard Time). Why?”
(Ah, so that explains the grocery store episode.)
“Because she was here. I just saw her. She was in my kitchen and she looked fabulous.”
“Maynard… Deidre just visited Julia. And she looked fabulous. Your father wants to know if she asked about him.”
“Tell him no. She didn’t say anything but she looked great. Is (her son) there?”
“Can I talk to him?”
When I told him I’d just seen his mother he was quiet for a couple heartbeats, then he said, “Well, if she was gonna come see anyone I guess it would be you. That makes sense. Thanks for letting me know.”
I never saw Deidre again. But boy, she looked amazing. God, she was gorgeous.
When my uncles died, my father’s two brothers, they both showed up as well. The first was kind of funny because he was, well, to put it nicely, he was a difficult man. He had issues. He was wild and crazy and creative and super smart and ambitious but always angry and frustrated as all hell with both his professional and personal life. And believe me, it showed. This was no secret. We all loved him but we tried to stay the hell away from him. He died young as well. It was sad but he lived such a hard life I guess it wasn’t totally unexpected.
So there I was, vacuuming up in my bedroom, and who should appear but Uncle Moonpie. Yes, he did have a nickname from the time he was a kid and while it wasn’t exactly Moonpie, that’s what we’ll call him for the purposes of this blog.
I switched off the vacuum.
First of all, he looked happy. I never ever remember this uncle looking happy in real life but now he was super happy. Maybe ecstatic is a better word. And he wanted to chat.
He said, “I’m visiting everyone, heading west first and then east. I want to let you know how much I love you and how well I’m doing.” He said, “For once I’m fine. Tell them to watch for me.” And then he vanished.
Now, I have to be honest. My sisters couldn’t stand to be around him when he was alive. So I figured I’d better warn them. I called my youngest sister first.
I said, “Uncle Moonpie is making the rounds. He’s headed west then back east so he’ll hit you later today, I guess.”
She said, “Oh crap. Did you tell him not to stop here? I don’t want him showing up here. I don’t need the aggravation.”
My middle sister, with whom he’d once had a screaming match, said, “Call him back. Tell him not to come.”
That’s not how this thing works.
In any case, I think I was the only person who saw him. Nevertheless it was important for him to make the rounds. It was something he needed to do before he moved on.
My other uncle, my father’s oldest brother, was a real sweetheart. And he was the funniest man– could keep us all in stitches. Everyone adored him. But he had a difficult time at the end of his life.
He’d been a bombadeir during WWII. I’m not sure, but I kind of think his plane was named the Daisy Mae from the Li’l Abner comic strip. His plane was shot down over occupied France. My uncle was injured when they parachuted out– hit in the head by shrapnel. The French underground managed to hide the crew for a time and they found a doctor to treat the worst of my uncle’s wounds, but eventually they were discovered by the Nazis. His pilot put up a fight and was killed. The rest of the crew were taken to a POW camp. I can’t remember which Stalag. I’m sure my dad remembers. My uncle spent two years as a POW. Weighed 90 pounds when the Russians finally liberated the camp.
At the end of his life, he suffered from some form of dementia, perhaps because of the pieces of shrapnel still scattered about in his brain. The doctors couldn’t do an MRI for obvious reasons (metal in the brain means no MRI) so nobody really knew what was going on. But he did become agitated at times, even violent. I suspect he was reliving the moments when his plane was shot down, when they all bailed out, when he was hit in the head, when his pilot was killed, and the trauma of the POW camp.
I knew my uncle was dying – my mother kept me informed of events up in Canada. What I wasn’t prepared for was his visit when he died.
It was late. I’d gone to bed, my German shepherd, Louie, lay next to me. (He was a cuddle bunny.) I was just drifting off when the bedroom door flew open, banged against the wall, and my uncle ran in. I bolted upright, heart pounding. Louie freaked and took off with his tail tucked between his legs. (Thanks loads, Louie.) I wanted to run after the dog, but I couldn’t. My uncle kept pacing back and forth, all around my bed. He was so agitated, so upset. He was mumbling to himself. Frankly, he was scaring the crap out of me. He swung his arms around like he was throwing punches, like he was fighting off invisible attackers. It was so upsetting. I was in tears.
At last he seemed to calm down and I took the opportunity to bolt out the door and find my husband. He was in his office along with the dog, who cowered beneath the desk.
I said, “Can you come upstairs with me? Uncle (we’ll call him Uncle Kewl) is in our bedroom and he’s freaking me out. I don’t want to face him alone.”
So like a good little hubby, Oscar trooped upstairs with me so Uncle Kewl and I could have our conversation. By the time we reached the bedroom, my uncle was sitting on the bed.
He asked, “What am I doing here?”
I explained to him that he must have died.
He took that in and it was like a light turning on. There was clarity. He said, “I’ve got to see my family.” And just like that, he was gone.
Gosh. So many of my relatives have come back. My grandmother comes all the time to check up on me and on my kids. My grandfather used to visit. Haven’t seen him in years. I hope he got to be reborn back into our family. I’ve even seen my mother-in-law. She’s lookin’ good, like Rita Hayworth back in the day.
So… enjoy the ghost stories. Maybe I’ll have another on Monday. My work of nonfiction, One Foot In Heaven, Journey of A Hospice Nurse, will be free beginning next Tuesday. Tell your friends! I’d give away a million copies if I could.