Haunting

My cyber friend, Linda, has a new post on her blog titled “Let the Haunting Begin.” Her mom died Friday and, well, read her post to find out what the title refers to.

It got me to thinking about haunting. I think horror story writers over the centuries have done a terrible disservice to haunting and given it a bad rap. Why does a haunting have to be a bad thing? The dictionary defines the word haunt as, “to visit habitually or appear to frequently as a spirit or ghost.” Also, “to recur persistently to the consciousness of; remain with”…”to frequent the company of; be often with.”

I don’t subscribe to any formal religion but I do believe that the soul is immortal. I believe that there is something that happens to that soul after it’s finished with these mortal remains and I believe that soul has the ability to haunt us and visit those of us here as a spirit or ghost. To “recur to the consciousness of” we who remain behind, but I don’t believe those visits are accompanied by strange noises, the clanking of chains or poltergeist shenanigans. I think they’re more subtle than that. Let me give you a couple of personal examples.

A couple of years ago my roommate, Kevin, was fixing our dinner of hot dogs and baked beans. This happens to have been a traditional New England dinner at one time. It wasn’t the first time we’d had this fare for supper but for some reason THIS time it reminded me of a family story about my mother’s brother, Howard, and the first dinner his new bride, Betty, prepared for him. Howard, it was told, loathed hot dogs and baked beans for dinner. So, you’ve probably already guessed what his blushing bride put on the table that first night. Of course his reaction was “why this is absolutely delicious, dear.”

Why should that story have come so vividly to mind that evening? I hadn’t thought of Howard and Betty for years. But in telling that story to Kevin my aunt and uncle’s memories came flooding into my consciousness. I remembered the Thanksgiving dinners my family and theirs had shared half a century earlier. I remember Howard giving my brother Gary a set of his old golf club which changed Gary’s life. He went on to become a golf pro and the first director of Golf at the Olde Barnstable Golf Course on Cape Cod. And I remember Betty’s radiant smile and easy good nature. The memories of them lingered with me for most of that evening.

A week or so later I got an email that said my Aunt Betty had died, and the stunner was that she had died the same day that all those memories came flooding back. Howard had died years earlier, and Betty had been afflicted with the cruelest of all illnesses, Alzheimer’s and hadn’t uttered a word to anyone for close to 20 years.

I am TOTALLY convinced that her spirit, freed of the constraints of this world, came and visited me that evening to say goodbye.

When I wrote to my cousin Jeannie to tell her I was sure her mother had paid me a visit she didn’t poo-poo the idea. She told me she completely believe it had happened and told me about an incident that happened to her. Howard was a die-hard birder. Kept logs of his sightings and all that. On the first anniversary of his death Jeannie was washing the dishes from her lunch when a Baltimore Oriole, Howard’s all-time favorite bird, came and settled on the windowsill where she was working. She said the bird stayed there for about five minutes looking at her before it took off and she said she had no doubt whatsoever that it was her father come to visit.

Hauntings can be very subtle and we have to be open and receptive to them when they happen. I believe they are VERY real. So, Linda, it might take a while before your mom comes to haunt you. She will. Just be ready to say hello.

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