A Ghost Story


I was awake the length of the night, listening to the wind. It thrashed against the house rattling the foundation. The roof felt as though it would lift. I’d never heard wind speak to me like that. It whistled and howled and cried like a woman. I covered my ears with blankets to muffle the maddening cries imagining myself as Dorothy, with cows flying by the window. But I wasn’t in Kansas. I was in Donegal restlessly stirring in the middle of an autumn night as my granny lay in her bed with a nurse by her side.

Until recently, this ball of energy had been dancing with Skippy, who’d bark in tune with her song. Her bicycle rarely collected dust. She was eighty-four, with sights set on the hundred. But in the past few weeks, Granny casually mentioned her organs weren’t behaving properly.

We had all arrived with short notice—a phone call, a plane ride, a quiet but long drive through country roads leading to the farm where I had just spent the summer. I hadn’t expected to be back again so soon.

The wind suddenly ceased its howling. Not one crack of light outlined the frame of the window. Suddenly, my bedroom door burst open.

“She’s going!” My aunt called into the darkness. I leaped from the bed and struggled to find my shoes in the frigid room.

I found my family standing in a circle around Granny’s body reciting the rosary, rushing one Hail Mary after the next as if to squeeze them in before her spirit left the room. I didn’t join in. The prayers felt false on my tongue, like a script that didn’t suit my character.

“She’s gone,” the nurse said mid-prayer.

Emotional and jet-lagged, I crawled back under the covers of my bed escaping the dozens of relations whose voices filled the house.

Suddenly, the door swung open. My aunt entered the room searching for her daughter’s hair dryer. She couldn’t find it and stormed out slamming the door behind her.

The door opened again. This time it was my cousin who rummaged through the wardrobe and lifted unlaundered clothes off the floor.

“I found it!” she called closing the door behind her.

A few moments later, the door opened again with another aunt searching for a mirror to brush her hair.

When the door opened a fourth time, I bolted upright to confront whichever relation had decided to disturb me. I didn’t see anyone, but knew I was not alone in that room. Perhaps the intruder was looking for her shoes. I leaned over the right side of the bed to examine the floor.

Then my heart stopped.

I held my breath as the imprint of a form sitting down took its shape on top of the wool blankets. The weight of the mattress shifted. Within an instant, before my brain could translate what my eyes were seeing, a dead weight forced me back onto the pillow. My hands were up at my shoulders like a suspect under arrest. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t breathe, crushed under the weight of this invisible force. I waited, frightened out of my mind. My eyes scanned the ceiling above me. Then a voice whispered into my left ear. It was a soft, angelic voice. I strained to hear what it said, but the words were muffled as blood rushed to my ears.

I must speak, I told myself.

I opened my mouth. No sound came out. I needed to ask if she was there. I needed to know what she’d just said.

A high-pitched, trembling whisper finally escaped my throat, and I managed to call out to the room.

“Granny?”

Immediately, the invisible force released its grasp, and I leaped from the bed like a spring, threw open the door, and raced down the hallway outside to the rain.


(Excerpt from my memoir, Migrating Toward Happiness: The Soundtrack to My Spiritual Awakening.)