There Are No Such Things As Ghosts

Grandpa and Grandma Bowman 
very young, camping out by a lake.

Tom had been on the Guiding Light for a couple of years when another very strange psychic event happened to me. It was a ghostly visit from his grandfather. As the daughter of a scientist, I was raised to be adamantly on guard against all superstitions. I emphatically rejected the notion that there were any such things as ghosts. But, as I was to learn, just because you don’t believe in ghosts doesn’t mean that they don’t have some important business with you.

After many years of living on her own in the shabby, old tenement where Tom’s mother had died, not far from Tom and me on the upper west side of Manhattan, Tom's grandmother's Parkinson's disease had reached the point where she could no longer manage on her own, and we had to put her into a nursing home.

For the past few years, I had visited Grandma fairly often. Since she lived so close by, it was easy. I took her on doctor's appointments, brought her groceries, or just had tea with her. One of her legs was always moving up and down, and her arm shook so much she could hardly hold the tea cup. She was thin, but always smiling like an eager young girl, with her silver bangs and a sleek page boy, looking just like a flapper, even in her eighties. She always spoke so animatedly of the old days, and so happily, as if all her tragedies were someone else's. She was past sadness or regret. She shared with me her very fond memories of Ed, her husband, the retired Merchant Marine. Even though he’d been dead for over twenty years, she always talked about him as if he’d just passed away. When we finally had to move her out of her longtime apartment into the nursing home, she regretted so tearfully having to give up the bed she'd shared with him that it was obvious she'd loved him very much.

Visiting Grandma was always an emotional trial for Tom. After she was in the nursing home, we had to clean out her apartment and Tom had to go through all her things, which brought back many painful memories. Many sad events, deaths, and tragedies had been part of his history in this ugly tenement. He was gloomier than I’d ever seen him and hardly spoke, as we prowled through the grim, dark rooms which overlooked a bleak courtyard. We scavenged what few things of sentimental value that Grandma still had. As he looked around the living room, he told me that this is where she’d lived when he came home from the Army in Germany to see his mother the last time. It was here also where he'd found his youngest brother shooting up drugs and laughing and stealing money from Grandma's purse. His family was a long history of sad memories that he preferred to forget.

And yet, at the end of our cleaning work, he did find something that lifted his spirits. He found Grandpa's photo albums from his early years in the Merchant Marines, literally sailing the seven seas. We poured over the album together, reliving Tom's memories of his adventurous grandfather, a man who served under fire on active duty in both World Wars. Obviously, Tom was very proud of him, and these were good memories. From the old black and white photos of Ed as handsome young seaman visiting many exotic ports around the world, I saw a striking facial resemblance between Tom and Ed.

Tom fondly recalled Grandpa’s exciting wartime tales of sailing in convoys across the North Atlantic in winter to Murmansk. One time, twenty ships had started the crossing but eleven had been sunk by German U boats. Grandpa had run away to sea as a Philadelphia boy and made a career as a naval engineer. He’d married Ann and had a beautiful daughter, Helen. He’d introduced his only child to the sailor who ruined her life. By the time Tom knew him, all the fierce storms of his life were over; he was biding his time till death. Strange to look at his face staring out from the pictures, his quizzical expression so like Tom's. In addition to the albums, we brought home an old bureau from the apartment to use in our bedroom. Nothing special, but sturdy and commodious. And Tom wanted it because it had been his grandfather’s.

Very shortly afterward, in the middle of the night, from a sound sleep, I snapped bolt upright in bed with the terrifying sensation that someone was in the room, an intruder. Before I could even wonder how I was sensing this presence, as if in slow motion, my eyes were drawn across the room to Grandpa's bureau, and I saw a shimmering white figure the height of a man. Fear swept over me and, for the first time in my life, I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle up in pure terror. I gasped for breath as a scream almost burst forth. And then, even more shockingly, like a magic wand waving over me, instead of the scream erupting, it was gone. As if hypnotized, I lay down and fell instantly back to sleep, actually thinking as I did, "I'll never believe this happened in the morning."

The next morning, I woke up in bed, as usual, and stared at that bureau, remembering the unforgettable events of last night. The one thing I was absolutely sure of was that it hadn’t been a dream. I knew I had been wide awake when I sat bolt upright with that strange sensation there was someone in the room. I was wide awake when I saw the shimmering white figure. I was wide awake as I almost screamed. I was wide awake when the urge to scream vanished. I was even fully conscious when I lay down and fell instantly back to sleep. I knew that some kindly force that had power over me had sensed how terrified I was and soothed me back to sleep, somehow.

If you can’t be sure the things that happen to you when you’re wide awake are real, what can you know? The irrefutable proof was all there. Any normal person would have begun to wonder if they hadn't experienced something otherworldly. I felt a spirit presence, saw Grandpa's ghost, the spirit had saved me from terror by putting me back to sleep, and I knew it wasn't a dream. And the funny thing is, even though I was determined not to believe in ghosts, I almost screamed because I saw a ghost, which according to me was impossible. But, some part of me sensed I was in the presence of a spirit from some other reality.

However, I was still living in the world of chemistry and biology. I'm flesh and blood. Things like ghosts are impossible. End of subject. I remembered this as a curious occurrence, but that's all. My mind was firmly fixed on this world. One might even say clinging fiercely to this world's safe parameters.

This should have at least made me consider the possibility that spiritual things were actually real and operating in this world. But, as far as I knew, only kooks believed in that kind of thing. Even in church, my impression was that God was more of a concept than an active presence. I’m ashamed that the scientist part of me didn’t take this incident much more seriously.

No matter the stubbornness of my intellect, my great longing had ached for some contact with someone who'd passed over, and I'd gotten a very personal visit from the world of spirits. Why did this happen to me? It was so intimate and the feelings so close to my beating human heart that they were impossible to ignore. They frightened me deeply, since I came within a millisecond of screaming aloud, but was saved from doing so by what? By something that was almost too strange to think about. An unearthly power had taken over, gently laid me down and put me back to sleep. Was that even possible? No. None of it was even remotely possible, and yet, it had happened. A ghost on Central Park West, a figment of the Creator's imagination. For some unknown reason, they were waking up my sleeping spirit. They knew they had something for me to do later on, but rest for now, they were saying.

Naturally, I told Tom all about this experience, and he absolutely believed it was his grandfather come to visit. He had no trouble believing in the spirit world. He prayed often, probably a result of having been raised a Catholic. But he took the whole thing very lightly, attaching no significance of any kind to his grandfather showing up in his bedroom.

I have come to believe that these psychic events happen to me for very specific purposes. Tom was very close to his grandfather, who was the one father figure in his family that he loved and admired. When this occurred, Tom was already on the soap and had lost his way. I think his grandfather was worried about him and either hoping to wake me up to my deeper spiritual self in an effort to rescue our marriage from the oncoming disaster, or he was trying to get a message to Tom that true love is important and eternal. Perhaps he was bestowing his blessing on our marriage from the spirit world. But sadly, neither of us saw any very great importance in this visitation. We didn’t realize it was a guidepost to point our stories in their intended direction. Grandpa was aiming us toward love and trying to show us that love never dies. But his message whiffed right past both our foolish heads. Fortunately, the spirit world never gave up on us; this was far from the last message we received.

This is the strangest afterlife story you will ever read. A man with a divided soul, one in hell and one in heaven, came back to confess the truth and expose how the devil ruined his life. A must read for anyone struggling to reconcile sin and mental illness.


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