This is a ghost story.
I had a rotten day last Monday. I was leaving for a work trip the next day and I had so much to do. Packing, cleaning, trying to fit in some exercise, and of course looking after my kids. I also had an unfortunate conversation with someone who made me feel like an idiot and really knocked my confidence. And I was feeling guilty because the work trip meant that I was going to miss my 5yo’s first sports day at big school. He also had a bad day at school that day and was upset when I picked him up.
After dinner, I collapsed on the sofa to cuddle up with my kids until it was time for the bedtime routine. I suddenly had a terrible feeling. An aching and heaviness spreading from my shoulders, across my back and down my legs. I shortly found myself running to the loo. I had some sort of stomach bug. Perfect. Perfect timing.
That evening I had booked myself a manicure. My manicurist comes to my house after the kids are in bed, sorts out my nails and is very good company in the process. I had been looking forward to it all day, but now I was ill I needed to cancel it. Worse, it happened so soon before she was meant to come that I had to turn her away at the door. Another embarrassment for the day.
And so, feeling downtrodden and physically ill, I removed the peeling shellac from my nails myself, leaving them as plain and stripped down as I felt. It was times like this that I normally would have called my grandma, who died in April. She would always listen to me unload all of my fears and heartaches and worries on her, with no judgement, and with no feeling that I was imposing on her. I felt very lonely indeed when I reached for the phone for the millionth time since she died, and stopped short, when I realised there was no one on the other end.
I called a friend instead, cried, and went to bed. Sleep was not forthcoming given the need to constantly rush to the bathroom, but over a course of hours, I eventually fell into a fitful sleep.
My dreams were normal at first, not exceptional. But then I woke up. I thought I woke up. The view I saw was the door to my bedroom, the bedside table, the light switch – the same as always. But then someone started to walk into the room. I couldn’t see who it was in the dark.
I was scared. Who was coming into my room in the middle of the night? My husband was in bed next to me, fast asleep. I tried to scream but at first I couldn’t. With a massive effort I finally managed to make a noise – a weak “aaahh” “aaahh” that sounded more real than the image I was seeing.
As the figure continued to approach my bed, I thought that it was actually someone I knew. It started to feel less menacing. I thought it might be my next door neighbour, but I couldn’t figure out why she would be coming into my room.
The figure sat down on my bed, and suddenly I began to see her shape. Soft grey curly hair, giant glasses. She grasped my hands and suddenly I knew. “Is it Grandma?” I said, talking in my sleep. It was her. “Grandma!” I spoke again, aloud, joyful.
Then, a stroke on my arm from my husband, and I was awake, and she was gone.
My husband was only half awake so I just told him I had a weird dream and to go back to sleep. But it wasn’t just a weird dream. It was powerful. I know that I talked aloud in my sleep – that is why I woke my husband – and it is not something I normally do. I was aware of struggling to speak as the dream was happening.
I had been in that twilight state between dreaming and awake, and my Grandma’s face and the clasp of her hands had felt oh so real. It was not like a normal dream where pictures and scenes run through your head, you may talk but it’s more like watching a movie of yourself than actually being you. In this dream, I was self-aware and everything I experienced was palpable.
So what actually was it?
A ghost? A dream? An illness-fuelled hallucination? Or was it really her?
I’ve been wishing to dream about her since she died. Not the sort of dream I had. Just a normal one, to see her alive and healthy again. But she’s been conspicuous by her absence from my dreams. Perhaps because of her prominence in my waking thoughts.
I’ve read some “woo-woo” websites about ghostly sleep visitations and lost loved ones. These sorts of experiences are not all that uncommon. And the biggest thing they have in common is that the person who experiences it cannot simply dismiss it.
Perhaps it was just a dream. But in my heart I think that it was really her. Coming to see me when I needed her.
This post may seem someone off-topic to my blog, but really it isn’t. Because my blog is about family. Whether my grandmother really visited me in some intentional ghostly way or whether it all came from my own mind actually doesn’t matter. What matters is the way it made me feel. Safe, not alone, important. This is what mothers do for their children.
My grandma was the only mother I ever knew, and though I always knew that I would have years of life without her, she is with me still. Earlier that day, my loss had felt bigger than big, but my dream reminded me that whatever force had bound us together in life can never be broken by death.