One of the things I missed this Halloween was snuggling under a blanket with the scent and sounds of a crackling fire, watching old horror movie classics with the curtains drawn just in case someone might be outside watching me. I love the Shining and the Exorcist, or Friday the 13th and Halloween. Those movies don't scare me, because I find them fairly unbelievable. What does scare me, however, are movies or stories about ghosts or spirits. I used to have nightmares about Poltergeist and Pet Sematary (Cemetery). I've always maintained that I am UNINTERESTED in connecting with the "other side." I am fine in my little world of disbelief.
In my 101 things, though, I told you that I believe I once saw a ghost. And I do. I'll share my story with you, as long as we all agree that I am not crazy and didn't lose my mind for this one night.
As I've mentioned before, my little immediate family was the only family living in the United States, so we traveled pretty regularly to Argentina. My mother's mother, my Nonna, was the only person that came to visit us religiously. She lived with us from my birth until I was 9 months old, and then returned yearly, often staying for months at a time. In high school, as her health was deteriorating, she came to live with use in California. As you can imagine, she drove me nuts.
My Nonna loved me to death, but she was soooo nosy! She would ask where I was going, who I was seeing, what I was doing, and whatever my response, she had a story at the ready that didn't relate IN THE LEAST, but she'd find a connection somewhere.
Nonna was tough. She'd divorced my mother's father when my mother was 2, because she realized he was abusive. She raised my mother on her own, sewing clothing for a living and scraping together enough to give my mom anything she needed. When I met Josh, she told me that she was happy he was Jewish, because in the early years after her divorce, only the Jews would give her work because she'd violated her fellow Catholics' religious laws.
She was fabulous.
At the end of my first year of law school, Nonna decided she wanted to return to Argentina to visit friends and family, so my dad accompanied her for a short trip. He chastised her to never leave the house by herself and insisted he was happy to take her everywhere and anywhere, she just had to ask. But Nonna was stubborn. One day, when my dad went out, she decided to take a walk on her own. Although she had a friend with her, she fell in the hallway and shattered her leg. After being rushed to the hospital and undergoing surgery, the reality of the situation settled in. With a break like this one, she couldn't return easily to the United States and would have to be admitted to a nursing home, at least temporarily, until she had healed. In Nonna's mind, this was a death sentence.
She stopped eating and began saying that she was ready to die. At first, my mom and dad laughed it off and told her to stop being silly, it was just a broken leg. But within a few days, she stopped communicating and her health began to deteriorate. I booked a trip to Argentina for the next week, confident that seeing me would cheer her up. On the Sunday before my trip, my dad called my mom and told her that he thought my Nonna really was ready to die. That the doctors had told him that for no apparent or practical reason, her body was shutting down.
That evening, my dad put the phone to Nonna's ear and my mom told her that if she was ready to go, my mom would be okay. Nonna died that night, 4 days before I would have arrived in Buenos Aires.
I don't know the words to tell you how sad we were. My mom was distraught, I think I was in denial. Sometimes I would sit on the phone and my mom would cry and ask me over and over again how you die of a broken leg? It was terrible.
It wasn't until a few months later that I realized how far I was from believing she'd really passed away. I didn't see her every day since I was in Boston and she was at home in California, so it wasn't unusual to go long periods of time without seeing her. One night, though, I was sitting alone in Josh's apartment where I'd been staying while I summered at a Boston law firm. He was traveling to one of his exotic Midwest locations on a consulting project.
I'd been watching reruns of Sex and the City, and in one of these episodes, Miranda's mother dies. In one scene, Miranda cries in a dressing room as she realizes that she will never fight with her mother again. And then it hit me.
I'd never roll my eyes through another one of her stories, never hear her broken English ask me silly questions, never get to show her my new engagement ring. I'd never hug her, kiss her, fight with her again. So I cried. I cried more that night than I had when she'd first passed away and when I finally went to bed, my last thoughts before sleep were that I could not believe it possible for me to live another 70 years on this earth without seeing my Nonna again. It just didn't seem possible.
The next thing I remember is feeling a hand brushing against my cheek and sliding down my chin. I opened my eyes to a pitch black room, but above the bed in front of me was a shape. Not necessarily the shape of a person, but almost a cloud of shimmering sparkling light. The only way I can describe it is to say that it looked like oil and water when it separates, but the little particles of oil were lit up with this bright light. I gasped, and then it was gone. My heart was pounding as I fumbled for the lights and climbed out of bed. I dialed Josh's cell number with shaking hands and barely started to speak before the sobs began. I had only gotten a couple of sentences out when I remembered what my final thoughts of the night had been. I hung up quickly with Josh and called my mom. It took only a couple of words out of my mouth before we were both crying.
I slept with the lights on for the rest of that night, although given my tearful reaction I didn't think it would ever happen again.
Of course, there is always the possibility that I dreamed it, but I believe I was wide awake. I felt the weight of the hand against my face for hours after it happened- almost a tingling sensation. I don't know what it means, either, but I can tell you that it was beautiful and it made me believe that whatever comes after death, it cannot be bad because that shape and the lights were far from bad.