In honor of Halloween, I decided to deal with the ghosts in my own house this week. I have known the house was haunted since before we moved in last spring, but the resident ghosts stuck to the third floor and didn’t cause mischief, so dealing with them was easy to put off. That said, it did bother me that there was an old lady ghost at the high front window, looking down at us every time we pulled in the driveway.
So, armed with my keen intellect and a pad of paper, I went up to the third floor. To set the scene……our house was built in 1885 and the third floor is in desperate need of a gut-it-to-the-studs renovation (photo provided). It looks like the setting for the climax of a Stephen King novel — crumbling plaster, 1800’s wallpaper peeling and falling off the walls, curtains at the windows that haven’t been washed since the 1950’s, scraps of incredibly old linoleum covering the floors. There are two big bedrooms (with closets!), but I can’t imagine anyone alive agreeing to sleep up there. We use one of the rooms for storage and the other for nothing.
I found three ghosts standing in the corner of the front bedroom — a young woman, young man, and child of about eight. I introduced myself, said I had come to help, and set about finding out who they were and why they were there.
The woman was named Jessie and she moved into this house in 1887, when she was 17 years old. The house was a boarding house then, and she was hired as cook and maid, and given a room on the third floor. A year or so later, she met Harold (the young man ghost), and they fell in love. Harold was a logger, and a year or two older than Jessie. At 19, Jessie found herself pregnant, and she and Harold wed. At that time, and in her family, to be pregnant before marriage was an unforgivable disgrace, and her entire extended family disowned her over it. She had a sister named Bernice to whom she was particularly close, and that loss was the hardest to bear.
Jessie had the baby — a boy they named Benjamin (the child ghost) — and the new family took up residence in both rooms on the third floor. Jessie and Harold worked hard and tried to save up for a place of their own. But just eight years later, Harold died in a fall while logging, and within a year, Benjamin died of scarlet fever.
Jessie’s world fell apart and in her grief she couldn’t let them go. They were all she had, all she was ever going to have. She kept pictures of them at her bedside and spoke to them every night, begging them to stay with her. Which they did.
The old woman ghost I kept seeing in the window? It was her. Jessie lived to be 82 years old. Harold and Benjamin died in 1898, but she didn’t die until 1952. She lived in this house that whole time, cooking and cleaning, and retiring to her rooms on the third floor every night. And those rooms haven’t been lived in since. I asked about her appearance, about how she was able to look so young. She said that a part of her died when they died, so she could appear that age when she wanted to. Her natural state was as an old woman ghost, but she didn’t want me to see her like that, looking like she was Harold’s grandmother. I haven’t seen this before in a ghost, and was amazed.
Jessie’s full story was a sad one. Being disowned by her family went beyond simply feeling shunned. She felt banished — banished from her family, banished from her life, banished from heaven. This defined her entire life, and now her death. She, Harold, and Benjamin had remained Earth-bound all this time because she truly believed there was no place for her in heaven.
I had a lot to say about this, about the fact that heaven is for all. I also had a lot to say about her family, about how their disownment of her was “of their time,” and maybe not genuine to who they were and how they truly felt about her. I asked Jessie if she could forgive them. And she said, “Yes, I believe I can.”
I haven’t written about this phenomenon before, but Jessie, Harold, and Benjamin were tethered to each other. This tethering happens when there is a pact or covenant between souls that bind them for this lifetime and for lifetimes beyond. Sometimes people are bound together for good reasons — love or a common purpose — but other times it is not for good reasons — jealousy or resentment. The ties that bound these three together were loving, but it was not great for Harold and Benjamin to be held back from ascending for 117 years. I explained the ascension process to them, but was cautious about promising that all their ancestors would be there to greet them (117 years of waiting, for heaven’s sake!). I asked if they were ready, assuming they would want to go together.
Harold spoke up and said no, that they would not ascend together, that they each needed to make that decision for themselves. I was impressed with him asserting himself — finally — and his statement put a lot of things to rights. Ascension is personal, every ascension is as individual as a fingerprint, and everybody should get to choose that and to do that on their own. Harold also declared that they would go in the order that they died — him first, then Benjamin, then Jessie.
I opened a portal to the other side, but it was weird. Usually a portal appears like a hole in the sky, but this time it was like a tube. I apologized, but in the end it proved useful. Harold stood under the portal, and it was like stepping into a private chamber. He looked up, saw someone he recognized, yelled “Grandad!” and ascended on the spot. A side note here: when a person makes a deathbed declaration of “I’ll see you on the other side, kid,” they mean it, no matter how long they may have to wait for you.
Benjamin moved under the portal, told me he hoped we liked living here, announced, “I want to be with my dad,” and up he went. And then it was Jessie’s turn. I thanked her for making this house a good and loving place to live for all those people, for all those years. She seemed humbled by this, and surprised by the notion that her life had mattered. She moved under the portal, reluctantly looked up, squealed, “Bernice!” and off she went.
The ties that bind people together are powerful ones indeed. Bernice had also lived to old age, but was not reconciled to Jessie while both were alive. From the exchange I witnessed, it seemed that Bernice did not know how Jessie could ever forgive her. But love prevailed, all was forgiven, and the two embraced. And as I was closing the portal, Jessie’s voice came through, bursting with happiness, “We’re all fine!”