Monday, November 12, 2012

The Unexplainable

by Joan

When my maternal grandmother, Jenny, moved to the United States, she left behind her mother and several siblings in Odessa. She formed a life in Richmond, Virginia, married my grandfather and had two children, Phillip and Sylvia. Years later, as a storm gathered, a flash of lightning streaked the night sky over Jenny. Suddenly she felt uneasy, believing it was a premonition of her mother’s death back in Odessa. The next day she received news that her mother had in fact died the night before.

Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum, by Rick Mora

My eighty-eight year-old mother is physically healthy, but lives in assisted living because her memory is not what it used to be. She remembers stories from her earlier life, like running away with her brother and her mother’s premonition, but she doesn’t remember if she took her pills or if she saw me last month or last June. Some of you might remember my post about taking my mom to her quiet brother’s ninetieth birthday party in Providence last year. These two siblings laughed and reminisced and smiled as though it hadn’t been more than ten years since they’d last seen each other. 

A week ago Saturday night, my mother woke from a nightmare, distraught. Her brother was there, in a chair next to her, and he was yelling at her. The nurses calmed my mother down and, in the morning, one of my sisters went to see her to reassure her she must have had a dream; her brother and his wife of over sixty years were now living in Chicago near one of his daughters.

When I heard this the next day, I tucked the information away, not voicing what I feared. A few hours later, my husband and I strolled through the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum. The glass sculptures seemed otherworldly, peaceful, unexplainable. 

Chihuly sculpture at the Dallas Arboretum, by Rick Mora

We were still taking in the fall wonder as my cell phone rang. When I saw my cousin’s name on the caller ID, my fears were confirmed. My dear, sweet uncle, veteran of WWII, had passed away during the night, at the young age of 91.

Later on the phone with my mom, I told her what I truly believed. That my uncle found a way to visit her on the way out of this life. He must have been yelling to wake her from a deep sleep, to let her know he was joining their mother and the night sky full of ancestors.

Many have asked me why ghosts find their way into every book I write. Finally, I have an answer.

Phillip and Sylvia
Phillip and Evelyn, 1941


  1. Joan--Thank you for sharing these stories. It is wonderful that you and your family members are so in tune to the spirit world. I believe strongly in it--I've been haunted by dead writers too long to ignore it--and I believe there is reassurance in thinking that there is more to come after physical death. Much more.

    Great post.

  2. Thanks Erika!

    By the way, I just finished Hemingway's Girl, and I understand why you are so haunted by him! He definitely spoke to you while you wrote... I won't forget his story.

  3. So sorry to hear about your uncle, Joan. I hope your mom was able to take some comfort from your thoughts on why she had her dream. Thinking of your family.

  4. Thank you, Julie! I think she definitely did.


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