Monday, April 20, 2009

do you believe in ghosts?

Periodically, I think of my childhood violin teacher, from whom I took lessons from the time I was seven through my sophomore year in high school, when she died at age 88 of breast cancer. Hers was the first funeral I ever went to.

I've had a number of dreams about her, especially in the last two years. The most vivid recurring one, which I always remember when I wake up, is me walking through her suburban neighborhood among piles of bright yellow fall leaves, knocking on swinging white New England plastic doors and asking if there is a Ms. Pleasant there. At last, I find a door behind which the alleged Ms. Pleasant appears, and it turns out to be my violin teacher, who opens the door and smiles and gives me a hug. (My violin teacher's name was not Ms. Pleasant, although it did begin with a P.)

These kinds of things happen every four or five months, I'd say. Sitting here editing this morning, I had a very powerful thought about her, which quite stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't remember the chain of thought that brought me to her, even right after the thought occurred, so I kind of listlessly Googled. There, in a note on her memorial scholarship fund, I saw that she died ten years ago today.

I do believe in the power of the subconscious to resurrect the relevant in eerie ways--for example, how is it that you always wake up exactly three minutes before your early alarm on the day you have a job interview?--but on some level I also wonder if she's out there, somewhere, in the miasma. If she is, I hope she knows how often I think about her, and how affectionately.

39 comments:

Jo said...

I lost my best friend 15 years ago. There have been times when I have physically felt her presence, though less often now. I still dream about her very few months and they are very realistic dreams where we hang out and talk. I usually don't mention it to anyone because I know how crazy it sounds. Until her death I was pretty convinced there is nothing afterwards but now I'm not so sure.

Laura said...

Love this post.

I don't personally believe in ghosts, which is precisely why I love writing about them and reading books focused on them.

I'm not sure I'd enjoy it nearly as much if I believed in them...

Laura said...

haha I am the Ellipses Queen, apparently.

PurpleClover said...

Hmm. I don't believe in ghosts but I believe in dreams meaning something.

If I had to take a Freudian crack at it I would say she is someone that you've always strived to be like. She was an inspiration to how you moulded yourself as you grew towards the woman you wanted to be. I think the fact that you came to her door and she hugged you, in a way says you've arrived. You don't need her example anymore and you've become the person you want to be.

But I'm no psychologist nor do I actually read dream interpretation books. It's just something I like to think about. So season with salt please. And ignore if I've offended!

LindsRay said...

Even though I think that I am a rational human being who believes in logic and science...I still find myself believing in some "other" out there. What that is and why, I don't know. All I know that there are things I can't explain.

Rick Daley said...

I had one dream that I think bordered on precognition.

While my wife and I were dating, we went to visit her parents. A few weeks beforee the trip, I dreamt that we were at her parents house, and we kept going back and forth bewteen that house and the house next door. One house was white, the other was yellow. The street was on a hill, and at the end of the street / top of the hill was a dead end and woods.

I told my wife (girlfriend) about the dream, and she was excited for me to see her parents' house; it was on top of a hill in a wooded area.

When we got there I told her that it was nothing like my dream. I even pointed out another street nearby that was closer to what my dream looked like.

Many years later, after my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law moved. Her new house (yellow) was next door to my sister-in-law's (white). Both houses were on a street that was a hill, and it ends in woods and a field.

We have spent many evenings walking back and forth between the two houses when we go to visit.

It's weird, because it is almost exactly like the dream I had many years prior.

Alice Kildaire said...

I've always believed in the possibility of ghosts, or at the very least, the lingering "presence" of a person after they've passed.

The months following my husband's death removed any doubt in my mind as to whether it was possible. I tried to disregard the familiar scents, odd sensations and noises as merely an overactive imagination, my psyche trying to compensate for the loss, but then visitors to my home began becoming very freaked out by an extra presence in the room.

I think sometimes the people we love, those who loved us, linger and to be honest, I find that knowledge quite comforting.

BuffySquirrel said...

Depends what exactly I'd be admitting to believing in :D.

WendyCinNYC said...

I can't decide whether or not I believe in ghosts. My rational mind says no. Although both my parents swear up and down that we lived in a house with spirits (or *something*) when I was a baby. They have many, many examples, including guests who claim to have seen an apparition.

I have vague, filmy memories, but it could easily be just a case of my own mind filling in the gaps.

So that's my non-answer answer.

Melanie Avila said...

Rick, that's spooky!

Moonrat, something similar happened to me on the first anniversary of my MIL's death. At the same time she died the previous year, I woke up feeling like something was crushing my lungs. She died because her lungs failed (side effect of breast cancer chemo). THe rest of the day weird things kept happening -- like her picture falling off the shelf and breaking.

We were going through a hard time and we decided it was her way of saying she was watching over us. It was all very weird.

A believer... said...

Until I was a senior in college, I never believed in ghosts. I scoffed at those who believed, skipped over TV shows dealing in ghosts. I thought it was quite silly.

I started dating this guy junior year of college. He lived in a fraternity house, which everyone swore up and down was haunted. I shrugged it off, mostly because the people who claimed to have experienced the ghosts were, of course, the loopy ones.

One afternoon, I went upstairs to take a nap in my boyfriend's room. I fell asleep, but I was later woken by distinctive "double-clicking." I figured my boyfriend had come up to use his computer, so I kept my head buried under the pillow. He just kept double-clicking, at an incessant pace, so I finally sat up, flung the comforter off me, and demanded, "What are you DOING?!"

There was no one at the computer. The computer was no longer in sleep mode, but it wasn't in screen-saver mode either. I was just staring at the desktop.

For the rest of the year, that damn mouse would click and take the computer out of sleep mode. It would wake us up constantly. There were other things that happened in there too. If you set two cans next to one another but not touching, they would knock together. The light in the closet would turn on in the night sometimes.

I am a believer now, but I know I wouldn't be if I hadn't actually been a witness to it.

Also, I do think there's a lot of made up stuff out there too.

moonrat said...

Purple--I like your interpretation :) but if you're right, my subconscious gives me a lot more credit than my conscious does!

moonrat said...

ahhhhh some creepy stories coming out here! wow.

JES said...

My inner jury's still out on ghosts. But I've always been less interested in the mystery of "ghosts, true or false" than in the mystery of a world which manages to arrange itself, repeatedly, so that ghosts seem real, whether they are or not.

Er, if that makes any sense!

PurpleClover said...

That's why we dream...to learn the truth about ourselves. ;)

Joan Mora said...

Oh yes, I believe in ghosts. Read Walking Haunted London by Richard Jones and tell me you don't believe.

I write about them, too. Even when I don't start with a ghost in the plot, one always seems to make an appearance.

Casey said...

I do and always have, and this is the reason I can't handle creepy, spooky books and movies that deal with ghosts or spirits and such.

I'm a self-professed chicken in this area. Generally, I'm okay with my belief, but I can't handle the creepy stuff. It screws me up for weeks.

I also beleive in the power of the subconscious, though. For your experience it could be either. Sorry for the loss of such a dear woman.

Anna Claire said...

That's incredible, moonrat. Our minds are amazing things.

Charles Gramlich said...

The answer depends. RIght now, in the light of day, the answer is no. But if you put me in the right environment the answer becomes definitel "maybe," or at least, "let me the hell out of here."

Emily Cross said...

Theres this thing in my family, when my grandmother was young. she had a dream she was sitting on a train heading to where her grandmother lived, then suddenly her grnadmother appeared and the two had a conversation. when my grandmother woke up, she found out her grandmother had died during the nite.

when my family went visiting relatives in austrailia, my mother had a dream that her grandmother (my great grandmother) came into the room, sat on the bed and chatted to her, telling her she was alright. my mother said it was most sureal moment and when she woke up she knew her gran had died. she rang her mother (my gran - lots of grans in this story) and found out that great granny had died a few hours previously. My Grandmother wasn't going to tell her till she got back cause she didn't want us to ruin our holidays.

I'm open minded to anything, but i wouldn't classify myself as a 'believer' - the mind (subconcious) is a powerful thing

Dana said...

There's definitely something else. I've had similar experiences- dreams and feeling someone's presence.

Anissa said...

I believe there is a spirit world, and that those we have loved come around us from time to time. I also believe they send us signs. We may not notice, but they're there all around us. I find the idea reassuring.

Ello said...

Moonie - that was a lovely post. I think some aspect of them always remains around. And I think it is wonderful that we have the ability to bring them back to life in our own minds. So weird that you mention your old violin teacher. I had an old piano teacher Ms. Carmen who I loved and who died while I was in college. I think of her several times a year - some fleeting memory of her that strikes me at odd times.

Molly B. said...

I'm loving everybody's ghost stories, and I'm not going to venture a guess as to whether your dream was ghost-inspired or not. However, I would like to note that this week holds several other anniversaries: Paul Revere's ride, Waco, and the OKC bombing (yesterday) and the Columbine shooting (10 years ago today). You might have linked her death to one of those--esp. Columbine, since it was the same day and year--and all of them have been mentioned in the news over the last 24 hours. Even if you weren't consciously thinking about her death, it's possible that you read or heard something that triggered the connection.

jalexissmith said...

what a lovely story.

Kerry said...

Why do you think she keeps showing up? Is she trying to tell you something?

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

That is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

freddie said...

I've had a few glimmers of precognition myself, but I'm guessing they were things I predicted based on bits of info my subconscious put together. Mostly it's just been small stuff, like I know I'll get called into work at a certain time for a certain day. But sometimes it's for bigger stuff, too. I wish it would happen with lottery numbers.

I do think people are linked in some way we don't yet understand, but I'm not a believer in ghosts or an afterlife. I still enjoy a good ghost story, though, and The Exorcist never fails to totally freak me out. Like sleeping with all the lights on kind of freaking out.

freddie said...

Also, I teach music for a living while I'm in grad school. I hope at least some of my students think of me fondly when I'm not around.

Although when I first started teaching and learning the ropes, I'm pretty sure my first victims have memories more akin to Psycho. : )

Kim Kasch said...

I don't believe in ghosts but last year when my Mom was dying, she kept seeing my Dad and two brothers and grandma, waiting for her in the distance. She'd talk to them, like they were in the room. It was creepy but hospice said, "It's very normal."

It's one of those things that makes you say, "Hummmm..."

Whirlochre said...

If ghosts there are, they've given me a terribly wide berth over the years.

The only evidence I have of spectral forces are the mice my cat occasionally stalks, though that may just be the fault of the feline Stupid Gene.

There's no telling what lumps can form in the chemical soup of the brain, but some of them do seem to be more ladle-friendly than others. And once you've spooned a few, the ladle itself becomes lump-centric. So it's a symbiotic attraction. Maybe 10cc were right about life being a minestrone.

I, too, have a number of recurrent dream themes which manifest themselves when certain things are happening in my life and I've learned to use these as pointers for things that are staring me so close in my waking face I can't see them.

The rest of the time, it's bunnies with chainsaws. And that's before I hit the sack.

Simon said...

I believe in ghosts. I see and communicate with spirit all the time. They also help me to heal people. I've too much physical evidence in my life to doubt. I'm touched and things move in my home. People have looked at me and I'm no longer myself. Another face has replaced mine. I have interesting life and have had similar experiences to Neale Donald Walsch, Edgar Cacey, Esther Hicks, and others. Believe in an infinite field of consciousness and as we go into a dream state we can source time, events, people, anything from the field. It is only awareness of the field/energy. Ghosts are real.

Alex Green said...

I just love that as caught up as we get in the black and white of this earthly existence, we're constantly reminded of the gray area. And I got whole-body goosebumps with that story. Lovely.

Chris Eldin said...

This is a beautiful post. I like how Alice worded it---lingering presence. I'll come out and admit I believe there's something more than our five senses can detect. I've heard too many stories from friends.

Ann Victor said...

Great post with some lovely stories in the comments. I'm sorry I missed the discussion!

Laura said...

I love this post. It's cool how when someone close to us passes they are with us in ways we can't explain and closer to us than ever. My friend's husband is a scientist and he simply said, "Energy never dies. You can't kill it." And so he reinforces my belief in ghosts. My mother is Irish, so I heard many ghost stories from her that light my imagination.

I'm happy that you are keeping your violin teachers spirit alive in the memories/dreams you have of her. How wonderful.

Katherine said...

I've long thought that "magic is all the bits science can't explain yet." Which is to say, just because we call it a "ghost" and science says there's no such thing as ghosts, that doesn't mean it isn't real, just misnamed.

I've had lots of experiences with ghosts: with people I knew, with people I've never met, and with people who were still alive (whole story around that last one that's too long for a comment). Especially because of the one of the person who was still alive -- they were in the room with me and much more freaked out than I was -- I've come to think of them more as "presences" than anything out of a spooky story.

But the experience is real, and that makes them real enough for me.

Sarah Laurenson said...

My Ms. P was my 4th grade teacher who encouraged my burgeoning love of reading. She died of cancer years after I left NJ. I don't dream about her, but I do think of her often.

The one I dream about is my niece who was killed by a drunk driver 5 years ago, but that's more about processing the grief than any wonderful ghost stories. If she's hanging around, I hope she's with her mom and dad.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I just loved this post. I think that subconscious and dreams and time really play around with each other in interesting ways we don't really know about yet, and that dates really do have meaning.

I tend to dream about friends when something big has happened in their lives -- it has happened often enough for me to know to give them a ring after I dream about them. I'm not even going to try to posit an explanation.