A Ghost from the Future

Published in Departed Family and Friends by Atraid Press (2005)
I was a hospice social worker, and Dorothea was one of my long-term patients. Dorothea was in her eighties, and dying of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. During one of our last interviews, Dorothea told me that she had always wanted to see a psychic, and regretted never having done. I pointed out that it wasn’t too late, and asked if she would like me to get her the name of a respected psychic in the area. She said she would, and I called her that evening with the name and phone number. When I next saw Dorothea, two weeks later, she told me how grateful she was to me for the contact. She had been to the psychic, and felt the psychic was “right on the money.” She asked if I would like to hear the tape the psychic had made of their interview together. I said yes. Proudly, Dorothea put on the tape and we sat there in her kitchen, listening. On the tape, the psychic said what I would have said about Dorothea, put into “psychic” instead of “social work” terms. She said Dorothea had lived a long life and had her emotional affairs in good order. She spoke about Dorothea’s good relationship with her living family (her daughter) and her deceased family– father, mother, and older brother. She said Dorothea had really “no unfinished business.” As I listened to the psychic, I at first heard nothing with which I could not wholeheartedly agree. Dorothea had been in hospice therapy with me for a number of months and she did seem to have her emotional house in order. She had talked to me about her somewhat distant mother, her reconciliation with her older brother, the many happy times she had spent with her father. Whatever small traumas she had suffered in her childhood seemed to be resolved and safely in the past. But as the psychic kept talking, the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise, and I suddenly saw a ghost. I don’t know how else to call her. This was not the sheeted and “whoo whoo” ghost of Halloween stories. This was the ghost of a little girl. Not only did I see a ghost, but I also saw her surroundings. I seemed to have been transported in time and place. I was floating above the second landing of a stairwell carpeted in green. There was a window to my left, through which streamed the early morning sun. Outside was a large Douglas fir. I could count the steps leading up to the landing. The “ghost” just ahead of and a few feet below me was the ghost of a little girl of about five, facing up the final short flight of stairs. I couldn’t see her face, but I saw her short and puff-sleeved red dress, and the scuffs on the back of her black patent leather shoes. I saw her wheat-blonde, shoulder-length hair. I saw her pale, thin arms, held slightly out from her sides; I saw her small, tightly-clenched fists. Even seen from the back, I knew this ghost child was both terrified and furious. She was staring up at the second floor landing. She wasn’t making a sound (I was aware of small birds chattering in the fir tree) but I could “hear” her soundless tears. I knew she was furious at someone in her family. A male. Her father or her brother. Her father. I knew something terrible had just happened. And then I knew what it was. A shot had just gone off. I heard it backward. I knew now this little ghost of a girl knew, that her father, her doomed, beloved father, had just shot and killed himself. Her father had been the love at the heart of her life, and now he was gone. As if sensing my presence, the girl turned around, and a small Dorothea looked up at me, her face wet with tears. For a second, she seemed to see me. I tried to “send her” my love.The connection faded almost immediately, but not before I realized: I was the one from another time period; I was the one floating above the floor; I was the ghost. The realization returned me suddenly to my “normal” present: I was back in the kitchen. Dorothea asked me for my reaction. Didn’t I think what the psychic had said was 100% on the money? But I knew now, somehow, that what the psychic had said was wrong in some fundamental way: I knew that both the psychic and I had missed a key fact of Dorothea’s childhood and the state of her soul: there was much work yet to be done, and not much time. But Dorothea had shared so many “happy” memories with me, most of them of her father. Was what she had told me a lie? Was what I had seen a lie?
I didn’t want to upset Dorothea, but I had never “fibbed” to her before, and this didn’t seem like the time to start. When she asked me a second time whether I agreed with the psychic, I said no: I told her what I had seen, all of it- her as a terrified and angry little girl on the stairway, and me floating above her, a ghost from the future. Dorothea turned completely pale, and called to her daughter in a panicky voice, “Helen! Helen! Come here!” When Helen ran in from the living room, Dorothea told me, commanded me, really- “Tell her what you saw.” Obediently, I described the stairway scene. Now it was Helen’s turn to become pale. When I’d finished, Dorothea asked Helen, “Should I tell her?” “You might as well,” Helen said. “She already seems to know.”
Dorothea told me that the man she had described so lovingly as her father was really her stepfather. Her biological father had shot himself to death when she was five. Her first memory was of being on the green carpeted stairs and hearing the shot- knowing instinctively, intuitively, what he had done- feeling a great sense of anger, and a greater sense of loss. Dorothea and I set to our therapeutic work, processing her unresolved feelings about her beloved father’s suicide. She died peacefully about three weeks later. Now, when I hear people talking about the ghosts they’ve seen, I want to say, “Sometimes ghosts can be from the future, not the past- I know, because I was one.”

2 thoughts on “A Ghost from the Future

  1. Thank you for your story. It was a delight 🙂 how wonderful that you helped your friend before her passing 🙂

    • Thank you, Kelly-Ann- It’s nice to get a real comment, and a positive one at that. All best wishes, Lyn

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