As Momma lay dying of cancer, my father’s ghost was sighted at least twice. The home care ladies and nurses who saw him, however, begged me not to have that advertised back then as they didn’t want to be regarded as nuts or superstitious. Or maybe even lose their jobs. Who the hell would want to hire crazy people who see ghosts to take care of the dying?
Once a woman who worked in my parents’ home as a home care nurse was bent over cleaning the floor where my mother had just thrown up on the carpet. She glanced up and there he was. Bill Bass himself. His ghost, anyway. He stood there in the corner with his hands clasped in front of his privates like he used to do back in real life, looking down at her scrubbing the rug. It was clear as daylight that ghost was Bill Bass, and you could see right through him, too. The moment he realized she saw him, my father’s ghost moved quickly and disappeared in a flash of nothingness. Spooked the shit out of the lady on the floor. She wanted to go home!
A second time he was sighted by a different person standing next or behind my mother in their master bedroom where my Mom laid in a hospital bed. The woman who saw Daddy’s ghost declared it felt he was waiting for Momma to die and being a little bit impatient about it, too. She said it had a distinct feeling to it. It felt as if he was thinking “Dot, what’s taking you so long?” At my mom’s funeral the minister alluded to this incident somewhat obliquely. But my Dad is a warrior, apparently in death as well as in life, and while so impatient when things got serious proved to be the most patient one of all. Again, the moment that ol’ ghost realized he had dropped his invisibility cloak or whatever it was, he disappeared from biological view in a heartbeat. Snap! Gone, just like that.
My mother never commented on ever seeing a ghost. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to,” she once said with a shudder. “It would scare me to death.”
But she kept looking and listening for “signs” of Daddy’s presence. And then she, too, was gone. Just like that.
So a few days after Mom’s funeral when Aunt Marianna matter of factly announced she was going the spend the night alone, I took notice. Maybe she would see a ghost, too. Maybe she would see the ghost of her big sister Dot. First, however, you must understand my Aunt Marianna. She is proud of her logic, common sense, and secular views of reality. My aunt is also married to a serious Atheist, my Uncle Larry. Although a violinist and a conductor, he was a serious student of science and mathematics. Together they are known to relish books debating the historical accuracy of the Bible and the dangerous foolishness of religion in general. Proud Republicans, they bemoan how the Religious Right has so corrupted a political party they value for its traditional conservatism that used to focus on issues such as individual liberty, small government, and low taxes. And this secular Republican would be the last person to feel afraid sleeping alone in my dead parents’ house. She and Uncle Larry are formidable opponents in any debate involving either politics and religion or both, so I mustered up my courage, walked over to her, and asked “Hey, do you feel at all nervous or scared sleeping by yourself like that?”
Her response was immediate.
“No,” she snorted. “You know I don’t believe in ghosts. There are no such things!”
Early the next morning, she loaded up her car as if sleeping alone in a dead person’s house was the most normal thing on Earth, waved goodbye, and headed on back home to Tennessee. No ghost.
I admit I felt a little disappointed. And I bet that even if Aunt Marianna had actually experienced a ghost, she would rationalize it away not as some proof of God and religion but as a physical reality with scientific dimensions yet to be discerned, measured, and quantified. And why not?
There are, after all, anomalies to be explained! That doesn’t mean there’s a God lurking about with a horde of angels, demons, fauns, trolls, pixie fairies, and elves on Holy Staff. Just because there might be ghostly entities doesn’t mean there is some master stonemason, clocksmith, or some grand architect of reality floating around dragging a long white beard through the clouds and dispensing some folks to the North Pole to help Santa Claus and others into the fires of Hell to be impaled by Satan with hot, iron pitchforks.
But I love my Aunt Marianna, yes, I do, and was sad to see her go. Her youngest sister, Nancy and my Uncle Al had left the day before for Texas, all the other relatives were gone, and now it was just me and my girls waiting to get home to Washington State. Ghosts, however, were everywhere in my mind.
So what really is a ghost, I wondered. Is it really the soul of a biological organism? Or all the figment of our imaginations? Is a soul the same as a spirit? Where do consciousness, reincarnation, heaven and hell, purgatory, nirvana, the void, nothingness, celestial cities and heavenly kingdoms, paranormal phenomena, transmigration, and quantum physics all fit in and relate here?
Full, physical death does not actually occur in an instant. Oh, yes, the heart will stop and die. The brain dies fast as a whole organ without oxygen from fresh blood. Organs cease to function as whole entities, but scattered tissues and individual cells take hours and days to die as decomposition sets in. Death is really a process. Which makes me wonder is a soul or spirit composed of the mini-souls or spirits from each cell? Does the spirit or soul leave the body all at once, or gradually, or in a cloudy stream of bits and pieces?
Does a ghost, if it really exists, have choices and abilities to zip about between realms? Are there really separate realms? Is a ghost “spiritually” alive? Does anyone else wonder about these things? How come I’m thinking of such ghoulishness? I read recently that a scientist somewhere was able to reanimate dead tissue. Oh my goodness. Bring on the zombies! Can life of any kind exist without spirit? And maybe the Afterlife exists right alongside Life but our biologically-limited sensory organs and mechanically-limited measuring devices can’t distinguish its vibrational energetic reality. Maybe the Afterlife, if it is indeed as real as this Life, is not a mystery at all, just another existence we can’t quite sense. One day I’ll find out, unless immortality deprives me of that adventure.
William Dudley Bass
14 November 2008
1 March 2012
NOTE: Originally published on my earlier website, Cultivate and Harvest, on Friday 14 November 2008 at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2008/11/daddys-ghost.html, then revised and republished here this February/March 2012. Thank you.
Copyright © 2008, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.