Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Souls Day

Tomorrow, in addition to being my sister's 66th, is All Souls Day. The celebration of All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day dates back thousands of years in various cultures.

It was believed that at the end of the year (which was marked by end of harvest - hence the month of October in modern times), there was an opening in the Universe that allowed the dearly departed to return for a visit.

I've posted openly about such sightings before. My hiking buddy has decided that, had I lived in Salem at the time of the witch trials with my red curls, loud opinions, strange eyes, and "visions," I would have surely been burned at the stake. But I honestly feel there is no other explanation for some of the things I've seen. And so, I've decided it is time for another "ghost story."

My father died when I was only eleven. His death put my world and life in a tail spin. I wanted to grow up to run his business. I desperately missed his kind and gentle way in my life.

Shortly after his death, his older brother, my Uncle Hugh, wrote to my mom and asked permission to be my pen pal. We exchanged letters for a few years when he again wrote my mom and requested that I come spend a week with him and his wife, Aunt Christine, at their home in Petal, MS.

I had a blissful time with these two senior citizens. They were smart and funny and in love (having married at the age of 68! They were newlyweds!). My uncle and I would spend hours working in his amazing garden, picking peaches and apples and cutting dozens and dozens of roses. When it got too hot, we would lay down under the scuppernong arbor, picking a handful for refreshment and be grateful for their shade.

My uncle stepped up to my emotional plate and fed my heart and soul. He wanted me to know what McElhaney men were like. I think he wanted me to know what it felt like to be loved and adored. And I do. I would have him in my life until he died in 1992 and was lucky enough to have spent his last day by his side.

When I bought my townhouse in 1988, I found a box on my porch shortly after moving in. It was from my uncle's favorite rose breeder. Inside was my favorite rose... the one that has a scent so amazing and distinctive, I can tell if one is in the room by smell alone... the heirloom. I've dug that bush up and moved it to every home I've owned since.

But it was the love of working the soil that was my uncle's real gift. And after he died, I could spend hours and hours working in my garden and as I would stand back and admire my handiwork, I would feel a gentle squeeze on my right shoulder.

At first, it startled me. I jumped back and looked all around me. There was no one there. After I calmed myself, I "knew" it was my uncle.

This scene would repeat many times over the years and I came to expect it. As my health declined, I stopped working in the garden and my uncle doesn't stop by anymore.

But he's not my only visitor. For many, many years after my dad died, I would find myself somewhere in that state between sleep and wakefulness. I could feel someone sit down on the edge of my bed and slowly, brush my curls off my face. It was a man's hand and I was certain it was my father. I would awaken and cry realizing it wasn't real.

The older I got, the less frequently this happened and then my father was really gone. That is, until I asked him to come back.

To be continued....

3 comments:

Velvet Sacks said...

I loved this post, Holly. You told the story so vividly I could see it, feel it, and smell it. Can't wait for the rest of it.

CreekHiker said...

Thanks Velvet! My uncle's garden was really a fantasy land...it was just unbelievably gorgeous! I loved being there with him.

Becky said...

Holly: You know I'm a big believer. My grandpa was a big gardener in his retirement years. I've been lucky enough to visit his heavenly gardens in my dreams from time to time. Can't wait to hear more.