As an agnostic who sometimes strays over the line into the realm of atheism, only to cross back over into agnosticism (I really can't make up my mind what I don't believe), I don't put much stock in the supernatural. Tales of ghosts are interesting, but I don't expect to see one. Occasionally I dream of the dead, and my wife, Sally, tells me she believes that spirits of the dead visit us in dreams.
I find that a romantic thought. It conjures pictures in my mind of our dead loved ones or acquaintances wanting to say howdy. Unable to do so in the corporeal realm, they come to us through our dreams. It doesn't mean I necessarily believe what Sally believes, but let's just say I really like the idea.
I've been "visited" a couple of times by my late father-in-law, and several times by a deceased female coworker. Also my former boss, but I'll get to that.
Jan was the hardest working person I knew. I met her in about 1994 at the school district where we both worked. She was a rover, a custodian who was called on to fill in for regular school custodians when they were sick or on vacation. Jan was very slim and slight-looking, but she was strong. Many a healthy male custodian would leave jobs for her to do when they knew they were going on vacation. Like furniture moving, for example. They abused her in that fashion. But it was her willingness to work and work hard that eventually earned her the job as District Office custodian, which was the highest paid custodial job in the school district. Unfortunately, she worked too hard, and you might even say she worked herself to death. Because she was so tired after a really long day at work she made a fatal error driving home. She turned in front of a truck in an intersection. It broadsided her and killed her.
Jan has come to me in my dreams to ask me how things are going, how're my grandkids, everyday things like that. I've never asked her what she's doing in the afterlife. I have to assume that for the purposes of my dreams these visitors of mine are still in existence somewhere, but I never think to ask where. In the last dream I had of her Jan had started to tell me a dirty joke. Jan was famous for her raunchy jokes, which she told at the drop of a hat. For a woman Jan had a filthy mind, which of course endeared her to me. I don't remember what the joke was, but if you look back at some of my postings of "dumb jokes you can tell at a party," they were exactly the types of jokes she could reel off one after another. She was a sort of walking library of ribald humor. I'm still waiting for her next visit to me so I can ask her to finish the joke.
My father-in-law, Ray, was a curmudgeonly sort, but I liked him anyway. Ray had fought through the Battle of the Bulge, was one of the first soldiers across the river and into Germany where, he said, the Army was met by "old men and boys"charged with defense of the homeland in a futile attempt to repel the Allied invaders . Ray was never very talkative, and very seldom told a war story. The two dreams I've had of him are of him talking, though, and this last one he was talking to me from a balcony. Maybe next time I can get him to loosen up a little and tell me more about his time in the war.
Of course these are dreams, and many of my dreams just evaporate in the morning. Details I may remember clearly at the time have become fuzzy.
I've only dreamed of my deceased father a couple of times, and of my mother, who died in 2008, never. Maybe they are visitors whose visits leave me upon waking, or they just aren't interested in chatting.
The last ghostly visitor I got was the most unusual of all. My ex-boss, Phil. Phil and I worked together for over 20 years and we never got along. It was a shouting match with Phil in July, 2008 that made me announce to Sally, "I'm going to retire at the end of this year." And I did. I had often said that if my relationship to Phil had been a marriage I would have gotten a divorce long ago, but it was something more awful than a bad marriage...it was a bad supervisor/employee relationship, with neither of us willing to give an inch to the other.
Phil dropped dead on Labor Day, 2011. He had been dragging for a few months, felt ill, missed work, which according to his secretary, "he never did." He had taken his three granddaughters to a local state park. He felt ill, threw up in a garbage can, then sat on a bench and died. The troubles I had with Phil suddenly evaporated, although I still wrote about him. This post is a confession: I killed him with voodoo.
Since that post I had this dream of Phil: he's standing next to a white couch, and he's dressed all in white. White suit, white shirt, white tie, white shoes. He says to me, "So how are you doing? How's it going?" I tell him I'm a three-year cancer survivor. He says, "Good, good." I ask how he's doing, and he tells me, "I've never felt better." I remark he's never looked so good to me. He is much slimmer and has a huge smile on his face. I rarely saw him smile in real life. Phil turns and leaves the room. "Well, good luck to you," he says.
I'm left to think that if by some chance Sally is right and the dead visit us in dreams, that maybe I was a loose end in Phil's life, a conflict unresolved. He was that for me. I had a very peaceful feeling when I awoke that morning, and unlike most of my dreams, since it happened it's stayed fresh in my mind .
Phil was the reason I went into therapy in the mid-'90s, the reason I went on anti-depressant medication. Both helped me a lot, and of course at my current age I've mellowed quite a bit, anyway. Things that used to bother me a lot don't bother me as much now. Don't sweat the small stuff, the man said. But Phil and I would fight over small stuff all the time. We both sweated the small stuff. And now the small stuff is too small to worry about. It's true that since that dream of Phil I'm more inclined to think of him without bitterness; kindness, even. His "visit" had something of a healing effect on me.