My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are all alive with light.
~Alice Cary, Dying Hymn
*Names have been changed in the following story to protect the identity of those involved.
A few weeks ago I went to bed early, and fell into a deep peaceful sleep. I was woken from that sleep by the shriek of our smoke alarm. Beep beep beep, it blared. Beep beep beep.
I felt as if I was drugged – that awful slow limbed, thick witted state where you struggle to make sense of anything.
“Ben,” I said to my husband, shaking his shoulder hard, “Wake up, there’s a fire.” Then I threw open the bedroom door and raced downstairs, the dogs hard at my heels.
I couldn’t smell smoke. There were no flames but the smoke alarm kept beeping until I stood directly underneath it. And then, of course, it stopped. It was 2.03am.
I turned on the lights and checked every room, but the house was fine. No fire. So I trudged back up the stairs with the dogs and got into bed again. Ben was still fast asleep so I crawled back beneath the covers and tried to make myself comfortable. The dogs fussed and scratched and I tossed and turned, but that only lasted a moment.
Suddenly the dogs stopped their fussing and became quite still. A cold creepy feeling came over me, and I realised that the corner of the room was softly illuminated. I turned over, with my back to Ben so that I could look towards the light.
And got the fright of my life…
A young woman, maybe in her late teens, was standing right beside the bed. She was all dressed up for a night on the town, but her makeup was streaked and her eyes were frantic. And she was glowing dully.
She was dead. I knew it instantly. And I also knew she wasn’t supposed to be. I immediately understood who she was; the grown daughter of a work colleague. We’d often looked after her when she was little but the family split up and moved away and we lost contact with them when she was barely six. “Isabelle, you’re not supposed to be here, ” I said to her.
Before I could say anything else she was sucked backwards and vanished so that I was left staring at wardrobe doors and emptiness.
For the rest of the night I couldn’t sleep, so I meditated and prayed for Isabelle. It was all I could think of to do.
The next morning I told my husband what had happened.
“Why would she come here?” he asked.
The only thing I could think of was that we had always been loving, but strict, and she’d always felt safe here. She’d often come to us, my husband especially, when she was small so we could solve her problems.
We spent the morning trying to track her down, but her mum had remarried and we knew she had changed her name. We came up with nothing. It was a feeling of great frustration and helplessness.
The next night I slept deeply again, but my husband lay awake most of the night. He didn’t see anything, but he said he felt her around, all night. He told her to go to the light, and that she was safe.
Yesterday we heard, in the strangest of co-incidences, that the young adult daughter of an old work colleague had died in tragic circumstances recently. The young girl had been a problem, and had really gone off the rails as she grew up, so we were told. Dropped out of school. Depressed. Anti-social. She’d drunk a fatal combination of alcohol and energy drinks and gone into cardiac arrest at a party. Ambulance officers revived her at the scene, but she had slipped into a coma at the hospital and died the next day.
Oh Isabella, my heart aches for you, but at least you are not lost anymore. You are home now, safe, and surrounded by love.