It happened when I was fourteen.
First, let me fill in a little background. The only recollections I have of my Grandfather are at family parties.However, one memory has stayed with me stronger than all the rest. I was sitting on a bed and my darling Grandfather had his arms around me. He had the most twinkling eyes I had ever seen. He spoke softly to me and let me play with the ends of his moustache. For some reason this incident seemed very special to me and it is still a memory very sharp and clear.
I remember my Mother telling me, when I was six, that Grandfather had gone to meet the angels but it meant nothing to me. I did not know how he died (not then) or exactly when or where. Please bear this in mind as you read the story. I only know I never saw him again and he was never mentioned again to us youngsters. I did not even know the day of his burial.
Forward in time and I am fourteen. My Mother had just allowed me to start wearing some make-up and some higher heeled shoes but only on occasions when we visited people and I was with her. I felt very adult. This particular day we were making our usual fortnightly visit to my Grandmother's house in the East End of London. Now, Grandma, as you will have read, lived her entire life in the kitchen where she kept open house for all. The parlour or front-room was never used. Well, never is not quite true. As we entered the front door, the parlour was directly behind it. We used to take our coats or jackets off in the hall, open the parlour door and place our coats on a chair against one wall just inside the parlour, then close the door and head for the kitchen. Standard routine.
This particular visit ended. My mother asked me to go and get the coats. I thought of the train journey home and how some nice boy might be attracted to me (oh vanity) so decided it would be a good idea to comb my hair and re-do my make-up. So into the parlour I went, crossed the room to stand in front of the mirror that hung over the fireplace. I was humming to myself as I primped - so happy with myself and the world. In the blink of an eye, without any warning, the air changed. It was a warm summer late afternoon outside the window but in the parlour it became icy cold. I shivered and for some reason began to feel a little afraid.
Suddenly I felt the pressure of two hands on my shoulders, cold hands but hands they were, I could feel each and every individual finger and then I heard breathing, loud and clear, the sound of someone inhaling and exhaling. right against my own ear. What made it worse was the fact I was staring into the mirror and nothing else was there except for me and the reflection of the room.
I could not move, could hardly breathe, my heart hammering so fast I thought it would burst. Was I having some sort of crazy dream? I rallied myself but no, the fingers were still there and so was the breathing. Suddenly finding strength from somewhere I grabbed my comb and make-up and fled as fast as I could. When I got back to the kitchen my mother asked where our jackets were - I had not even bothered to pick them up!!!! She was about to ask me to go back and get them when something on my face must have stopped her. She quietly arose and retrieved them herself.
We did not speak much on the walk to the Railway station - only general chit chat about Nan, my Uncle and Aunt. However, when we were safely on the train in our own compartment and left to ourselves my Mother asked me (a) why had I been gone so long and (b) was I feeling ill because I had returned a deathly white colour and looking shocked. I told her what had happened. She then told me that as my Grandfather's illness worsened (he was being nursed at home) a bed had been made for him in the parlour so that people did not have to keep running up and down the stairs.
You might have heard or know that often, before a person's life ends, they get a sudden flush of well-being when others often think they might even recover. Well, this happened to my Grandfather and one December morning he decided to take some of the strain from his wife's shoulders and shave himself. He somehow struggled out of bed, tipped some water out from the nearby jug, got his razor and went to the mirror to shave. He managed to do almost one side and then - he died - just like that standing in front of the mirror before dropping to the floor - the very same mirror I had been using.
My Mother told me that she was certain my experience had been of Grandfather who somehow wanted to tell me he was there or who wanted to say goodbye to me as he had never had the chance. She said the best thing I could do on our next visit was to go into the room again but this time to say "Hello Grand-dad, just coming to do my hair and get the coats." I did not see how I could possibly do this, the idea terrified me.
However, two weeks later I did just that, with shaking legs and pounding heart I returned to the room and spoke out loudly as my Mum had said. Suddenly the room seemed to be filled with blazing light and a great heat. I felt again the pressure of hands upon my shoulders but this time they seemed to give me a loving squeeze. Then the room returned to normal but I was left with such a great sense of love, security and happiness.
Dear readers, I returned to that room many times afterwards but never experienced anything again although I was to have other strange experiences down the years. I think my Grandfather had made the contact with me that he wanted and could then move on. When I think of him today I think only of love.
On a different note, I just love this graphic made by Donna. It just says it all.