Close to a decade ago, I received a letter from a woman in Harbour Grace, who I will call “Mary” out of her wish for anonymity.
Mary told me she always enjoyed hearing and reading ghost stories, and that she had one of her own which dated back more than 60 years.
Mary’s story started in the year 1940, when she was but five years old. Mary’s father was overseas in the Navy, so she and her mother and lived with her grandparents. In the summer of that year, her grandfather fell ill and took to his bed.
“I was very upset,” remembers Mary, “because I missed him playing and reading to me, and taking me for rides on his horse and carriage. As he had a carpentry shop, I would play with the shavings and blocks of wood. He spent a lot of time in his shop and was upset because he was unable to do anything.”
Mary would go to his room every morning and then to his workshop to play. One morning, as she went in, Mary saw her grandfather standing at his bench.
“I will remember always his overalls, plaid shirt, and salt-and-pepper cap. I was so happy to see him out of bed and well again, and in his workshop, that I ran back to the house.”
The girl then called out to her mother and grandmother, saying “Guess what, I have two Da’s now, one up in bed, and one in the workshop.”
The women looked at each other but said nothing, and would not let the girl go upstairs to tell him.
“I truly believe it was his token,” says Mary, “because he died a few days later.”
The story did not end there. Mary’s father was still overseas when his father died, and it was impossible to get word to him immediately of the death.
“I don’t know how long after he got home, but when he did, he asked the exact time and date his father passed away,” says Mary.
When he was told, the returned sailor related a remarkable story.
“When he was lying in his cot aboard his ship, he heard noises: banging, knocking, voices far away,” Mary recalls. “He asked the other men if they heard anything out of the ordinary and was told they hadn’t. It turned out that it was the same night his father passed away. He always said it was his father’s spirit, saying goodbye, across the miles of ocean.
“I might add that my father’s parents were very concerned for him, being so far away from home, somewhere in the Atlantic, and no doubt my grandfather knew he would never see his son again.”
Although Mary was only five years old at the time of her grandfather’s death, her grandmother kept telling her what she had said in the days before his passing.
“That kept the story in my mind, all these years,” she says. “I never forgot after over 60 years.”
Storyteller and author Dale Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.