For much of my life, I have been interested in the paranormal. Yet, before I joined the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, I felt that nothing overwhelmingly paranormal had happened to me. I had marginal experiences, things that MIGHT be otherworldly, but my faith was shakey. How could I know that my interest was justified? It was the breaking of a forged bond of friendship which allowed me to have, in my own mind, my first unquestionably supernatural experience.
Though my natural grandparents died while I was young, I have memories of a "Grandmother" whom I admire greatly. Louise was in her early 70's when I met her. A retired schoolteacher, she loved children, though she had none of her own. Something in her warm smile and those shining brown eyes won me over, despite the 60 years that spanned between our ages.
Her interest in education was evident. As I progressed along the long journey of degrees Louise listened attentively to my presentations, read my papers, and encouraged me to continue on.
As I prepared to complete my Masters of Religious Studies degree in August of 2000 my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.
She went into the hospital shortly before I graduated and died 14 days after I crossed the stage for my degree.
Before she died I had one last chance to visit with her. Louise seemed so thin and tired. Those vibrant eyes were dull and seemed to perceive others in the room that I could not. I knew she did not have much time left to her.
My car broke down and I was unable to come down to see her that night. My mother, also a close friend with Louise, spent time trying to help my grandmother through the transition. She wanted the older woman to know that when she was ready, it was OK to let go.
I, meanwhile, spent a frantic evening at home. Feeling helpless without transportation I did my best to concentrate on finishing the work I brought home. Little was achieved. Ultimately, I paced from desk to phone, waiting for news.
When Mom returned at 1:30 a.m. she reported Louise was not much better. Her breathing was shallow and her pulse weak. Still, Louise clung to life, refusing to let go.
With that in mind, and unable to do much more, I tried to settle in for bed. Emotionally drained, I fell into an exhausted sleep around 2:00 a.m.
A short time later I was lulled from sleep by a delicious all-consuming aroma. It was all around me, so strong it was almost tangible.
The scent was somehow soothing and brougth with it an eerie calmness. The smells were a mixture of honeysuckle, jazzmen, chocolate, gingersnaps, and orange blossoms. I named the smell in my mind in that moment, but its title vanished from memory before the dawn.
My only thoughts were simple. My mind, almost of its own accord, acknowledged the fact that Louise had died and this was her way of letting me know. My eyes flipped to the alarm clock and I noted the time: 2:30 a.m. exactly.
Then it was over. I was released from the spell and slid peacefully back to sleep.
Shortly after 6:30 in the morning Mom knocked on my apartment door. She had received the call: Louise had died shortly after Mom left her at 12:30 a.m.
Stunned, I realized I knew this already. The events of the morning came back and I searched to find the scent that had awakened me the night before.
I could not find it.
My allergies demand the apartment be kept airtight and very clean. No fragrances lingered inside. Outside, nothing was in bloom.
I realized how foreign it felt to be so serene upon awakening to the aroma. I felt calmer than I did even at my most rested times. This was diametrically opposite to the tumultuous emotions racing through my mind earlier that evening.
The information I received was not a sense of question. Despite my desperate belief the night before that she would last at least one more day, I KNEW that Louise had died that night.
I firmly believe Louise came to say goodbye. I recall many an hour spent discussing religion and the afterlife with her. We covered topics of the soul and ghosts, which we both believed to be true. However, as time progressed Louise took on a stronger and stronger sense of unease about dying and about the realm beyond. Perhaps she sensed its nearness to her.
Like a nurturing granmdother she approached me gently and sweetly. She took on a manner that was strong enough to get my attention, yet did not scare me with a sudden revelation.
As for the two hour time delay between her death and my experience I believe she sensed my distress. I feel that she waited until I was calm and receptive before conveying herself in the most simple, and lease alarming, manner possible.
Her presence has helped me continue on my quest to explore ghostly phenomena. I have a firm faith in the afterlife. She left me with powerful evidence -- that of memory.
I know that in many ways she is still with me as a guardian as I continue to learn through life's experiences. In the future, I am certain that we will continue our discussions about the afterlife from a whole new perspective.