Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Spirit Leaves

When I was a kid, my grandparents (like a lot of Southern grandparents) were full of great stories, including a few ghostly tales. This is a story from my grandmother.
When she was a young woman, she had an unusual experience after a family friend had passed away. As was customary, the casket and body were placed in the family's home so that friends and relatives could visit and pay their respects. The casket was on display in the back room of this small house, and most of the well-wishers had said their goodbyes and headed home for the night. My grandmother and her family lived only a few doors down, so they had stayed on to help clean dishes and put away chairs and the numerous pictures and mementos that had been hauled out as the various well-wishers had stopped by.
Late in the evening, with the still summer air hanging heavy in the house, my grandmother and the rest of the family found themselves sitting quietly in the living room. The silence was interrupted by a sharp creaking sound coming from the back room. They all realized that they were hearing the sound of the casket slowly opening. Everyone sat up, alert and scared and fascinated. They heard the creak of the wooden coffin as it opened and the dull pop as the lid closed again. Then there was the soft shuffle of footsteps on the worn wooden floor. And then last, the sharp metallic creak of the spring on the back screen door as it opened and then slammed shut. Silence followed, until the normal summer chorus of crickets and katydid's resumed in the darkness around the house.
They sat in stunned silence for several long minutes until a brave member of the family finally crept into the back room, followed closely by the rest of the family and friends. Nothing was obviously amiss so he slowly raised the lid of the rough oak box. The deceased was still there, still firmly deceased. They retreated to the living room and sat in the gloom of the late summer night until sunrise.
I think this is a great story, spooky and a little sweet in the picture that it paints of family and friends coming together and a less frightening view of the spirit world. The house is gone now, replaced with a parking lot for a builders supply store. But the good, solid darkness of a southern summer night is still around, and it's easy to imagine that the quiet is crowded with spirits if you try.

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