Recently, I wrote about my interest in ‘living ghosts’ in our newsletter. One of our subscribers kindly responded with this strange but touching story of a voice in the night….
My mother, grandmother and little brother had come to visit me in Paris. It was one of those hit-and-run weekenders, where they arrived late one Saturday morning and left early on Sunday afternoon. There was no time for them to come out to the village where I lived and worked, a short train journey outside Paris, so we celebrated my twenty-first birthday in Montmartre.
It was a tearful leave-taking; it had been wonderful to see my family for the first time in a year. My mother and I had always been very close; so close, in fact, that more often than not our letters would cross in the post, answering questions we had not yet received.
I went to bed that night missing her horribly and cried myself to sleep. Around two in the morning, I heard my mother calling my name, “Susie,” I sat up, wide awake. “Susie…” No-one else ever called me that and her voice is one I could not fail to recognise. There was an urgency in her tone. There was no-one there… I was still in the village on the edge of Paris and my mother would be in Boulogne ready to board the ferry. Blaming the emotions of the day, I called myself an imaginative fool. Even so, I got up and checked, so clear was the voice. And I heard it again, standing wide awake and shivering on the stairs.
I could not shake the sense of unease. I knew something was wrong, but this was a time when all mail went in envelopes and international phone calls were too expensive to contemplate. My employers were concerned and, after several days of watching me fret, told me to phone England.
“Dad? Is everything alright?”
“Er… you’d better speak to your mother…”
I waited, worrying, until I heard my mother’s voice. “Susie?” She sounded odd. The tone was the same as always, but the voice sounded slurred and unfamiliar. Slowly, she told me what had happened.
The coach had arrived at Boulogne. She had been feeling unwell for a little while, but put it down to missing me and the fatigue of the journey. As soon as the ferry had left the port, she collapsed. They told her later that she had suffered a stroke. She knew little of what was going on around her, but remembered calling my name. She said she dreamed that she was lost and was trying to reach me and knew that if she could find me, she would be safe.
My mother described the dream in detail and it was, without any doubt, the route I had taken from the train to my home…a route I walked every day, but which she had never seen. She described the big house behind its screen of trees, the tiny lizards that skittered away with every footfall as you walked the path along the edge of the forest, even the wildflowers and wild strawberries, down to the very last detail.
I still have the diaries of that time, but I do not need them in order to remember. I did not see my mother’s ‘living ghost’, but I heard her voice calling when she was unconscious from halfway across France.
Submitted by Sue Vincent
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