If you’ve read either novel in my Knoll Cottage Series, you know I’ve included a bit of mystic. In fact, there may be a ghostie in that sun porch. I do believe there are angels and spirits all around us.
My sister, Pat, died in November.
She was a devout Catholic, and had a magnificent voice. Singing mostly classical religious works was her passion. And she sang in every Catholic Church choir she could.
Pat didn’t worry about my far flung beliefs in many religions. She never doubted me when I told her my cardinal’s message story or other spiritual events in my life. She loved me dearly and I her.
The summer Missing Emily was launched, Pat and her husband came to Cape Cod to attend the book launch party some dear friends gave for me. Pat and I had coordinated our outfits for the party, but it turned out to be a killer hot day. Instead of the lined eyelet dress I’d planned, I wore a deep pink, print sundress. My sister came up the stairs in a bright yellow sleeveless dress. “It was too hot to wear the other one,” she told me. We laughed about both of us changing our minds.
I have a wonderful close-up picture of her in that yellow dress. The expression on her face is pensive, neither happy nor sad. It has an element of listening to something important. Since she was always smiling and laughing, when I saw that intriguing picture, I printed it out and framed it.
Just yesterday, I asked my brother-in-law if I could have that yellow dress. I want to hang it in my closet so she’s with me every day.
And then, this happened.
It was Easter and I hadn’t gone to Mass for some time. Most of our family knew how much Pat loved the church, and wanted us lost souls to return. I couldn’t yet. On the best of days, hymns make me emotional, and I knew if I went to church and heard the music, I would cry. But it was Easter, so my husband and I went to church.
I enjoy watching all the children dressed up in their Easter finery; one little girl with a wide brimmed hat made everyone smile. At one quiet moment, I looked over at a beautiful domestic scene. A Dad was tying the bow on the back of his daughter’s dress. Her dress was bright yellow and sleeveless. Her mother wore a bright yellow, sleeveless dress, also, with a deep pink sweater over her shoulders.
It took me a few seconds to realize, my sister was letting me know she was there. I cried in church!
My Dad died several years ago. I often think of them together in heaven. So you see, the tying of the dress bow was doubly significant.
In case I had any doubt about my sister’s presence, she drove the message home. As we lined up for Communion, two women went before me in bright yellow sweaters. Guess what the female Eucharistic minister was wearing. A bright yellow jacket.
Pat wanted to be sure I got her message. I did dear sister…
This weekend, people of all ages dress up in costumes and make merry. The children go out for candy, the adults possibly eat in and sip their treats. It’s all fun and doesn’t require the work of the upcoming winter holidays.
Fun wasn’t always the case. The word Halloween dates back to 1745. All hallows (saints/souls) eve, the evening before all saint’s day, became Halloween by combining hallows and even, the Scot word for evening, then contracted to Halloween. According to Wikipedia and other sources, there are multiple theories of where the tradition started. The most common one believes it all started with Celtic people, who believed on this night that spirits roamed. This belief may be based on the Celtic festival of Samhain, or summer’s end. It was the custom to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter—the darker half of the year. It was thought the boundary between this world and the netherworld thinned at this time, making it easier for spirits and fairies to cross over. To placate these spirits, offerings of food and drink, or some of their harvest was made.
Ancient people in many cultures apparently believed that the souls of the dead come back only one night a year. They visited their homes and expected to be welcomed. Places were set for them at the table. I cannot verify if anyone actually had a spirit to dinner. In Ireland, candles were lit and prayers were said for the dead.
Mischief night seems to have evolved from the 15th century custom of imitating malignant spirits on all hallows eve by playing pranks while disguised in costumes.
It was the 16th century or earlier when folks dressed in costumes or disguise, went door to door, and recited poems or sang songs for food. This was called mumming or guising. Sounds a little more like the way we celebrate now.
Guisers or pranksters carried candles in hollowed out turnips or mongelwurzlers, carved with scary faces. Now known as Jack-O-lanterns, I’m sure you guessed. In case you are wondering, a mangelwurzler is a root vegetable that was used for fodder for animals.
But now most people just have fun on Halloween. And I hope that you will dress up and have fun, too!
Recently, we had a crowd in our Cape Cod cottage. We sat in a circle of furniture borrowed from every room. My teenage granddaughter sat beside her mom. She is an intelligent, athletic, quiet girl, who is not fanciful. (Just adorable, beautiful, sweet…oops!) So, that night, when she told her mother she’d seen a ghost, we all believed her. While everyone was chatting across the circle, my granddaughter saw a woman, wearing a full-length yellow dress with long sleeves, leaning out the kitchen doorway, watching us. Her hair was pulled back, but her face was shadowed.
My granddaughter wasn’t afraid. She seems to attract spirits. They appear in pictures as a hovering smoky white presences. She’s seen a young boy who wasn’t there, and once heard something in her closet whistling “Ring around the Rosie” while she played with her dolls.
The evening after the lady in the yellow dress appeared, we sat around the dining room table with another large group of friends and family. The discussion turned to the ghost. And then, everyone had a story to tell. Do you?