Have you ever, as a kid, been afraid of ghosts? I wasn’t until a few events took place.
I will warn you that this is a long read, so brace yourself and grab a cup of coffee or tea, as I am going to share with you what happened. Don’t be scared, most likely you will just laugh of my silly experiences.
Here is what happened.
My first encounter with death took place when I swallowed chewing gum. I guess I wasn’t older than 6-7 y/o. My older brothers and sister dressed me with my preferred blue dress, gave me a candle to hold firmly, and told me to lie in bed, waiting for death to pick me up. I cried endlessly. I was in shock, and I didn’t even notice that I was the only one crying. Bastards! They didn’t mind if I would die.
Death didn’t show up but my mother, arriving from work to rescue me from that agony. Everyone started running as fast as they could but I guess that they didn’t escape grounding.
That’s one of the pains and glories of having many siblings. However, If you are younger than them you become an easy target for experiments at their hands. At least it gave me a good story to tell you.
My second encounter occurred some years later. There was a neighbour who lost three sons in car crashes. I joined my parents to visit the family and saw the body of one of them in the coffin. It scared me a lot; I knew him well when he was alive, and the image of him in the coffin stayed in my mind for a long time. I couldn’t remember having seen dead people before, although my grandmother as well as an aunt had passed away.
We moved to a temporary house due to reconstruction work, and guess what, there was an old cemetery behind the house. I would always think of the three brothers and couldn’t sleep at all!
My third experience was of a different nature. When I was 15, one of my girlfriends introduced us to a so-called ‘game’ to communicate with dead people, using a glass, and the letters of the alphabet arranged in a circle on a table.
Group thinking brought us to give it a go. We closed our eyes, held hands, and prayed (like good catholic girls do), though I don’t remember if that was part of the instructions. We started asking questions, when one of the girls suddenly declared she couldn’t see anymore. We panicked. We decided to get out of there, before any adult could find us playing that game. We went to the church to pray again. When the girl revealed that her sight had returned, we sighed in relief and returned to our houses.
That night, the sister and cousin who were playing with me, went to bed very frightened. We had left the game without ending it as instructed, i.e. sending the ‘ghost’ back home. What ensued next was an epic disaster. My sister woke up hearing noises and woke us up too. We jumped to her bed and stayed there paralyzed and speechless for what felt like a century, until I started screaming for help.
My parents heard that and obviously came fast to our bedroom, as well as our brothers, only to find the door closed. They demanded we opened the door. Well, when we had no courage to move and open the door, but we did. We had to confess what we had done. I guess my parents may have felt sorry for our situation as they didn’t get angry at us. After calming us down, letting the bedroom’s light on, and door open, everyone returned to bed.
A few minutes later, there was another round of screams, as we were awaken by strident laughter from white bed sheets jumping on our beds. Of course the bed sheets were my brothers! This time my parents got very angry.
Since the last event, I became scared of darkness and ghosts, and never again I could sleep without having lights on in my bedroom. I kept that secret for myself.
Another year went on and an uncle died. His body would be brought from the city where he had died. Together with family members we waited for his corpse at the cemetery, next to the mortuary where his body would be brought for preparation. As I was afraid, I went to an adjacent room, which looked empty. To my surprise, when I entered there I saw the corpse of my uncle! I ran from there and felt like having a heart attack! I revealed my secret to my siblings and cousins wen they saw me arriving totally distraught, telling what had just happened.
From that day on, my brothers looked for very opportunity to scare me during the night. One day I was having a shower, and when I opened the door to leave the bathroom, the corridor’s lights were off and a witch jumped on me screaming. I was screaming too. Louder. This was my brother’s girlfriend, wearing one of those silicon masks of a witch!
That’s when something interesting happened. If I would, for whatever reason, be alone at home in the evening, I wouldn’t seek refuge at the reception area of the condominium where I lived. I would bring books or homework and stay there until some of my family members would arrive.
One of the porters paid attention that I was becoming a regular visitor, and asked me why. I said the truth. What ensued is fantastic. He started talking me through my fear and explaining that I had more reasons to fear humans than ghosts. He suggested that we listened together to a radio program about Alan Kardek and spiritism, which I did and found intriguing.
The next step he took was to ask me to start the following training: To go back home and enter there alone, slowly and feeling confident that nothing could happen to me. I shouldn’t turn the lights on either. He would be waiting outside and wouldn’t enter in the apartment; all I needed to think of, was that he was outside and that I could hear his voice. You may think that this is funny. You’re right. In retrospect, it was extremely funny.
After a few failed attempts, as I hurried back to the front door from half away my target, I eventually succeeded and never again returned to the reception in the evenings. Until today I am grateful to that wise man, who had empathy, tactics, and sensitivity, to deal with the fears of a teenager, better than many professionals do.
Many years later and already an adult, I moved to Switzerland as an expat, due to my job, so the firm rented my apartment. When I got there I subtly noticed that there was a cemetery behind the place. ‘That is ok’, I thought. However, one week later, I heard from a colleague that the husband of my landlord living next door had passed away, and that his body was kept at home for visits, for one week until the burial. What? I didn’t feel comfortable anymore during the nights, just with the thought that behind me there was a cemetery, and next door was the dead man. I realized that I wasn’t yet “cured” from my fears. I had enduring nights but I survived.
I found this ritual very strange, but on the other hand, also fascinating to learn about a new culture through their way to deal with death. I kept in mind to ask about the same rituals in the next countries I would visit or live.
For many years I had no contact with death. In a period of two months, both parents of our neighbors died. I went to the cremation’s ceremonies. The cemetery was beautiful and the room looked more like a business conference room. Something I am used to. So far so good. The ceremonies were beautifully organized, and felt more like a social gathering than a funeral. After the eulogies, we headed to a room to treat ourselves with cake and coffee. In the second ceremony, they served wine and snacks though, which was what the deceased would have liked the most.
I live in peace with the dead. For what is worth. It is good to acknowledge that the teenage’s fears are buried and cremated too. I still believe that walking humans can be more dangerous than ghosts.
After these cremations, in the past three years I have closely experienced death for the passing of my beloved younger brother, a cousin, and of my uncles and aunt, who were like loving parents to me.
For the first time in my life, I wished I could see and talk to the dead.