The evening before [my] Grandmother Styers' funeral, my parents and two
of my brothers, then about 9 and 11 years old, were having a quiet time in
front of the TV. Jimmy, the younger of the two, suddenly stared
saucer-eyed just above the TV. When he was excited, as in this
instance, words tumbled out. He said, "Wow, I see
Grandmother!" Dad had noticed him even before he spoke, and
it was obvious that something had really startled him.
It is helpful to say here that this family was so typical middle-class
-- Eastern-Seaboard USA -- of that time , they were almost 'textbook'
caliber. They were definitely not into
what most people they knew, certainly then, considered 'the
bizarre'. The boys were 'allll boy', and Dad was like a lot of men
of that generation -- hard-working, the little tool shed in the
backyard, steak on the grill or at the Elks Club on Saturday nights,
definitely not into church.
I've often marveled at how Dad handled this. Maybe it was the look
of obvious astonishment on Jimmy's face, but rather than play it up as a joke his
youngest kid might be trying to pull, or to just say 'Hogwash!' and that
would end that, he gave Jimmy the benefit of the doubt and asked,
"What does she look like?"
Hardly before Dad could finish his question, Jimmy exclaimed almost in a
whisper, "She's about this high!" indicating with his
hands she was about a foot or foot-and-a-half tall. He described
what she had on and said, "She's saying
Dad said, "What's she saying, son?"
After a protracted moment, Jimmy replied, "She's telling me to tell
you to be sure and remove her rings before they bury her." He
mentioned a few other things she said, but the one that most surprised
Dad [and the only one, at the moment, I remember clearly] was the rings. He thought they had removed them already [this
was not an open casket funeral]. And that would be a most strange
thing for a kid to come up with as a prank or a lie to fool
others. At 9 years old, he would not have had a clue about things
The next day, Dad talked with one of the morticians, whose normal
procedure is to bag and set aside any valuables, unless otherwise
advised, to turn over to the next-of-kin. But in this case they
apparently had forgotten to check! Only as I write this, does it
occur to me, a favorite ring I wear all the time would have been one of
the rings that was removed and is the only thing of hers I have that had
special value to Grandmother.
Interestingly, my mother, who has always been a quietly yet deeply
spiritual person, and who had grown quite close to my father's mother in
her last years, has marveled that during exactly that little episode,
she just could not stay awake. She heard what was going on
intermittently, but though she struggled against it, she kept nodding
out, much to her chagrin. This was not the case just before the
incident occurred, nor shortly after.
There is a ring I've worn for years that is very special to me because
it was hers and because it was one of the rings referred to in this