It’s the end of the work week so that means it’s time again for your ghost stories and our next First Person Friday submission. This comes from someone I have just recently become fast friends with: Chip Reichenthal. If that names sounds at all familiar, it’s likely because he’s one of the co-hosts on Para X Radio’s “Keeping the Spirits Alive!” (As in the radio show HJ now has a bi-monthly spot on.)
This is both a superbly written and moving story. It’s one of those that makes me believe in the goodness of “ghosts.” Especially of our dearly departed who we miss so much and would just like to spend a little more time with, and perhaps have a better goodbye than the one we had (or maybe didn’t even get) when they passed into the Beyond…
CHIP’S GHOST STORY
The following story is absolutely true, and has witnesses. It is indeed my best ‘ghost’ story, and although I am now quite active in the field of paranormal investigation, I doubt I will have experiences like this one again. It’s not my ‘how I got involved in the field’ story, it’s better, actually. It details a very memorable series of encounters with my Wife’s Father, a year after his passing. For the sake of his anonymity, I’ll refer to him as ‘R’.
I really hit the lottery, as far as in-laws go. I was accepted quite readily into my Wife’s family, and mutual respect never withered. My Wife’s Dad, R, was a sweet Man. He was kind, giving, patient and noble. He was a hard worker, and he cherished his role as patriarch of his family. He didn’t like Doctors much. So by the time they discovered his cancer, it had spread more than a maintenance regiment would allow. He was denied his choice to stay working and providing, which was the essence of his existence, at least in his mind. Surgeries left him weak and emasculated. Little by little, his essence removed, and his will would soon follow. This beautiful, wonderful Man stood quietly waiting, while illness and the medical world took from him all he ever wanted to be.
As it was my Wife’s chance to repay all kindnesses, I had a chance to help him also. He could talk to me in confidence. I was family, so it counted, but I was separated enough from his immediate family to allow him to profess weakness. He was not my patriarch, so his role as a good, strong family man was not threatened. He could share with me his true suffering, and had my attentive ear, and I had his back.
When time came for hospice, and all the “I’ll see you tomorrow, right?” questions punctuating each visit, he was absolutely mortified. He did not want to be seen as weak. At all. Out of respect, I refused to let him be seen in hospice by my Wife or myself. He was entirely grateful, too. One night, he realized that he left some of his medicines at home. He called, and I brought them to him at the hospital, so other doses wouldn’t cost extra.
He actually called to thank me for that, around 2:00 in the morning. He thanked me for everything. I had a pretty deep feeling that it was a goodbye. A heartfelt goodbye. As much as I earned his truest appreciation, my respecting his wishes ultimately cost my beautiful Wife a chance to say her goodbyes. That left, in her, a void. A rather deep, cutting void. After having nothing left that resembled his life, R slipped away in his sleep, perhaps within two hours after he called to thank me. I got a rather fulfilling, valued goodbye, while my Wife, whose Father it actually was, got denied. I believe that was the reason for his visit, almost a year to the day of his passing. A visit that for me, erases any doubt about existence after death.
It was a hot day. I was at home, my Wife at work, my Daughter in pre-school. I was kind of napping on the couch, in front of the TV…heaven, as far as I was concerned. There was an air-conditioner filling the east window, about five feet away, cascading a cool breeze through this hot, hot day. To the west of me and my couch was a long hallway, leading out of the Living Room to the rest of the place, including the bedrooms. In my Daughters bedroom there was a balloon. A rather storied balloon, given its time with us. We bought the balloon at a local fair, helium filled, with ribbons endowing its string like a beautiful bow. This balloon had to have been in its fifth day by now, and the helium no longer propelled it. It had become shrunken and limp, as if nearing its final breath. It seemed to have had enough. It was weak, and refused to travel anymore.
Except today, that is. While I was engaged in this marvelous, attempted nap, the balloon had found a life of its own. It traveled out of my Daughter’s room, down the long corridor, straight to me. I am compelled to remind you that this weak, flaccid balloon was flowing against a strong force of air-conditioned breeze, and once it was exactly at eye-level to me, it stayed there.
Mind you, I was lying down when I realized the balloon was keeping still, right at my eye-level, against a breeze, and against all odds. I saw the oddity at hand, and I quickly rose from a lying position to a sitting one. The balloon followed in suit, and adjusted to my new eye-level. I laid back down, and the balloon followed, keeping exactly at eye-level. I sat back up, balloon maintained eye-level. I stood up, balloon is eye-level. Sat down, eye-level.
Then, something occurred to me. I have no idea why, or how, but it dawned on me quite clearly. It was R!! Of all the thoughts to have, the thought that this anomaly was R was absolutely clear. To this day, I don’t know why, but at that moment, it was as clear as the back of my hand, that this was R, maintaining this balloon in completely improbable fashion. I actually asked, um, the balloon…”R, if this is you, and ONLY if this is you, show me”…and the balloon, I swear to God, while at exact eye-level, nodded yes, as if it were a head, nodding yes. I was stunned. Not scared. Not freaked, really. If anything, I was elated.
I continued to have the most unreal, amazing dialog with this balloon, realizing that I could only ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. That being said, there were times when the balloon would seem to become invigorated when talking about something happy, or seeming somewhat deflated when addressing something sad. There was a point where, during our ‘conversation’, my Wife and Daughter came home. Not wanting to move an inch, I yelled for them to come to me right away…that they’re not going to believe what was happening…and they appeased my request…and the greatest thing happened. My Wife, and her Father, got a chance to fill the deep, gaping void they were both left with upon his passing. They got the reunion they both needed so deeply.
My Daughter, oddly comfortable with the situation, got to speak with Grampa again. Daughter failed, somehow, to see the oddity behind the situation, and took the whole thing in stride. We all talked, with this balloon, for a good hour. Then, something even more amazing took place. Affirmation. You know when you visit your relatives, say, for the Holidays…after a while you run out of things to catch up on, and there’s this air of uncomfortable silence that seems to fill the room? Well, we had that. Regardless of the fact that we are engaged in a conversation with someone who died a year ago, we all came to that point of uncomfortable silence. We had all ran out of things to say. It felt so NORMAL. Soon after, the balloon went back to being this limp, inactive, helium-denied balloon, and my Wife felt complete. Not completely, I imagine, as she still lives on without her Father, but much more at peace then she had been. R, as it turns out, came for one more incredible visit, about a month later.
On his second visit, my Daughter had been playing with her favorite toy. It was a figurine of sorts, of a Pikachu, which was the main character in a Pokemon cartoon. The Pikachu is a cute, yellow mouse with big ears and a tail resembling an electric bolt. The mouse sat with a bongo drum, and when the batteries worked, the mouse played “London Bridge Is Falling Down” with the drum.
On this day, the batteries had died, so we removed them. With the batteries now removed, the toy, on this day at this time, started playing anyway. We were all home together on this day, and I believe that it was my Wife who discovered it first, and quickly realized it was her Father again. Together, we asked this now-animated toy to bang the drum once for ‘yes’, and twice for ‘no’, and again we had the great pleasure of a second reunion with R. This visit lasted close to an hour, and ended with the same odd, yet glorious, uncomfortable silence, capping a wonderful conversation for us all.
My Wife and I are both active investigators, these days, of the paranormal. Now, we have cameras, camcorders, meters, recorders, and evidence-catching equipment of all kinds. We did not have the equipment, back then, to capture proof of R’s visits, but we know what we saw. We know what we encountered. We know what we felt. I don’t think all the hauntings, in all the houses, in all the world can replicate what we had shared on those two days. Personally, to us, we really don’t need to. The most special encounter we could ask for happened for us, for very personal reasons. We still burn to find evidence, to answer questions, to tell a story, to normalize the most remarkable things of all. In our hearts though, we already have. It is a testament to this beautiful Man, who lit our lives with his brilliance, and did not go gentle into that good night after all.