There is rarely a more traumatic time in one's life, than when they bear witness to the decline and eventual extinguishing of the life of a loved one. This horror is greater still when the soul who is passing happens to be your own mother.
This morbid situation was the grim but true reality for my young mother, a mere 17 years old in the early nineteen seventies. Her mother, my grandmother: Maureen was terminally ill with cancer. The illness originated when Maureen suffered a fall which disturbed some rogue cells within her body. Eventually she was completely bedridden, my mother often reflects on how the memories of her being active and healthy often seemed blurred, it was like she was in her bed forever.
The doctors where convinced of her imminent mortality so they discharged her from hospital so that she may spend her final days (which were surprisingly lengthy) among her family.
Her final illness occurred in her house on St James' Place, Belfast. The family, all of them had gathered to support her through her death throws.
It is of the utmost importance to understanding that she was not compus mentus. She was thoroughly dosed with diamorphine to combat her ever present agony, as a result she lay in a semi-comatosed state. She could not speak.
In the house at this time where the following people. In the bedroom with Maureen were her two sisters Annie and Sadie. Downstairs was Maura's father (Maureen's husband) Michael and her Uncle Peter.
The night was getting on, so Maura and her younger sister Collete were sent to bed.
Maura was sleeping soundly when her slumber was disturbed by a voice in a tone of great "urgency" calling "Maura, Maura, Maura!"
Urgency! Not a word Maura would use lightly.
Maura immediately arose from her bed and hurried to her mother's bedroom. She immediately asked "What do you want Mummy?" when the words caught in her throat. Maureen was completely unconscious.
The aware occupants of the room enquired as to what she could possible have meant. Maura simply responded "I heard Mummy calling me."
At that very instant she heard foot steps moving hastily up the stairs towards the bedroom. It was Uncle Peter, and he came in panting, looked around for signs of trouble and stated "I heard Maureen calling me!"
Yet unconscious still she lay there, no more aware of her surroundings than a statue or a painting.
Later on Maureen awoke from her stupor, completely sharp and alert. She demanded that she would be given the opportunity to speak privately with each of the occupants of the house.
The first person she summoned was Edward, my father and at the time; Maura's fiancée. Maureen firmly told him to look after Maura. Then to Maura she said "Look after your younger sister!". To the rest of her family, she disclosed a private message that to this day remains to be private.
Immediately after each of them had their private conference with Maureen, she closed her eyes and silently passed on...
In that era, owning a telephone in rural County Sligo was not just a novelty, but a blatant luxury. Sligo also happened to be the home of the majority of Maureen's relatives. Michael instructed Maura to telephone Sligo and "Tell Granny what happened!".
In order to get in contact, you therefore had to phone the local pub. In this case it was Jordan's, the proprietor of the pub and recipient of the call was Sonny Jordan. He sent the message to whomever it concerned.
Several months later, they travelled the 265 miles to County Sligo to visit their relatives. They were talking to Aunt Katie about Maureen's death and Katie said: "I knew long before the phone call".
Perplexed, Maura questioned how this was possible.
Katie then stated. "I was sitting eating my tea when mummy came down the stairs screaming 'Mother, Maureen's dead, I saw her standing at my window'".
Was this a psychic experience of a ghostly experience? Did Maureen's relatives somehow see into her mind before her death and heard her voice begging for assistance? Maybe, but how then do you explain the sighting in Sligo? Furthermore, is it possible for an apparition to travel 260 miles to appear before her relatives?
Is this all a figment of 3 sane people's imaginations, or do the dead walk every lane and alleyway that we perceive as empty?