If you're just looking for a scary story today, skip this one. I'm not even sure there's a ghost in my story.
If you're willing to think through a problem with me, though, put on your philosopher's hat (or dust off your crystal ball). Here's the scenario:
Let's say you're standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in a room full of people you don't know. You happen to glance at some random stranger and instantly find yourself plugged into this person's emotions. You know how he or she feels, what's on the person's mind, what the world looks like through this stranger's eyes.
Or you always sense when certain loved ones want to get in touch with you. You know before you get home that you'll find a letter, voicemail message, text etc. From a certain person close to you.
At the very least, you probably recognize the reality of experiences like these. Since you visit - and maybe contribute to - the YGS website, chances are good that you've had first-hand experiences with this sort of thing.
So I'm asking you to help me understand how and why such connections are formed, because this has always happened to me, continues to happen on a daily basis, and I often find it puzzling or troubling.
I'm okay with walking into a room and picking up on a stranger's anger, depression, resentment, etc. I usually try to find out subtly what the problem is and somehow bring the person a bit of comfort or peace. (I think these duties are assigned to some of us.)
What gives me the creeps is when there's a connection that involves someone's death.
The death connection seems to involve physical contact or proximity. (How clinical does that sound?)
For example, about 35-40 years ago, while I was visiting my ex-husband's family in Glasgow (Scotland), I met an elderly uncle for the first time. When we left his flat, I was the last person out the door. At the threshold, Uncle Farquhar took my hand and at that instant I knew he would die soon. When I looked into his eyes, I realized he knew it, too.
Unfortunately, I've had lots of experiences like this. Let me tell you about one of my earliest "death" connections that happened when I was in high school in the mid-sixties.
I didn't know "Todd" well. He and I just happened to take some of the same classes throughout junior high and high school. Once or twice I lent him my notes because a teacher asked me to, but that's the only contact I had with him.
Todd hung around with a group of older boys, imitating their "mature" language and behavior. Looking cool and sounding cynical were important parts of his image, but I picked up that he always felt like an outsider, angry and fearful.
I think it was in our junior year of high school that Todd was in two of my classes, American Literature and German II. One fall day our English teacher was leading a discussion of some novel, but I wasn't paying close attention - probably daydreaming. Suddenly I felt everyone sitting forward in their seats, tensely listening to an argument between "Mrs. Oaks" and Todd.
The class discussion had branched off into a debate about whether you can feel truly grateful for something precious, even if losing it caused you anguish. Mrs. Oaks, the wife of a local minister, contended that you could, but Todd disagreed with her vehemently. The exchange between them was getting heated.
Mrs. Oaks told a story about a loving, close-knit family that included four children. The youngest girl developed a disease that finally took her life at age eight. Although the family was in an agony of grief, they were grateful because their daughter had been part of their lives for at least a while.
Todd exploded. He yelled, "That's insane! No one could lose someone they love and feel like that!" We were all used to hearing Todd argue with the teachers, but we hadn't seen such a violent outburst before.
Mrs. Oaks said quietly, "The little girl was my daughter." There was a horrible silence in the classroom.
It was an awkward situation for everyone. Todd tried to step back from his remark and several classmates hijacked the discussion to spare both Mrs. Oaks and Todd any further pain or embarrassment. The classroom's atmosphere was still oppressive when the bell rang.
Not long after, Todd had another disagreement with a teacher, this time in our German class. I don't remember what it was about - something to do with Todd annoying another student and our teacher reacting - but the result was that Herr R. Decided to move Todd to the front of the class, where he could keep an eye on Todd. I'd been sitting in the front row next to my boyfriend when Herr R. Told me to exchange seats with Todd.
Right after we'd made the switch I began to feel strange. I was settling into a desk near the back of the classroom, where Todd had been seated only a few minutes before. Suddenly a wave of rage washed over me. The feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day.
That evening a movie started playing in my head: I saw Todd talking to some friends in a parking lot. He got into his car and was following his friends in their cars. Suddenly Todd shot ahead of the other cars, going dangerously fast. There was an accident, and Todd died. Then the movie would start at the beginning again.
At the time, I was confused about what was happening. I was still feeling intense anger. I kept wondering if I had somehow caused the accident, a thought that horrified me. But that didn't make sense. How could I have caused the accident? Why would I want to? There was no reason I could think of.
The next Monday at school we were told about Todd's death in a car crash. I quietly asked my German teacher if I could go back to my old seat. That evening I located a back issue of our local paper and read a story about the fatal accident.
So, YGS friends, what do you make of this? What, in your opinion, causes these connections in the first place? Do you have experiences like this that you wouldn't mind sharing? Can you control the connection - either strengthen or weaken it? In the example I gave, when do you think the last connection started - before or after Todd's death? Exactly what do you think I was connected to? Speculations and opinions are welcome!