Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 7: Frightful Cry, Ghosts, I Do Believe in Spooks

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!

A night, horrible little description of the apparition of Jacob Marley. It could have been written by Stephen King, if Stephen King took it upon himself to write a holiday story with Christian overtones about the redemption of a rich bastard. Scrooge literally has to be scared shitless before he sits down and starts listening to what Marley has to tell him. In particular, the whole detail of the lower jaw is a little disconcerting.

It was common practice in Dickens’ time to tie a bandage around the head of a corpse to keep its mouth from falling open. Funeral directors these days have more subtle ways of accomplishing this feat. I believe I once read that, in some cases, the lips of the deceased person are sewn shut to prevent any unsightly yawning during public viewing. Having worked as a hospital housekeeper, I have been around a few recently dead people. Sometimes, if family was present, a towel was placed under the corpse’s chin to close the mouth. Other times, I saw dead people being wheeled down to the morgue with their mouths gaping open, much as Dickens described Marley above, as if they were bored with the entire process of passing away.

This whole passage reminds me of one thing: I am afraid of ghosts. Yes, I believe in ghosts, spirits, phantoms of the dead, poltergeists, specters. Whatever you want to call them, I believe in them. Now, I don’t want to get into all the details of my ghost philosophy. To make a long story short, I think ghosts are souls that have unfinished business here on this planet. Marley’s unfinished business is doing penance for a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Some people have told me that my belief in spirits doesn’t particularly jibe with my Christian faith. I don’t care. I’m like the Cowardly Lion. I do believe in spooks. I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks.

My belief in ghosts is also bolstered by my friend who used to be a hospice nurse. She has told about many of her experiences with the sick and dying, and they all point to the existence of an afterlife. That doesn’t mean I want to be some kind of ghost whisperer. Unlike Joel Osment, I do not want to see dead people. I live in a house that’s over 100 years old. My biggest fear has always been stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night and running into my own version of Jacob Marley, chains and everything. The worst I’ve encountered is a little black mole skittering across the floor. (I reacted the same way to the mole that I would to a ghost: I screamed and jumped on top of the toilet.)

Obviously, as a Christian, I believe there’s something beyond blogging. I still have my eyes on sainthood. I certainly don’t have my eyes on wandering the world, wrapped in chains, moaning and lamenting my eternal fate. That would kind of suck.

Saint Marty doesn’t want to end up as a sidekick ghost in a Dickens tale.

Unlike this kid, I don't want to see dead people

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