World War II was in its second year in 1942, and our men were away fighting for their country. I was fifteen years old and living in a small three-room apartment in the heart of staid old Boston with Mother, who is a solid, no-nonsense person with green eyes, freckles, and naturally curly red that I have always envied.
This particular weekend my paternal grandmother was visiting us. Grandmother fascinated me. A showgirl in her youth, she was still very beautiful with snow-white hair, black eyes, and a flawless olive complexion. From my earliest recollection there had been a strong bond between us, and I was happy to relinquish my bed to her and sleep on the couch in the front room.
I remember going to bed early as we proposed to go shopping the next morning. Sometimes during the night I was awakened by someone gently stroking my forehead. Sitting on the edge of my couch was a petite, exotic-looking woman with beautiful, piercing black eyes. Her hair, shimmering in the moonlight from the open window, was blue-black and hung loosely to her waist.
She wore what appeared to be an old-fashioned flannel nightgown trimmed with lace and blue ribbons. Her slender finger lay across her lips signalling me to be quiet. She seemed to sense my fright and smiled warmly; she made no move toward me nor did she speak.
She just hovered protectively over me. Nevertheless my terror mounted. I lay in a cold sweat, my eyes following her every move. It seemed an eternity before she slowly rose, still smiling, and floated into oblivion. I wanted to cry out but my mouth was parched, my throat paralyzed.
The next thing I remember was Mother saying, “C’mon, sister, it’s time to get up.” Mother and Grandmother were already sipping their second cup of coffee as I sat down. “Sister, you are awfully pale this morning. Didn’t you sleep well?” Grandmother asked. “I had a bad nightmare,” I replied. And then I related the details as carefully as I could.
Grandmother paled noticeably and said, “No, child, this was not a dream but a visitation. You will see her again! Hear me out, for I have seen her on a number of occasions. “My most vivid recollection concerns my brother George, a broad-shouldered, freckled-faced, redheaded giant of a man.
At twenty, George left home and went to Chicago to make his way. There he obtained employment and lived in a boardinghouse. George never had been sick a day in his life, yet one morning he did not show up for work. “His landlady was busy with her daily chores when the doorbell rang.
When she answered she was surprised to see a young priest in a long black cassock who asked if he could see the young man who was dying. “But, Father, I only have one male roomer and he went to work this morning, she said.
“The priest begged her to check, saying that a lovely young woman had appeared at the registry that morning and informed them that a young man was dying and in dire need of assistance. She had given them this address. Together the priest and the landlady climbed the stairs to George’s second-floor room.
The door was ajar, and they entered. George’s clothes were folded neatly on the chair and his wallet lay open on the oval-top table. George was in bed, lying flat on his back, unable to move. “In a barely audible voice George inquired, “Father, how did you know I was sick? Who sent you?”
“The priest told him the same story he had told he landlady. Then, realizing the seriousness of George’s condition, he administered the last rites. Afterwards his gaze fell on a large oil painting of mother that hung over George’s bed.
“That is the woman who came to the rectory this morning. Where is she? he asked.
“George looked puzzled. “That is my mother, sir. She died when I was a baby.’
“Impossible!” said the priest, ‘I shook hands with her. she was warm and very much alive.’
“Two hours later George was dead. We brought him home and buried him in a grave next to Mother.
“Now, my child,” Grandmother continued, ” I want you to promise me you will be most careful in everything you do for the next few weeks.”
On a lazy spring morning about two weeks later I headed for the bus stop with some of my young friends . We were running, shoving and pushing one another. At the bus stop, standing with her back toward us, was a petite woman in a pink dress, her back hair neatly pulled back in a French twist.
There was something familiar, about her, but I paid little attention. We could see the bus coming. As it drew close someone shoved me and to my horror I felt myself falling in front of the oncoming machine.
Then someone grabbed me, shortening my fall. Badly shaken, I turned to thank my rescuer, and found myself gazing into the face that had hovered over my couch a few nights before, It was such a shock that I passed out and in the ensuing confusion the woman disappeared. No one had bothered to get her name but I knew who she was. God help me, I knew!
Several times since then I have been visited by my great-grandmother, Agnes Elizabeth Riley Murray, born in Country Cork, Ireland. Each time she has warned me of impending danger. On several occasions these warnings have saved my life.
Then a few years ago the postman brought me a letter from my own son, who was then in Vietnam. The letter told of his being separated from his buddies in the jungle and of a sudden encounter with a beautiful woman with flashing black eyes and long black hair.
He wrote that she saved his life by delaying his progress through the tropical forest. Then she disappeared. ” I know, Mother, You will think me insane,” he wrote. But of course, I know he wrote the truth. He, too, has experienced our family’ protector-my beautiful great-grandmother.
El Paso, Texas