The Beyond

On the first night we viewed and then signed the papers to buy our Madison house, it felt haunted. When I went upstairs to turn off the hallway light, I felt the air thicken and move around me in an unnatural way.

Thrilled, I ran downstairs, delighted that we were going to buy a haunted house.

It’s like I had never seen a horror movie before.

But it’s amazing how much stress goes into buying a house for the first time. The haunted feeling was quickly dismissed.

We moved in and I assumed that eerie feeling I had felt on the first night had just been my imagination.

And it became a joke. The first notable happening was when a friend came over and we decided to make cocktails.

We shook the ice and alcoholic concoction in my metal shaker and then laughed when the cap of the shaker froze shut so we couldn’t pour our drinks.

No big deal. We ran hot water over the shaker top but it remained firmly stuck.

Whatever. We set the shaker in the sink.

While we waited, we leaned against the kitchen wall and talked, and eventually, inevitably, she started asking me whether our house was haunted.

I told her how it had first seemed on our original viewing, but, since nothing had happened in the couple weeks we had lived there, I didn’t think it was haunted after all.

And, as if hearing its cue, the top of the shaker suddenly shot high into the air with a dramatic “popping” noise.

We screamed and then laughed.

“It is haunted!” she yelled with glee.

I smiled. I didn’t think a drink shaker top exploding meant anything but the pressure had finally popped it off and we could now access our alcohol.

But then the house warmed up and all kinds of craziness happened over the course of the next few years and I changed my mind once again.

Yet, the activity in our house inevitably was sort of hijacked by my terminally-ill mom moving in.

It seemed as if the “ghost stuff” was kind of crushed by “bigger stuff.”

I know. I’m breaking out the technical terminology.

In any case, this post is unlike the other ghost stories as it focuses on the unexplained events which happened in my mom’s final months.

I think maybe House felt a bit overcome during the first half of 2017.


My mom had beautiful hair and the hospice CNAs, respite caregivers and I fussed over it.

People would come over and remark at how rested and beautiful my mom looked and then they’d look at me and say, “You look tired.”


And things were how they should be.

One night, Kristi Jo, my good friend and one of Mom’s superhero hospice respite CNAs, recalls that one day I came downstairs in the morning to find that my mom’s hair was a complete mess, and I had just brushed it the night before.

It seemed to have been a mysteriously rough night.

And I remembered how these incidents stressed me out.

I tried to make the evenings as calming and therapeutic as possible. I’d set the TV timer so YouTube delta wave sleep videos would play for two hours after my husband David and I went upstairs to bed. I used aromatherapy scents and ran a humidifier so the air wasn’t dry in the winter.

I tried to create a spa environment. And I didn’t like seeing my mom’s hair messed up in the morning.

I wasn’t focused on whether “ghosts” were hassling my mom in the night.

Rather, I was focused on whether or not my mom was comfortable. And, seeing her hair in the state it was in that morning, this did not scream: “This had been a comfortable night.”

As a result, I worked with the hospice nursing staff to switch her to a more intense medication, out of concern that, since she had been in hospice for so long, she’d developed a tolerance for the morphine and, since we were no longer diagnosing her and the goal was “making her comfortable,” we had no idea how much pain she was in.

And, if she was in pain and couldn’t communicate it beyond messing up her hair at night, that was a problem.

Consequently, my mom was place on a fentanyl patch. We were hush-hush about that due to its high street value.

It could explain that weird girl showing up at our front door.

(See my earlier post, What the Others Saw

It was a little exhausting to have to worry about the distractions outside, beyond our small house, and the internal distractions of our apparently haunted house.

So it was a nice change of pace when my mom, in her final months, started to exhibit new symptoms.

Specifically, my mom’s behavior changed after she shook off death which had seemed imminent around Christmastime.

And, on New Year’s Eve, a couple weeks after she didn’t die in December, this new shift was made apparent to Kristi Jo and her partner who were providing my husband David and I with a couple days of respite.  

When I asked Kristi Jo if she had any weird memories, she strongly felt New Year’s 2017 had been her most intense experience in that house.

However, it seems more wondrous than spooky, depending on your perspective.

She and her partner Luke, who was our rescue mastiff Hemingway’s sitter, organized a small New Year’s Eve party for Mom and the dog.

They ordered pizza, and put tissue paper hats on. They had Korbel on deck, and the big syringe we used to administer liquid to Mom on hand.

And, by this point, the hanging pendulum clock which had previously spooked the other caregivers with its unexplained chiming and movement had been fixed, so it now functioned normally.

It tick-tocked with the seconds and donged with each hour and half-hour.

Everyone had peacefully settled in and were enjoying a quiet, laid-back night when something intense and wholly unexplained happened.

When the clock struck midnight in that room on that New Year’s Eve, Kristi Jo and her other half felt that the air suddenly became electric.

And, once the clock started donging midnight, it just kept going.

It was as if time stood still.

It felt like the clock chimed forever.

Certainly, longer than a minute.  

Or so I’m told.

And the house was completely dark except for a bright light which was allegedly emanating from my mom.

The hair on their arms rose.


My mom’s eyes were as “as big as saucers,” and, though she didn’t have much use of her arms due to the devastating effects of her illness, my mom started to reach out in front of her.

It was as if time had stuttered and dropped and they had entered into a different space.


And, well, the whole scene completely shook Kristi Jo and Luke.

Since it sounds absolutely crazy, Kristi Jo has always been quick to downplay that night.

In fact, it’s taken a couple years for me to really hear how unsettling and intense that night was for them.

When she said that this was the freakiest thing that happened in that house, I was all, “This story?!”

Having not been there, my initial reaction was a bit skeptical.

After all, Mom was on a heavy-duty medication at the time.

Yet, I did notice how my mom continued to “glow” after that New Year’s incident, documented in a Facebook post on January 2, 2017:

Mom is either having an incredibly great day, the new med is REALLY working, or this is her last hurrah.

Or maybe she is still glowing from her amazing weekend with HeidiKristi Jo and Luke.💙 She doesn’t need oxygen, she is fully awake and alert, she tracks us and gives packed looks of adoration to her wonderful Agrace CNA and to us and…she just looks incredibly happy.

We will take it either way. Go Badgers.❤️❤️❤️

And Kristi Jo continues to rationalize their New Year’s experience:

“Was your mom stoked for the champagne we drew up in a syringe for her? Probably. Was she wanting to celebrate the new year and toast Hemi with good cheer? Probably.“

But she genuinely believes my mom was experiencing an intense premonition and she and Luke happened to be along for the ride.

At the stroke of midnight in that room on that night, something happened.

And, as the new year slowly shuffled into place and the days went on, I continued to see my mom reaching out and seemingly communicating, smiling and laughing, with something above her bed which I couldn’t see.

As 2017 went on, I’d often walk into my mom’s room and stop short, as I’d see her interacting with something or someone who wasn’t there.

As far as I could see.

I didn’t know what to do but I definitely wasn’t going to interrupt.

I never questioned what Mom was doing because there are simply some things that are unexplainable, and, therefore, nothing to analyze, explore or pick apart. In fact, seeing my mom look so happy, interacting with someone/something I couldn’t see, made my heart swell.

I couldn’t say if she was seeing my dad or her parents or any of those who had gone before, as some others believed.

But it was a nice thought.

At the same time, any hospice professional will tell you all about their own unexplained experiences and the stories of their colleagues. People who are on the edge of death tend to see things the rest of us can’t.

I guess none of us can know if that’s really true until we experience it ourselves but I’m satisfied with what I witnessed and with the stories of hospice workers who, through their hands-on professional experience, had been converted into believers of the unexplained and the beyond.

It’s all about perspective, and there’s often an element of “seeing what we want to see.”

For example, one night in 2015 I woke up in the night and felt overwhelmed by the loss of my father who had died a few days before.

I wandered downstairs. I did not turn on any lights. I just walked into our kitchen and slid to the linoleum floor, feeling completely lost in my grief.

And, at that exact moment, my Keurig clicked on, its blue light shining from across the room on its place on the counter, like a lighthouse in the dark.

I smiled from my seat on the floor, tears running down my cheek.

My dad had given me that Keurig the preceding Christmas morning. He always wanted to gift at least one really “over the top” item at Christmas, no matter how poor or well off we were at the time.

And that year’s “over the top” item had been a Keurig.

On that last Christmas together, I was so delighted by the gift and happily pushed in the little carafe K-cups, making tiny cups of French Vanilla coffee for my parents and trying not to break the Keurig in the process.

My dad had been delighted that his gift had been such a success.

And so, when that Keurig flipped on in the middle of the night, days after my dad’s death, almost immediately after I had slid to the kitchen floor in a silent fit of grief, it surely could have been explained by the old house’s electrical wiring, a power surge…

but I preferred to see it as a kind sign of affirmation.

It was my dad saying, in blue light:

“I’m here. I got you.”

I got up and went back to bed, feeling much better.

And that Keurig, for a period of time, kept clicking on in the night. I hadn’t set it on any schedule. It just started to turn on shortly before dawn.

It no longer turns on in the night, but I appreciate that it did on a well-timed basis for a couple heartbreaking years.

And, two years after the consummate Keurig incident, seeing my mom interacting with unseen entities, looking so incredibly joyful, in the midst of all the darkness, spookiness and death?

Yeah, I liked to think she was having visitors from the next world.

The good kind of visitors, based on her reaction.

And how I interpreted it, how Kristi Jo and Luke interpreted their own experience, comes down to perspective and belief.

But it feels unreasonable to dismiss and fear what we cannot understand or claim to know.

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