Mary Jordan

Mary Jordan

It was during the glacial winter of 2018 around February I believe, when the bitter winds dubbed ‘The beast from the east’ swept the land that I found myself at death’s door.

I’d developed sniffles which had tormented me for several weeks, and I suppose, depleted my strength. My immunity was too low to fight the flu when it grabbed me around the chest and threatened to extinguish my life.

Struggling on, with the help of a neighbour, eating soup when I had the strength to heat and eat it, I’d coughed and wheezed and ached my way through days and nights which passed in an exhausting haze. My weakness was overwhelming so I stayed mainly in my bed where I shivered and sweated in equal parts, losing weight and losing marbles so that by the time my neighbour called an ambulance when I had not been seen for five days, I had no idea who or where I was.

I don’t recall the short journey to the hospital, the booking in, the early treatment. I don’t recall doctors questions or my alleged answers. I remember only one visitor to my private room but I didn’t know who that person was.

I’m told I spent three weeks in an induced coma suffering from influenza. Type A H3N2 and double pneumonia. My lungs were so severely compromised that I needed help to breathe and although I just avoided the ventilator I did require a Cpap machine.

I don’t have recollection of this at all, being for the most part, as I’ve explained, in a coma, then afterwards so incapacitated that I required round the clock sleep to, incredibly slowly, regain some level of consciousness.

So it was during the lonely, dozy days and endless nights that the unknown visitor came to my room. She didn’t speak, smile or do anything, she simply stood by my bedside and gazed at me endlessly. She wore a soulful expression, pained I’d say, as if caring deeply for me. I’ve no way of knowing how long she stayed each time but despite her silence I found her presence somehow comforting; there was a sense of tenderness about her, of love and it moved me greatly. As I began to regain some strength, not a lot but just enough to speak, I asked the nursing staff who the woman was.

     ‘What woman, Derek?’ asked Sister James one morning, ‘I’m sorry but there’s been no one.’

I insisted there had been the same woman that had been visiting me regularly. I described her although her appearance was nondescript, She was just an elderly woman with a kind face; small, pale and wearing some sort of white overall, an apron? These impressions were just that, impressions. I was weak and she was... an image. Nobody knew of her. No one had seen her, although the nurses nudged each other and there was a barely perceptible nod as if they shared some secret information . A few evenings later she came again. I tried to reach for her to touch her hand but my strength was not as I thought and I collapsed back onto my pillow. I asked the nurse the next morning.

     ‘Who is the woman that came again last night?’

     ‘Derek,’ she answered gently but firmly, as she smoothed my sheets, ‘nobody has been here. I was told that you had no living relatives and in any case visitors are not allowed onto the ward at night.’ She gave me an incredulous grin, kind but disbelieving, ‘you must have dreamt her. Or you know it’s common to get hallucinations when you’re as poorly as you have been.’

And that was it until a few nights before I was released. I’d spent a total of five and a half weeks in the hospital, at the beginning I thought I’d never be strong enough to go home but with the help of physiotherapy and my excellent nursing care, combined of course with the most powerful antibiotics the NHS could provide, I was deemed fit enough to leave.

On the Saturday night I awoke as usual to find the mystery woman standing over me, not speaking, not smiling yet in some unexplained way transmitting a message to me. Now, it was the middle of the night, I’d been sleeping, my room was dark and still, yet...I fancied ...No...I   didn’t hear her say...yet I heard... ‘Mary Jordan’. I sat up and tried to reach her, again I was unable. It was as if I was paralysed, unable to move, reverted back to my useless condition.

When I woke in the morning I knew it would be pointless to question the staff and I was worried that if they thought me still hallucinating, they would keep me in the hospital.

Mary Jordan didn’t come to my room again and although I thought of her a lot and almost went crazy wondering who she was, what she was, I eventually came to the conclusion that she had been the figment of my imagination, a hallucination.

It took me many months to recover from my ordeal, I was very weak yet just able to manage on my own at home. The district nurse came several times in the first few weeks, then less often until I was once again independent. I began going for short walks, at first along the lane, stopping to rest on the style at the bus stop then across the meadow and I would sit in the churchyard listening to birds and enjoying the butterflies that visited the Buddleia.

It was a beautiful spring day, early may, that I saw her. At first I thought I’d been mistaken for she was gone as quickly as she had appeared, at the corner of the church, behind the water butt. I glimpsed the white apron, greying hair and pale face that convinced me that I had just seen Mary Jordan. I’ve never before experienced a nervous chill, but that morning, as I sat in the warm sunshine, the shivers ran down my spine as the fine hairs on my arms stood erect. Of course by the time I got to my feet to follow her, she was gone. I saw her once more that summer as I was visiting my mother’s grave. It would have been my late mother’s birthday and I’d taken her favourite flowers. As I knelt to tidy the shingle, I felt a movement behind me and turned to see Mary Jordan rushing away and disappearing behind a large monument.

I never saw her again. I wondered why she had come to me both in the hospital and then later at the churchyard. I’m not a suspicious man and have never had any particular interest in the supernatural but I was convinced then that what I’d witnessed in the graveyard and earlier had been an apparition, the ghost of an unknown woman. I cleared my mother’s grave and took the vase to get fresh water from the butt and stopped in my tracks. Once again the icy chill travelled down my back and I leaned on the wall of the church for support.

It was a very old gravestone, crumbling and green with age, with the barely legible words -
“Here lies Mary Jordan 1818 -1887 Beloved wife of Arthur Jordan deceased. Mother to Eliza, Sarah and Peter. Much loved nurse of this parish” Once again I felt the rush of excitement as I read the eroded inscription. Mary Jordan had been a nurse but why had she stood over my bed in the hospital, why had she been offering me comfort and succour?

I had no idea what the connection was between us but I was determined to find out. My first step was to talk to the clergy of the old church and try to learn all I could about my mystery visitor.  Father Joseph Brennan was an unexpectedly young man and I found him to be pleasantly amiable and extremely knowledgeable about the parish.

‘Aye indeed sir,’ he said in reply to my question, ‘the Jordan’s were well respected in the parish from way back in Victorian times until quite recently.’ We were meandering along the pathway that lead to Mary’s grave and Fr Joseph paused to point out another grave, even older than the other. ‘This, you see is the resting place of Mary Jordan’s parents and sadly three siblings of hers.’ It was true. The terribly aged stone bore the words -

“November 1830
 Jeremiah and Elizabeth Jordan
Thomas 10, Richard 7, Ernest 18mths.
Died from Influenza”

‘The sad story of what happened to the Jordan family has become folklore around here I’m told.’ said the priest, as we rested at the now familiar bench.

‘Mary was the only survivor from that family and she carried the emotional scars for the rest of her life. She became a nurse in the early days when nursing was becoming a respected career for girls. She saw it as a way of repaying the care she’d received in the new hospital. They do say she still walks those corridors at night.

Why were you asking about her specifically?’ Asked the priest.

I didn’t answer, I just shrugged my shoulders. I thought that was best kept between Mary Jordan and myself.

Susan Bowman

My name is Susan Bowman, I’m 67 years old, a retired cytologist and I enjoy many hobbies and interests. I write and perform poetry at an open mic event once a month and am currently compiling a book of poetry for publication. This is my first novel and I have begun my second, a thriller/mystery with a female lead. I have recently been included in an anthology of short stories published by Carrick Publishing and a poetry anthology with proceeds to NHS.


  1. This came at a time when I needed the uplift. Quite grateful.

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