Uncle Ted and the Spirit Guide

 



 Uncle Ted and the Spirit Guide -

 

  “It's good of you to come, Mike,” said my mother as she handed me the car keys. “Especially as Uncle Ted's not your direct relative. I can't say that I enjoy these visits and it really does help me to have a little company for support.”

  “It's OK, Mum.” I knew she dreaded these visits to a relative whose behaviour had become increasingly more confused and unpredictable. Whenever possible, the three of us siblings would take it in turns to accompany our mother to the nursing home. We knew she went out of a sense of duty and because it seemed that Uncle Ted had no one else in the world. Our branch of the family were his only earthly visitors. I say 'earthly' because from time to time, when the pills weren't working effectively, or perhaps when they were working too effectively, he claimed to have visits from a host of angels and friendly spirits.

  One of my mother's numerous aunts, in her early forties at the time, had married Uncle Ted. The couple had been childless and when she had died some twenty years ago, her husband had turned his back on society and lived an increasingly reclusive existence.

  “Doesn't he have anyone else in his life?” I asked as I started up the engine.

  “No one else in the world – no friends, no family, no ex-lovers. Wasn't always like that, apparently. Aunt Monica always used to say he was the life and soul of every party. It seems that he was something of a ladies' man in his prime, before he married Aunt Monica. Had a fine mind too – 'sharp as a razor,' she would often say. Now look what's happened to him. Such a pity!”

  I nodded as I eased the car through the backstreets and onto the main road. I remembered our previous visit to the nursing home. The conversation had been difficult to say the least. Lengthy, muddled, rambling reminiscences from Uncle Ted, going round in circles and heading nowhere. Frequently, he would pause mid-sentence, forgetful of what he'd just said a few seconds earlier, and we would have to

 

 

remind him before he was able to proceed with his confused narrative.

  He hadn't really been speaking directly to us for most of the visit, never making eye contact and his voice sounding increasingly strained and weak. And then, taking us both by surprise, there had been this sudden transformation and, in the blinking of an eye, he seemed energised and animated. Even more disturbingly, he swivelled in his chair with purposeful deliberation and turned to face me. His usual gaunt, rather severe features suddenly brightened into a beatific smile, as if he had been transported on a sunbeam to some far-off paradise. Looking me straight in the eyes with a rather unsettling intensity, he spoke directly to me:

  “I've been thinking of you recently, young man. I've got good news for you … very good news. You're going to be all right. There's someone watching over you. I've seen her in the courtyard … in the sunshine outside … she's looking out for you, protecting you from danger.”

  My mother and I had glanced sideways at each other, fighting the urge to break into giggles. But it was a little strange. Outside Uncle Ted's ground floor room, we could see grey, overcast skies hanging   over the small courtyard and parking bays of the nursing home. And yet for a few moments, a pale shimmer of light, a hint of an aura if you like, had seemed to flicker across his face.

  “Who's this 'she', Uncle Ted,” my mother had probed gently, trying to resume the conversation.

  “She's your spirit guide, your guardian angel,” he had declared, still gazing at me intently with his unblinking hazel eyes.  All his energies and attention had been entirely focused on me. He ignored my poor mother completely as if she didn't exist. “I saw her yesterday on the astral plane. She is watching over you all the time with great tenderness and devotion.”

  Apparently, Uncle Ted had claimed to have seen and communicated with a number of friendly spirits in his lifetime. The majority of these ghostly sightings had been of adolescents, not unhappy, he

insisted, but still tied to their previous earthly existences through bonds of love and familiarity, and

 

 

unable fully to accept that they had passed away.

  A ping of an incoming text on my mother's mobile suddenly brought me back to the present and I focused my attentions on driving my mother safely to the nursing home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her scanning her phone screen as she glanced at the message. And although I was keeping my eyes on the road, I could sense an immediate agitation and shift of mood on her part.

  “Oh, my God,” she sighed. “It's from the nursing home,” and she paused, fumbling to find the right words. 

  It was strange but at that very moment, I had this weird premonition, sense of deja vu – call it what you will. I already knew what she was going to tell me.

  “It's Uncle Ted,” she murmured in a hushed, breathless voice. “He's died – in his sleep – just over an hour ago.”

  I don't really know what I felt at that moment. Not exactly sad; I hadn't ever been close to Uncle Ted. I'd seen very little of him, growing up as a child. But he had always been sort of family and there was some kind of bond or connection between us. Two weeks ago, when we had last visited him, he had been alive, speaking to us, remembering things from his past, displaying moods and emotions. Now, very abruptly, within a few heartbeats, all that had changed.

  We drove in silence for a couple of minutes or so. Then my mother made me pull into a lay-by and turn off the engine.

 “Perhaps we should turn back?” she said, her voice shaking a little.  “It's going to be a little traumatic at the nursing home now.'

  I knew what she was really trying to ask me.  “It's all right, Mum,” I said. “Don't worry on my account. We're nearly there now anyway. I'll be fine – I've seen dead bodies before, remember. It's not a problem for me – as long you're all right about it.” And then I turned the question on her. “Do you feel ready to see him?”

  “As ready as I'll ever be,” she sighed. She touched me lightly on the shoulder to show her gratitude. “And, remember, you don't have to see him, you know. You can just wait for me outside the home if you like… or just stay in the car.”

  I noticed how we had both become a little reluctant to mention him by name.

  'I'll be fine, Mum.”

  And so we drove on. The sun suddenly burst through the thin veils of morning mist and fierce scales of light bounced across the windscreen. By the time I turned the car into the driveway of the nursing home, all the rooftop TV aerials and solar panels were shimmering in silvery spokes of liquid fire and even the grass on the roadside verges was glowing in pale golden threads. I parked the car in the small forecourt near the entrance doors and as we clambered out of our seats and stepped outside, we could feel the heat radiating from the tarmac.

  I noticed a tall linden tree standing to one side, a few metres away from the entrance doors, its branches casting a latticework of shade over the courtyard. And that's when I first saw them.

  There, underneath the great tree, dappled in golden-green stripes of light, I saw the outlines of two figures. They stayed rooted to the spot, their shapes wavering faintly in the slight breeze, staring at me with unblinking, faraway gazes. When I gazed back at them, the first one dissolved into powdery motes of refracted sunlight. Nevertheless, in that dazzling moment of vision, I was sure it was Uncle Ted I had seen, looking a little younger and transfigured in robes of dazzling white.

  But the other figure beside him did not fade from view.  I was aware of a blurred outline veiled behind a swarm of midges that danced before me like a dot pattern of iron filings, catching the sunlight with a metallic sheen. Instinctively, I screwed my eyes into a squint and slowly the light-particles of the shape

condensed into sharper vision.

 

 

  I saw – with a dazzling, vivid clarity, the features of a young woman with soft, mousey-blonde hair and large brown eyes. She was small, petite and looked roughly the same age as me, perhaps a little

older. She was dressed in a long, white night-gown and was staring at me with a profound, unblinking gaze, neither friendly nor hostile. Indeed, she seemed to be gazing not at me but through me, as if reaching out to understand my thoughts.

  In that instant, I knew I was looking into the eyes of a ghost, a spirit guide from the world beyond the living.  I remember that I didn't feel afraid exactly; just a breathless, humbling sense of awe to be in her presence.

  I've no idea of how long I stood there, transfixed to the spot. My mother clearly had not shared my vision, hallucination – call it what you will. But I felt her patting my shoulder softly, more for reassurance than concern.

  “Are you all right? she murmured. I turned slightly towards her and in that instant, the ghost-girl vanished from view, lost among the shimmer of veiled sunlight and dancing midges.

  Once inside the home, we were escorted to Uncle Ted's room by a respectful, soft-voiced nurse. who seemed to speak only in hushed murmurs. A couple of chairs had been placed beside the deathbed and my mother and I sat down on either side of the corpse.

  I'd seen dead bodies before. Just before my father's funeral, my mother had encouraged us to take a last look inside the open coffin and say our final good byes. So I didn't find it such a shock to see Uncle Ted lying there. He looked thinner, more emaciated and withered, than I'd remembered, his face locked in a faint death snarl, and his hollowed out cheekbones protruding like ridged knuckles from his face. He looked at peace now.

  “He seemed very contented, very relaxed yesterday,” said the nurse. “When we made our final check

on him last night at around eleven o'clock, he was awake, which was unusual for him. And not just

awake but wide awake, if you know what I mean. He kept on smiling at us and asking us questions about ourselves and saying how good he was feeling. You know, I think he passed away very calmly,

very much at peace with himself.”

  “Well, that's comforting to know,” said my mother. “Thank you for sharing that with us.” She was her usual polite self but I knew she was waiting for the nurse to leave so that we could have a little private time and space with Uncle Ted.

  But the nurse had more she wanted to tell us.

  “There's just one thing,” she added. “Ted said he had a visitor last night – a special visitor from the past. I have to say that couldn't have happened, of course. No one signed the visitor's register and

besides, it was well after the visiting hours anyway. But, whatever it was, it made him happy.”

 “Well, he had become a bit prone to hallucinations,” my mother commented.

  “I'll let you have some time with him,” said the nurse apologetically and moved towards the door.  But just before she was about to let herself out into the corridor, she turned to face us once again. “I'm so sorry to keep you waiting like this. I know you want some quiet time with your relative. It's just there was one other slightly strange thing that happened. When we found Ted this morning, we saw this photograph beside his bed. What puzzled us was that we'd never seen this picture before. In fact, he had never kept any photos around him. He must have got it out last night after we'd completed our rounds.”

  The nurse pointed towards the photograph frame, resting on the small table beside the bedside table. It was just a few centimetres in front of my mother and yet, remarkably, neither of us had noticed it before. We must have been so overwhelmed by what had just happened to us.

 My mother leaned across the bed and peered at the photograph. At first, her face looked completely blank. Then she scrutinized the photograph more closely, gazing at it intently and holding it right up to her face, frowning slightly in what seemed to be a mixture of curiosity and bewilderment. I noticed her scratching the back of her neck ; a sure sign that something was slightly unsettling her.

  “Was she someone very close to Ted then?” asked the nurse, unable to curb her curiosity.

  “That's what I'm not sure about,” said my mother, still absorbed in the picture and speaking more to herself than anyone else in the room. “There's something familiar about this face. But I can't quite recognise her. Maybe one of my sisters might know.”

 But I knew straight away. With my heart hammering against my chest, I recognised the face of the girl with the mousey-blonde hair and dark brown eyes, standing underneath the linden tree in the courtyard. My spirit guide was watching over me.

 

Cosmo Goldsmith

 

Cosmo Goldsmith is a 'semi-retired English and Drama teacher who has worked both in the UK and internationally. He has a deep interest in all forms of creative writing and in the last two years he has had a short story and three poems published. 

His short story called Freya and the Somatoid was published by a British magazine called Storgy. His poems were published by Cannon's Mouth and Writers' Bureau (both British magazines ) and by Bluebird Word ( an American magazine ).

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