Ghosts of Christmas Past
Have you ever seen a Christmas ghost? Have you ever met anyone who has? While visiting an elderly neighbor in a nursing home not too far from here, I was sitting in a chair near the door when a couple of nurses out in the hall started talking about them. When one of them said that psychic phenomena could explain many things, I really started to pay attention. You know, you wonder if people who see ghosts are capable of taking care of our old friends and neighbors.
She said she'd run into this psychic phenomenon on her first job out of nursing school. She said, "We had a ward of 12 elderly ladies. They were all very sweet, and after the tough old birds I'd worked with at school, the job looked like a snap.
"Then, early one morning, one of them whispered to me, 'My husband was here last night.' Well, you know how they tell you at school that we should not humor elderly people when they hallucinate. I told her that her husband was not with us anymore.
"But she just smiled at me, a real warm smile, and said, 'My husband was here last night.'
"I told the head nurse about it and she said it was one of the most common things you hear in nursing homes. Some old people are always being visited by a parent or a loved one who hasn't drawn a breath for 20 or 30 years.
"So I didn't think anything about it when the woman in the next bed started in with the same thing about a week later. And with two of them saying it, none of us was surprised when 'My husband was here last night' was the only thing we heard in the entire ward from breakfast until noon. Even two ladies who had never been married picked it up.
"Appetites improved right down the line. The doctor said it wasn't unusual for people to eat more when they were in good spirits. And although he reminded us that we had an obligation to keep the patients in touch with reality, their imaginations had really done them a lot of good. Ladies who had been tired and had long been content to gaze at the ceiling for hours took a new interest in reading and knitting. Some began to write letters to friends and relatives. They visited with other patients and grew stronger from walking about and eating so well.
"The minister who visited the patients every day said we were witnessing a Christmas miracle and preached a special sermon on it the following Sunday.
"No one thought of it as being spooky at the time because everyone was so content and happy.
"The shock came on Christmas morning: I noticed that not one of the patients had finished her breakfast. When the other nurse in my ward mentioned that not one of them had said, 'My husband was here last night,' the hair stood right up on the back of my neck.
"You talk about your psychic phenomena. No one on the entire hospital staff was ever able to explain it and I guess I asked all of them about it.
"All except our old night watchman, that is. The batteries in his pacemaker had melted down on Christmas Eve and he'd spent the night over in intensive care."