Ghosts of My Grandfather

My grandfather died in his church.

For many years he was vicar there, the ancient village surrounding it dating back to the Domesday Book (and possibly beyond). It was the kind of place that had a castle once, but ‘Simon De Montfort and his crew tore it down.’ Where the old manor house had fallen prey to post war neglect, where another old home had an indelible bloodstain by the fireplace, relic of misdeeds long ago.

My grandfather was a wonderful vicar. At least, that’s how I remember him. He preached love and tolerance, filling the church with vegetables and fruit at harvest time, the scientist and historian in him acknowledging traditions older than his religion. On Sundays, after the service and Sunday School and dinner in the old Georgian vicarage, he would sit at his desk and prepare his notes for next week’s sermon while I danced around the small circular table at the centre of the room, French doors open to let in the scents and sounds of the garden beyond.

He died when I was only nine, struck down by a massive heart attack as he readied himself for service in the small vestry. He was carried out through the packed congregation (which included my grandmother) and, several days later, laid to rest in the churchyard nearby. I still miss him (as I do all my grandparents), and feel glad I had the chance to know him for a few short years at least.

We sometimes visit the village where he lived, though I haven’t been for a couple of years now. It still slumbers peacefully among the fields, the small stream where I used to play Poohsticks with my grandmother meandering through the main street past half timbered cottages and Georgian houses. It’s a beautiful place and not much changed since I was small.

About eight years ago we visited, taking my husband and baby daughter to the church where my parents were married and my brother and I christened, a carved wooden memorial chair marking my grandfather’s years of service there. It was an auspicious time for me – coming out of a difficult spell after the birth of my daughter and reconnecting with my past, the trip we made to visit family in the UK was life changing for many reasons.

And so I stood in my grandfather’s church and I remembered. Singing in the pews next to my grandmother. My very-small-at-the-time brother deciding one day that he would rather stand with Grandad in the pulpit than sit in the pew (nobody minded). Taking my basket of apples up to the altar at harvest time, so heavy I had to use both arms to carry it. Years and layers of time and memory weaving around me. And then something, I don’t know what, prompted me to take out my camera. I held it up and thought (again, I don’t know why), ‘Grandad, if you’d like to be in this picture, please do.’ Then I paused for a split second before pressing the shutter.

And this is the image that appeared:

Church Interior

I don’t know how you feel about the idea of an afterlife, or our loved ones coming to visit after they are gone. I have my own opinions but I won’t bore you with them today. However, this photo seemed quite special to me.

Do you see the two orbs? The big one is directly above my grandfather’s memorial chair, while another seems to be ascending the stair to the pulpit. (it’s on the bottom step)

Church face image

And then who is this peeping around the pillar? The chapel to the right is called the Lady Chapel, and houses two very old and worn burials of a knight and his lady, their names lost to time. Did one of them decide to come back and have their picture taken?

I should go back, I suppose, and take another photo from the same angle. It’s a very old building, after all. Dust, tricks of the light and worn marks on the stones can sometimes present images that seem other than they are. So I leave this with you without further comment, although I’d be interested to hear yours.

46 thoughts on “Ghosts of My Grandfather

  1. I don’t believe in ghosts as such, but I do think we are perhaps reborn into another existence, whether you choose to call that heaven, the otherworld, a different time dimension, or reincarnation. I see the orbs, don’t know what they could be, its nice to think they were sent by your grandfather… And why not?

    1. Thanks Ali – I’ve never taken a photo like it before or since, so it was kind of a special moment. I suppose that’s part of the magic of life, the ‘what if’ moments 🙂

  2. What a lovely piece. And what a comforting hope that your grandfather might, perhaps, in some way have come back to “see” you. I don’t quite know what I think but I do clearly recall after the birth of each of my children smelling cigarette smoke very strongly. Each time it was only for a short time and in a very definitely non-smoking house. My father, who died before my children were born, was a heavy smoker (indeed, this is probably what caused the massive heart attack that killed him) and so…..maybe, just maybe….well, who knows!

    1. Thanks Louise 🙂 And wow, thanks for sharing your experience – definitely a ‘who knows’ moment and I would imagine quite lovely in a lot of ways. My grandmother had an arrangement with a friend that whoever died first would come back to let the other one know (which is a pretty cool arrangement, right?) Anyway, she swore that on the night her friend died, she woke suddenly to find her room filled with the scent of flowers and that her bible had been opened to a verse about eternal life. She didn’t find out till the morning that her friend was gone. I think perhaps these experiences are more common than we suppose, but just not discussed. So thanks again for sharing yours xx

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog, Suzie 🙂 I wasn’t sure whether to share it or not, but in the end it felt like the right thing to do. So it’s wonderful to see such a positive response xx

  3. Well I think it was absolutely lovely that your grandfather made an appearance to let you know he is just fine, bless him. Orbs are manifestations of spirits, which are pure energy (light). I find also find it fascinating that someone showed up in your photo; also the energy of spirit. I am so happy for you, Helen, that you’ve had this experience! Thank you for a wonderful post! Cher xo

    1. Thank you Cher! It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the photo – nothing was visible in the church when I took it. And the figure peering out at the side quite took me aback – there’s a pole in front of them and if you look very closely it’s almost as if their arm is around it. I really do need to go back and take another photo, don’t I? 🙂

      1. I bet it was amazing! I think it’s wonderful! I think the person peering around was probably someone who might have been a former parishioner, and was able to show their energy! Oh yes, Helen, you most definitely need to go back and take another photo (or 10!). I think it would also be really cool to thank your grandfather and ask him to show up again!! Cher xo

  4. I was visiting my sister recently and twice there was the smell of cigar smoke in the guest room were I was staying. I guarantee that neither my sister nor I smoke cigars. 🙂

    I’ve had enough strange experiences not to discount any possibility.

    1. Wow, that’s intriguing. And I’m with you – I’ve had several strange experiences myself that I cannot explain. It’s interesting that odours, like flowers or cigar smoke or perfume are often manifestations – I wonder if it is because our sense of smell is more sensitive than our other faculties. Food for thought…

  5. A wonderful story. I sometimes don’t know if I believe in ghosts, but I do believe in spirits. Maybe they are the same thing. My family lived once in a house that I swear was haunted. My mother said it was just my imagination and it was the house settling. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Almost every night I could hear the back door open and footsteps walking through the house to the front door. I could hear it open and close. I never seen anything. Didn’t want to. I was too busy hiding under the sheets. And of course it was always late at night when everyone was supposed to be asleep. Ghosts? Maybe.

    1. Oh my goodness! I would have been hiding under the sheets as well! When I was a child visiting my grandparents’ vicarage, I had a playroom upstairs in what had once been one of the servants rooms. I used to go up there and play quite happily, then the feeling of being watched would get stronger and stronger until I would just run from the room, down the stairs and into the living room where the rest of my family were. Thinking back, it never felt like a ‘mean’ presence, but it just spooked me so much 🙂 It’s been very interesting to see all the comments and read about other people’s experiences – I am definitely keeping an open mind about it all.

      1. That would be scary. Makes you wonder about all the times we felt like someone else was there and you didn’t see anyone. Stay safe and have a good day. 🙂

    1. Oh, thank you – that’s very sweet 🙂 I miss my grandparents too, even though I’ve been without them for years now. I feel lucky to have known them for as long as I did, but would love to be able to see them again. That’s why this was so special to me. I’m pleased it resonated with you too xx

  6. I was so privileged to meet your grandfather, my Uncle Reg, the week before he died. I had heard all the stories from my parents for so many years and remember that first afternoon tea so clearly. I stayed at the vicarage with Aunty Betty and so loved the whole scene. He was so gentle, soft spoken, kind and good. Precious memories. My mother has a painting of his in her bedroom – a yacht at sunset. Love this photo!

    1. He was the best. And do you know, a few years ago after Grandma died, I received a letter from her that she had written to me but never sent, recounting what happened that day when he died in the church. Uncle John had found it in her things and decided to send it to me, thank goodness. It is unutterably precious, as you can imagine. Mum and Dad have a couple of his paintings as well – it seems creative runs in the family, hey? xx

  7. I downloaded the photograph to my computer, so I could put it into a photo viewer and enlarge it as much as I wanted. It makes things easier to see than on the blog. I have gotten the orb photos only twice. I have tried with the same camera in the same place to reproduce the effect to no avail. Aug 2015 I shall post the new second photograph. The first was by my cats eating out of their dishes. The second is–by my cats eating out of their dishes! Maybe I am using the wrong bait to reproduce orb photographs. For the record, I am a full fledged ghost believer. I.ve seen them, heard them talk to me, felt ghostly paws walk on me, and am not crazy–my mother had me tested. Enjoyed this post.

    1. I’ve had some unexplained experiences myself, so don’t worry, I don’t think you’re crazy (though I enjoyed the BBT reference) 🙂 I’m hoping to go back to the church this summer and take another photo, because I’m also intrigued by the ‘face’ to the right. Whether dust or something else, the photo feels very special to me, and the orbs are certainly placed in significant areas.

  8. Thanks so much for putting the link to this post in your comments, Helen. It’s a beautiful story and only adds to my thoughts about what these orbs actually are. I’m not entirely sure if I do believe in ghosts and spirits, yet I have always believed that somebody (probably my Grandmother from my mother’s side) is watching over me and has helped me make the right decisions during my life. I’ve studied the photographs in this post and can only add that it is very mind boggling stuff. Until yesterday, I’d never taken a photo where an orb showed up. Now I’m going to be on the look out all the time.

    1. Thank you Hugh – I’m really glad you liked it and hope you don’t mind my sharing the link 🙂 And I agree about the orbs – once you’ve taken one photo you become quite keen to see more. I also feel the presence quite strongly of people watching over me, and have had some lovely communications that I can’t explain any other way.

    1. Thanks Sacha. I didn’t see anything, but I had a feeling that I needed to take the photo at that moment. It is cool, isn’t it? I really need to take another photo there and see what comes out.

  9. I love stuff like this, too! So glad you shared! Saw the orb left of the window instantly — but didn’t see the other magical images you mention. Either way, I think it’s wonderful when moments like this spur the mind through possibilities that stretch our perception of what’s “real”. 🙂

    1. Thanks Cynthia – I think I need to see if I can get a better quality image to upload but yes, as you say, the big orb is instantly visible. It is a very special photo for me, and certainly ties in with some other experiences I’ve had. I’m leaving it open to interpretation but, like you, I love the idea of challenging what is ‘real’ 🙂

  10. That is amazing Helen! I totally believe in orbs!
    My Pops always says thst my son has something special around him. It gets picked up by our spiritual leaders as if there is an ethereal spiritual force protecting him.
    One day when he was really young I videoed him doung his prayers. The orbs whizzing around him were unreal!
    I think that was your grandfather ❤

    1. Wow, Ritu, that’s amazing about your son!
      And thank you. I think it was my grandfather too. He did come to see me after he died, as did all my grandparents. That may sound odd but I can’t explain it any other way 🙂

      1. One holy man came to my pops one day at home and he said he envisioned a man on a horse protecting Lil Man. Not any old man, but the person he could see was an image of one of our Gurus!
        It makes sense to me. He can be very Zen and spiritual… of course he’s 12. He has tween meltdowns but it seems like things always work out for him… maybe it’s true!
        You’re blessed to have had your grandparents around… I only knew my maternal ones… and even then, my grandfather was taken from me when I was just 6… xxx

      2. That’s amazing, and must be quite comforting to know that someone so powerful is watching over him 🙂
        And I do feel very lucky to have known my grandparents, definitely. My daughter even got to know her great-grandmother for a few years, which was a gift indeed 🙂 xx

      3. You’re right there! My kids had their great grandma from my hubby’s side for a few years before she passed on. Grand parents are invaluable! 🙂

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