I was eight days shy of my seventh birthday when my grandfather, who lived with my family, suddenly past away of heart problems. I remember it being so fast and at my young age it was hard to comprehend what it all meant. I just knew that one evening I went to bed without concern and the next morning Grandpa John was dead. My parents keep most of the details of his death from my siblings and me for some time and it was not till I was much older that my mother began to reveal them. There was nothing out of the ordinary, he woke in the night with chest pain, my father drove him to the hospital, the doctors examined him and found he had an enlarged heart, they believed he would fine, but in the end he wasn’t and died. Though this tale could be retold thousands of times by families across the United States, this time it was my Grandfather, and I loved him. Was his end so pedestrian after he had lived a life full of experiences, accomplishments and love? No, Grandpa John’s death may have been common, but other events illustrate the extraordinary details of his passing.
Death is a part of life. Everyone must die. But as an anthropologist and a paranormal investigator, I have noticed that generally, with death comes mystical elements that all peoples regardless of culture, geography, and time will experience in some manner. Many of these elements or manifestations are even predicable to a point. I call them Impact Events: increased paranormal activity associated with any life experience or event that has a strong and widespread impact either physically or emotionally. A Impact Event can happen at a birth, rite of passage, a marriage, divorce, accident, reunion, illness and of course, death. Impact Events come in many forms such as electrical interference, audible phenomena, physical manifestations, visitations, precognitions, premonitions, clairvoyance, and coincidences.
Though hard to measure statistically, I believe that Impact events are widespread and common. One survey of the beliefs of the general United States population regarding paranormal topics was conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2005. The survey found that 73 percent of those polled believed in some type or aspect of the paranormal. With such a large percentage of the population favorable to the paranormal, one would think it would be easy for individuals to accept the association between death and Impact Events or the increase of paranormal activity; but it is not. This reluctance is even more perplexing when coupled to the fact that most cultures contain beliefs regarding the soul and how long it “lingers” with the living between death and before it passes over to the next plain. The healing of Lazarus in the New Testament is an example. Jewish beliefs at the time said the spirit would linger near the body for three days. Jesus did not raise Lazarus from the dead till the fourth day to illustrate that Lazarus spirit had “crossed over” and then was compelled to return to the body once he was completely dead. Though anecdotal, Ghostology would reference this Jewish belief to bolster the idea of Impact Events. Other details surrounding my Grandfathers death also illustrate this point.
As I have stated the factual details of my Grandfathers passing are unremarkable. But then there was his behavior the week leading up to his death. My Grandfather’s wife (my Grandmother) had died ten years earlier. I knew almost nothing about her. The family only spoke of her in passing and in very general terms. Her death was a painful one not only physically but emotionally for all at that time. But for whatever reasons, Grandpa rarely spoke of her and I don’t remember any images of her around the house, only in forgotten photo albums. My mother was surprised when he began to pull out old photos and reminisce of good times when he and his wife were young. The night Grandpa was taken to the hospital we believe he sat at his desk and viewed those images before waking my father. Of course, he was having chest pain that night, and possibly earlier in the week as well, though he never complained, but then there was that visit to the cemetery.
Just days before his death, Grandpa with my father visited the grave of his wife. As they stood and reflected he said, “I wonder how long until I am here”. This statement was very unlike him and my father reassured him that it would be a long while; he was still in his 60s. By themselves these accounts are not extraordinary, it seems obvious that he was lonely and he missed the woman he had loved so deeply. By themselves there was nothing paranormal, but then there was the doorbell the night after his death and the visitations that came years later.
That night, my parents had gone to bed understandably saddened and still in shock from my Grandfathers sudden death, but they were even more so after the doorbell went off and stuck twice during the night. The doorbell did not just sound but actually got stuck making an irritating metallic grind between the ding and the dong. My parents can verify that the doorbell has never repeated that malfunction in over 30 years. Coincidence? But then there have been the dreams where he has come to family members, or the night my brother arose in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and bumped into a dark figure wearing a black overcoat much like Grandfather wore. And then there was the man that introduced himself as my Grandfather to a woman with ties to the family, at the time she thought the man seemed different with the clearest blue eyes she had ever seen, but had no idea my Grandfather had been dead for fifteen years by then. My family believes he still to this day watches over us, especially in times of crisis.
I believe that Impact Events are common occurrences everywhere. Due to their highly personal nature and controversial subject I suspect that a great majority of them are never reported or even discussed outside family and friends. My ideas were shaped over many years of observation and study and I expect this is a factor in the many religious beliefs around the world and through time that explain the separation of the body and soul especially when those beliefs involve the soul lingering. I have spoken with numerous individuals about possible Impact Events and I am always amazed at the similarities in the accounts. I hope in the future our society can become more open towards these experiences as it will help in the ease of suffering and loss when a loved one passes but also to help the living gain new insights to what it means to be alive.