Do you believe in Life after Death ? A very controversial question .
I have been thinking about Death a lot recently , both my own and Death in general .Having lost friends and family members in a relatively short space of time I suppose it is inevitatble that I have become increasingly aware of my own mortality . One of the things that has struck me the most is how quickly life goes on ; as of course it should . The sun still rises and sets , the buses and trains still run . The TV and radio still transmit their endless programmes and Twitter still tweets along. No one " stops all the clocks " ! it is almost as though the deceased never existed. The space that person occupied is filled with everyday trivia and they are only remembered in the hearts and minds of those that loved them .
Is this "Remembrance " what we mean when we talk about "life after death " or is it the children and grand children we leave behind......... each one carrying a small part of us , on and on into eternity ? Or is it something else ?
In 1976 my husbands work moved him to Southampton for a while . My parents already lived in West Meon , in Hampshire and worked as Cook/ Housekeeper and Butler to a titled Lady. We moved into the nearby village of Droxford , some 25 miles from Southampton. The " Lady of the manor " there had recently lost her elderly Cook and when she heard that the daughter of her good friends Cook had moved to the area ,she asked me if I would be willing to help out for a while . She had a staff of cleaners, a gardener and an occasional handyman , Cyril , who all said that she was lovely to work for so I agreed . Well, I certainly didnt expect to be cooking for Dinner Parties that included Dukes and Duchesses , Cabinet Ministers and the authoress Muriel Spark , as guests ! But I always seemed to manage and everyone complimented me on the food , so................
The kitchen ,as you can imagine was huge and was located at the side of this enormous house, next to a Butlers pantry , staff sitting room, laundry room,etc. etc. in a sort of Staff annex and the main part of the house was accessed by 6 wide stairs and a large double green-baize door . I was quite definitely " below stairs " Haha ! Quite often , in the evening , there was only me and "Madam " in the house . I was in the kitchen , preparing dinner and she was a considerable distance away in the drawing room at the other end of the house. Sometimes I felt aware of someone else in the hall , but I have always been a bit " fey " so after my initial apprehension I always ignored it and got on with the cooking.
One particular , hot Summer evening , I became aware of footsteps near the green-baize door . I looked up and saw a tall man standing at the top of the stairs. I thought it was Cyril , the handyman , as I knew Madam had wanted him to move a chest of drawers for her . I called out to him , asking how he was and commented on the very hot weather . He was wearing a thick riding jacket and tweed breeches with high leather boots and I thought this rather strange attire for the hot Summer evenings of 1976 . To my surprise " Cyril " didnt answer , he just stood for a while and then walked down the hall , past all the staff rooms and out of the back door ...................... and vanished ! Yes , really , just vanished ; no footsteps crunching on the gravel ........nothing !! I was suddenly a little shaky and went to Madam and asked if Cyril had visited . She told me that he had gone to Fareham , a few miles away and so the furniture would be moved the next day . Well, when I told her what I had seen she gave me a Brandy and asked for as many details as I could remember . She was , I must admit , rather excited about the prospect of her house being haunted and disappointed that the apparition had never appeared to her ! A day or two passed and I was beginning to doubt that I had seen anything at all .......... maybe it was just the heat . Then it happened again ! Exactly the same ! Strangely , I felt no fear, I just felt a sort of calmness and called out , "Hello , again ! "
Well, Madam was beside herself with excitement and she must have mentioned it to half the village , including the local Vicar , who came to see me a few days later , carrying a large book. First he asked me if I wanted him to " do anything " about the " ghost " . I suppose he meant exorcism !! I told him " No " , I was not afraid , that somehow I knew the " ghost " meant me no harm , it was not malevolent but strangely calming and kind . He then opened the large book . He had been looking through the village archives and doing some research and he had discovered that almost 300 years ago the house had belonged to a wealthy land-owner who was also Master of the Hunt and old plans of the house showed that , just beyond the site of the present day kitchen the Master had some kennels where he kept some of his favourite old hounds and apparently it was his habit to go to them in the evenings to check they were OK . He had been well known for his kindness to animals , which was not the norm in those days ! Then the Vicar turned a page in the book and there was an old etching of the very man I had seen ! Really , truly , the very same ! He seemed to smile at me from the page and I knew he had been happy in that house , with his hounds.
Perhaps when we die , we are all destined to visit the places we loved ; I do hope so .