It was the first school day after the Easter
Holidays. I was frantically getting my two children
ready to leave when the phone rang. My Mother-in-law
Frances was calling from Newcastle to tell me her
husband John was going into surgery that morning. She
was a bit worried about the heart operation. I wasn't.
My Aunt had the same surgery earlier that year and it
was so successful she was walking around in days. I
insisted my husband Tim call his dad at the hospital
before the operation. Tim wished him luck. He wasn't
worried either. "See you after the operation" said his
But something went wrong. John's heart was in much
worse shape than they realized. They put him on life
support while deciding what to do. Tim and his
brothers and sister rushed to be by his side. Tim's
brother Chris had a dream of his father panicking,
saying he didn't want to die. But he did. The next
We were all shocked. John was such an active man. He
was involved in all sorts of groups The wine club. The
Friends of the University group.Even after he retired
he was doing volunteer work for them. He was an avid
birdwatcher. He subscribed to cycling magazines. And
That's what he, my husband and I and my eldest son
Justin shared with him- a love of science. I remember
having heated debates with him and his friends about
things like God and ESP and such. While I was
passionate about science, I also believed in these. He
and his friends didn't.
When he died I started grieving. This was a surprise
to me. I didn't think I was capable of it. When my own
father died 6 years before I hadn't felt anything.
With John it was different. We had mutual respect and
although he wasn't sure about me to begin with, he
became enthusiastic about all the things I was getting
into, especially when I started teaching science to
year two's. He loved that. And I was VP of the P&C. He
was proud of that too, because I was working on a
survey on the future of our school. He was proud of
every member of his family and enthusiastic about all
One night I was lying in bed and thinking of him and
crying, when I imagined my father speaking to me. He
was very angry. "How dare you grieve more for him than
you did for me! I'm your father. If you don't stop it,
I'll really give you something to grieve about. I'll
kill one of your children!"
I didn't know whether he really said that or if I was
just imagining what he'd say, but either way, I wasn't
going to take any chances. I didn't go to Newcastle,
and I tried very hard not to grieve or cry.
Anyway, that Friday I was quietly working on a report
of the survey when I felt John's presence. I covered
up the computer screen. "Don't look!" I pleaded. "I
don't know what I'm doing in this section yet!" I'd
always felt intimidated by my father-in-law. He could
be quite pedantic sometimes and his standards were
high. (Once he gave me a ten minute lecture when I
said "Octopi instead of Octopuses).
That's when I realized what I was doing. I was acting
like he was really in the room with me. This is how we
would normally behave together. It must be him. I
asked him what he was doing here. "Just trying out my
new body" He said. I remembered how the minute my
father died all the power in the hospital went out.
So I said "Tell you what- when everyone's gathered
together at your house tonight- cut all the power to
the house. That way I'll know you were really here and
it would prove that ghosts exist." Then he was gone. I
wasn't sure he heard me.
I was then covered with a sense of joy. See, I wasn't
grieving anymore. How could I? He, he was alive, was
happy and he was himself. He wasn't gone. And if I
wasn't grieving then my father wouldn't be angry, and
my children would be safe. It was a miracle!
That night I anxiously phoned Tim in Newcastle. "Had
there been a blackout?" I asked. Puzzled, he said no.
My husband doesn't believe in ghosts , so I didn't
explain too much. I guess John hadn't heard me after
Anyway, three days later my children and I went to
join my husband in Newcastle for the funeral. During
the eulogy a family friend said how much John loved to
travel and how he always carried a torch wherever he
went. He only needed it once but he was really
thrilled when he finally got to use it during a power
outage at a holiday home he and his friends rented
during their last trip. That was just like him- always
After the funeral everyone gathered together, but I
was exhausted and went to the granny flat to take a
nap. About an hour later my niece Zoe and son Daniel came
to wake me up. There had been a power outage. The
whole block was in darkness. The children took me into
the living room, where everyone was sitting around
with lit candles all around them. They were telling
ghost stories, of all things. My brother-in-law Chris
said "Ah- Carmen! You're here. Tell us a ghost story!"
I couldn't speak. How could I tell him he was in one?
I did tell him later though, and that's when he told
me about his dream. He was glad his
father was OK.
So that was the last thing my father-in-law and I did
together- a science experiment from beyond the grave.
I think he'll have to agree I was right about the
paranormal after all!
I never sensed him again.
copyright Carmen Lambert 2003