I grew up in a very rural area in West Virginia in a large two story house built by my grandfather. The house sat in a narrow valley with cemeteries located upon both opposite hillsides. One of these cemeteries holds my sister who died at the age of three, and having been born about four years after her death, I never knew her.
Another sister, also older than I, had a room across from mine and my brothers (we three shared the same room, which was larger than hers), both on the second floor of the house. One night when I was about six years old I awoke in the dead of night to hear my sister sobbing in her room, the sound muffled by her closed door. I lay for a long time listening to her, wondering if I should check on her and ask if she was all right (or wake one of my brothers to do it). Instead I simply lay there, somewhat paralyzed by the sound of the sobs as they ebbed and swelled.
I remember that at some point I realized goosebumps were chilling my arms, and pulled up my covers around my neck to warm them. I also remember that the sobs had at some point taken on a sound that I found hard to correlate with my older sister. They sounded too young for her. At some point I fell back into slumber and woke to the smell of eggs, bacon, and coffee being prepared by my mother in the kitchen below. I dressed and went downstairs.
Seeing my mother I quite casually asked, “Mom, what was sis crying about last night?” She turned to me with a stunned look on her face, halting her work to blurt out “What?” “I heard her crying really late last night, just thought you might know why, that’s all.” Her face had gone white as she stood motionless looking at me. “There’s no way you could have heard your sister last night” she said, “she stayed with her friend Tina out in Spring Valley.”
I could have swallowed my tongue, Spring Valley was over thirty miles away. The goosebumps of the night before returned to my arms at that moment. A moment that I both cherish for the realization of my possible contact with my deceased sister, and fear, for the very same reason.
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