73: Mysterious Visitors

73: Mysterious Visitors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Mysterious Visitors

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth unseen, both when we sleep and when we wake.

~John Milton

For many years now we have hosted Christmas at our home. We invite close friends and family to take a chair at our table and share in the good cheer of the holidays. Before we eat, I am usually called upon to make a toast, and often raise a glass to absent friends and family. An old custom suggests you set one more place at the table with an extra chair in the event of an unexpected visitor at your door. It also serves to remind us of those who can only be with us in spirit.

For as long as I can remember, our front door opens by itself on Christmas Day. There is no set time, but I can usually count on it around the time of the opening of presents. You might think there is an explanation behind the mystery of this strange occurrence — a gust of wind, a guest not pushing the door closed. However, I believe it is a visitor. The door is not left ajar in order for this to happen. By the time we are aware of this presence the door is already beginning to open of its own accord. Our conversation stops and we all take a breath as we watch the door slowly open inward. There is no sound of footsteps and one of us usually gets up to close it. We have no clear explanation as to why this happens, but it does not seem menacing.

The first time we had one of these visits was not at Christmas, though.

It was an early summer’s evening in the first few weeks following our daughter Christina’s birth. She was in the crib in her room, asleep, and my wife and I were settled in for the evening in front of the TV. Suddenly, I saw a featureless, grey form move quickly in the periphery of my vision. It took a moment for it to fully register, but the figure was clearly headed toward the stairs to my daughter’s bedroom.

“What was that?” Lydia asked. My heart skipped a beat when I realized we had both witnessed the same thing. I jumped up and ran quickly to the stairs. My first stop was the baby’s room, but our daughter was sleeping soundly. There was no intruder there. I closed her door and tore through the rest of the rooms on that floor. I even raced into the bathroom and threw back the shower curtain. I looked inside every closet. The entire top floor was as it should be. There was no one there.

I was visibly shaken when I went back downstairs, where Lydia anxiously awaited my return. I told her I had found nothing. We sat together then, and thought about what had just happened. We were still emotionally raw from all the events that had led up to Christina’s birth. You see, my father had died only a few days before she was born. I buried him in the middle of my wife’s labour. I needed some time to say my final goodbye at the funeral, but Lydia’s labour had begun earlier that day. We can’t explain why, but her labour stopped and did not start up again until I returned to her. I was thankful for the time to say goodbye to my dad, but what happened with my wife’s labour was strange.

During the birth we were on a roller coaster of emotion, overjoyed for the new life about to take a first breath, and at the same time saddened by my father’s passing. I knew he tried to hang on in order to meet his new granddaughter, but his illness had run through his body like wildfire. This birth was a powerful reminder of the old wisdom that one life sometimes has to make way for a new life to begin. We were witnessing the great circle of life firsthand.

As Lydia and I discussed the shadow we both saw, we considered my father’s passing and wondered aloud if something of his essence might have returned for a brief visit. I won’t say it was a ghost, but similar stories have been told by others. We did not realize what a strange turn of events was in store for us until Christina’s first Christmas.

The baby was resplendent in a beautiful, red Christmas outfit. A first Christmas Day in a new house is magical for so many reasons, but it is even more so when celebrated with your first child. Our daughter was mesmerized by all the twinkling lights on the tree as we began to place her presents around her day cradle.

Something wasn’t quite right, though. I could not quite determine what was happening, but the atmosphere in the house changed. I looked up from the sunken living room and noticed the front door slowly opening as if a hand was gently pushing it from the outside. My wife was busy with opening Christina’s presents and had yet to see what kept me from joining in. I walked over to the door, and Lydia looked up and asked if I had opened it. I told her it must have been a breeze, the only excuse I could think of at the moment. It took me a moment to close the door, but once I had the room began to feel normal again. The baby was looking in my direction, with just a hint of a radiant smile on her face. We have no clear explanation as to what this was, or why this happened.

Two years later our son Donny was born, and soon again it was Christmas Day. I was on the floor setting up a toy train set when, again, the door opened as quietly as before. This time, we were not as disturbed. In fact, it has happened now like this on this special day for so many years we would be more concerned if it didn’t happen.

Now at Christmas when our front door seems to open of its own accord, my family stops for a moment to consider if it might be the essence of a loved one who has returned for a brief visit. We have come to believe it is a visitor from our past. I like to think it is my dad. This may be an unsettling prospect to some, but not to Lydia and me.

Unlike Scrooge’s hasty denial of what he was witnessing and George Bailey’s unwillingness to see the truth, my family has an open mind to our intimate connections to the universe, and beyond. And if, perchance, your door should open of its own accord on Christmas Day, you might say a silent prayer for a loved one you would give anything to see at Christmas again.

~Don Jackson

Whitby, Ontario

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