Wednesday 13 December 2017

The ghosts from my long-suffering family are no longer haunting me

Take time today to remember your dead: it took thousands of them to make you who you are, writes Miriam O'Callaghan

Friendly spirit: My grandmother says she saw her dead mother knocking on the door
Friendly spirit: My grandmother says she saw her dead mother knocking on the door

Miriam O'Callaghan

Summer 1906. In Glasgow, the world's biggest ship, the RMS Lusitania, is launched. In Paris, Captain Alfred Dreyfus is exonerated.

In Cork, my grandmother is at home, rinsing a pan after warming milk for her younger siblings at bedtime. She is 12. It's been one of those golden evenings where even the trumpet-playing angel on St Fin Barre's Cathedral is molten. As she runs the solitary tap in the house, there's an urgent knocking at the door.

Her father gets up from his paper, makes sure the bedroom door is closed, puts his arm around his eldest girl. Together they stand at the front window as the rapping rings around the house. Outside, there's a young woman. As usual, she's looking directly at them. My grandmother knows she will hear the knocking as long as she sees the woman. The woman is her mother. She is dead a year.

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