When my husband and I first married, we lived upstairs over the funeral home that’s on Main Street in Savannah . . . the one that recently had an apartment for rent . . . only not the apartment we occupied. We were in the one that was once the abode of my great-grandmother, Loura Paisley Shackelford—the place she spent the last 20 plus years of her life. Of those last 20 years, some of them found her bedridden in that apartment, and on October 4, 1960, she died—in that apartment.
Since then, several other folks had occupied the space with no weirdness going on—at least not that they mentioned. And I won’t say we had an abundance of weirdness. Just the occasional unexplained event. Like when I leaned the broom against the kitchen cabinets so I could wash the dishes and it decided to scoot in my direction. Not fall. Scoot. Or when the lamp on the end table in the living room just came on one night while we were lying in bed. All by itself.
Now, we manufactured explanations for both of those events . . . plausible, natural explanations that we convinced ourselves were the case, mainly because my great-grandmother never had much of a sense of humor (at least not that I was aware of), so the possibility of her playing tricks seemed remote at best.
Fast forward forty something years and I’m sitting in bookkeeping at the new funeral home, reading all the comments that were made in response to the apartment that’s for rent in the old building. Granted, I did note that you should realize it’s haunted (not because it really is but because that’s what everyone assumes), but several people mentioned that as a reason they would never live there. Of course, even more said it didn’t matter and some were actually excited by the prospect. What most people don’t realize is that, given the history of the world and the number of years people have inhabited the planet, you probably can’t put your foot down somewhere that someone hasn’t died.
For instance, what would you say if I told you that two people have died in the lounge at the funeral home in Savannah? Obviously, it wasn’t the lounge then; it was an apartment which served as the residence of my parents and, for a period of time, my maternal grandmother. She departed from what was their den and what is now the area in front of the coffee pots. My dad? We were fortunate enough to be able to keep him at home during the last years of his life—home being the apartment. His hospital bed was set up so he could look out the window . . . the window that now sits between the two upholstered chairs in the room with the vending machines. And that’s where he was when he took his leave on November 23, 2009. For my mother we had moved a bed into the living room from an upstairs bedroom since the stairs might as well have been Mount Everest. Her last breaths were drawn in the room that’s on the other side of the lounge wall, the one that requires a key to open the door because it hasn’t been converted into business space yet.
See? One small space and three demises in the span of less than 25 years. Imagine what happens when you multiply that by the population of the world up until now?! You find yourself back to my previous observation . . . you probably can’t put your foot down somewhere that someone hasn’t died.
So why am I making everyone aware of this –this which may be extremely disconcerting to some of you? Because it’s a fact and it’s true and it is, despite our feeble attempts to circumvent it, the inevitable end for most everyone who walks the earth. I say most because, according to Biblical history, two mere mortals were not required to meet Death on his terms.
I’ve often told folks the dead will never hurt you; it’s the living you have to worry about. I still stand by that statement especially since, in all my years of wandering the halls at night in a building filled only with the deceased, they’ve never offered to bother me (if any of the employees get any ideas just be aware—you probably won’t have a job afterwards), although I do believe Dave Hayes and now Charlie Baker rummage around in the tool box in the garage some evenings. Am I going to declare, without reservation, that ghosts truly roam the earth? No. No, I am not. But I’m also not going to say they don’t.
I’d just as soon none of them show up to prove me wrong.