Tonight’s story, a true tale, was triggered by an item that I found in a storage trunk upstairs last night, as I searched for something else. The tiny red coat and cap, designed to fit a small child, was worn briefly by a member in my family that I know very little about. In fact, the coat survived decades longer than this wee girl.
Her name was Margaret.
Margaret Ann Lauderdale was born in 1941, the youngest of six children. Her parents, Dennis and Grace Lauderdale, were my grandparents. They welcomed this child into a family that already contained two sons and three daughters. My daddy, Curtis, was the child closest in age to Margaret. He was approximately two and a half years older than his baby sister.
Tragically, Margaret died in 1943, after eating grapes that had been sprayed for pests. My dad, who was with Margaret at the time, ate the grapes too, and although he became very ill, his body was bigger and stronger. He survived, something my dad felt guilty about for the rest of his life.
The five Lauderdale children. My father became the youngest, after Margaret’s death.
And that’s all I know about Margaret Ann. Her siblings could not talk about her, without great sorrow. My grandmother could not speak of her at all, even after many years had passed. I’ve never seen a photo of Margaret as a baby, or a toddler.
As I held the small red coat in my hands last night, feeling sad, I recalled that I had seen Margaret. At least, I believe that’s who I saw.
This is Margaret’s ghost story.
One Saturday, about eight or nine years ago, my family was gathered at my sister Debbie’s house, in Oklahoma. There was much laughter as we dined together, and swims in the backyard pool, and people constantly moving indoors and outdoors.
I wanted to use my sister’s computer and was waiting for an opportunity to grab her and ask her permission. As I stood in the living room, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and saw my sister cross the foyer at the front of the house and enter the dining room. I thought the woman was my sister. She resembled Debbie and had long dark hair.
I hurried to catch up with her and followed her into the dining room, which was where the computer was conveniently located, my question already escaping my lips. I was startled to enter the dimly lit room and discover it was empty. No one was in the silent dining room. Nevertheless, I looked around, searching the shadows. “Debbie?” I said, even though I could see she wasn’t present. I stepped back through the dining room door and glanced around the crowded living room. Debbie was sitting in a corner chair, in the living room, chatting away. She said she had been there for a while.
While I puzzled out who I had just followed into an empty room, Margaret…my long deceased aunt who did not survive her toddler years…came strongly to mind, the name like an echo of a whisper I could almost hear. I don’t have proof that’s who the spirit was. But since that day, other family members have seen her, in different houses, during different times. Margaret prefers to be near my sister, and others have noted the resemblance between the two.
In my family, ghosts are not a rarity. In fact, we have encountered more than one ghost named Margaret. I accept that the soul lives on, after the body dies, and sometimes, oftentimes, our departed loved ones are near us, sending us love, cheering us on, offering unseen but real support. I’ve experienced their presences too many times, to believe otherwise, and I am comforted knowing my grandparents or my dad or an aunt I’ve never met on this side of the veil visits me.
I brought Margaret’s little red coat and hat downstairs and gently hung them up. They are going to my sister Debbie on my next visit. It seems right for the coat to be with her…to be with them.
Beautiful Margaret, may your soul continue to explore and find the peace and joy that you barely had opportunity to experience in life. We, your family, love you.