Her Stubborn Lights

My grandmother had her favorite chair she always sat in at her house, where she'd knit or watch TV, read, entertain visitors. It was a maroon wing back chair, with an ottoman before it, piled with her many hand knit afghans she'd invariably have her legs covered with, keeping her ankles high on the ottoman because of her varicose veins that tended to thwart blood circulation in her legs. She kept a lamp on a small table next to her chair, the vase of which featured a peacock, whose feathers would light up when the lamp was on.  She kept her steadfast glass of iced tea and reading glasses on that table next to the peacock, and whatever magazine or book she had.

The night she died, she was found, of course, unresponsive in her chair. My father, who'd checked on her that evening when she'd not answered the phone, called 911 but it was already too late. After the paramedics left, my father went through her house and turned off all the lights, because Grandma kept every light on the house on when she was up; had done so since her husband had died thirty years previously. She'd leave the lights on even after Dad'd inevitably chide her that she was wasting precious electricity she couldn't afford to waste, what with her not working and living on a fixed income of social security and her husband's meager pension, but she'd have none of that (oh no!), and did what made her feel secure, and leave the lights on, higher electric bill or not. 

The next morning after my grandmother had passed, I came down to my parents' place, and my father and I went over to her house, just down the street, to collect whatever documents she had and stuff for the memorial service. When we got there, all the lights were on in the house. My Dad swore up and down he'd gone around to every room and turned every damn light off. We were both a little spooked being that he had the only key to the house, besides my grandmother. Had somebody broken in?  Was somebody in the house with us that very moment? We went through every room, slowly, stealthily, ready to attack (I grabbed a rolling-pin off the kitchen counter -- flecks of flour still attached -- and my Dad, more practically, a butcher knife out of the butcher block next to the fridge), checking closets and underneath her bed, even the attic, and nothing seemed disturbed or missing.  No home invaders turned up to attack.

Before we left, I went through the house and turned every light off myself.  The last light I turned off was the peacock lamp by her favorite chair.

My Dad started the car up, parked in the driveway of the house. After I got in,  he invoked the name of Christ, incensed, and then said to me, "I thought you said you were going to turn all the lights off," raw edge in his raspy voice.

"I did!" And I knew I had.  It was the last thing I'd done before locking her front door behind me.

My Dad sighed, shook his head.  

"Mawwwm," he said, drawing out the "ahh" sound like he was exasperated with her, as he had been with her, lovingly so, innumerable times during her long life.  He stared with a noticeable shrug of resignation through the windshield toward the house.  I turned and looked at the house too.  My mouth opened wide, but I didn't speak; mesmerized by the interior lights back on in grandmother's house, illuminating the cracks in her closed curtains.


  1. I love this story. I had to share this with my wife, who is a firm believer in spirits. Things like this really give me hope that there is something beyond the grave.

  2. Thanks, Bubba! Hope your wife enjoyed it too. My father and I have tried to rationalize the experience off over the years as being electrical shorts or something, but I know down deep that that was no circuit that had shorted out.

  3. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!

  4. And what a beautiful comment. Thanks, Marie!


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