The Woman in White

WMy Attendant Services aide had a friend drive her to our house one day when her car wasn’t working. This was seven months before Emma’s passing and just after we had situated her in the hospital bed in the living room. The aide’s young girlfriend had recently undergone surgery that sent a blood clot to her brain, so then she had to have a brain operation. After that she had a stroke (after she was at my house) that left her with limited mobility in one leg. While this young woman was here, however, she was sitting in the dining room with the aide and me and she was very antsy. She had to get up and go wait outside. One evening two weeks later our aide asked me if I knew the history of my house. It was built in 1894. I said, somewhat. She told me that her friend had to get up and leave because she saw in our dining room a woman dressed in a long white gown, “not a nightgown, but a long, white flowing dress;” the woman had dark hair.

I said, “Oh, The Woman in White. Everybody’s seen her.” (Most often walking in the yard between the two historic homes a few houses up, in the next block. And for generations. Her story has been published in books.) It gave me goosebumps. That is absolute confirmation of the existence of The Woman in White. This young friend of our aide was not from our town and could have no knowledge of the Woman in White legend. I had seen shadows in the house recently, assumed it was a ghost and let it go on its way. I had seen Emma smiling at or speaking to someone I couldn’t see. I rather assumed it was another of our deceased relatives here to visit Emma: “Cousins Alice and Doris were here today. Did you see them?” she would say to me a year or so earlier when she could still speak. One caregiver said that she believes the dead are more alive than we, because they are no longer inhibited by this tough material world. Many hospice and nursing home nurses have told me that it is quite common for their patients to see those long-deceased loved ones, and these nurses believe that the visitors are actually there.

About 25 percent of the population of our historic town are ghosts, it would seem. We all see them, especially the children see them. Most of them are friendly spirits; some, the children, are pranksters. I ask any who live in a historic home around here and each has a ghost story to tell. The Woman in White is probably the same woman and shadow that my next-door neighbor’s grandsons have seen in their bedroom opposite mine. A workman in one, unoccupied, of the aforementioned historic homes up the street would buy a small box of doughnuts each morning, set it on the kitchen stove and go about his work. When he returned to the kitchen, the doughnuts were set out, one on each of the burners of the stove (not lit). It’s somehow comforting to have this Woman in White. I had only sensed her since Emma began sleeping in the hospital bed in the living room.

My friend Jackie said, “Oh, that is so cool. … It is like she is attracted to people not well. A Caregiver.”

This fits because one of the two houses up the street was a former doctor’s office (with a leather floor in the examining room) and the other is said to have served as a Revolutionary War infirmary and later is thought to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Our Woman in White came to the end of her life long ago, yet kept on. It is as if she digitally remastered herself to continue comforting the ill.

Samantha Mozart

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