For nearly five years, I was honored to work in a field that I loved before a neglected back injury finally took me out of commission; that field was the funeral industry. Though entering this field with a scientific and learned approach, I found the spirits that wandered amongst the dead were many times more needing of attention than even the most decimated of bodies.
Having lived and interacted with spirits all of my life, I often joked that there might be spooks in funeral homes and cemeteries. I did this jokingly because, like many other sensitive intuitive and mediums, I held the opinion that no self-respecting spirit would want to hang out in a place that was seemingly full of depression. I am the first to admit that my unknowing opinion was grossly incorrect.
I had been told by several seasoned funeral home directors to be aware of voices I might hear while alone, but that I should ignore them. Thinking this was just a joke on their part as, in my opinion, these people could handle anything and were just pulling my leg, I seriously never thought I would hear anything—well, I was wrong.
Being nearly fifty years of age and worrying about whether or not I could keep up with the younger people and the male veterans of the field, I oftentimes pushed myself and took on extra duties. These extra duties sometimes kept me in the parlor late into the evening, helping out by filling urns or simply emptying trash and vacuuming the offices. On occasion I would set up the chapels for the next day’s services, moving in casketed bodies, floral displays, pictorial tributes, and boxes of tissues. No task was too large or too small.
My first encounters with spirits in the funeral homes were subtle, but unique, and prepped me for bigger and better interactions later. As most funeral homes are a labyrinth of hallways, corridors, rooms, and chapels, I did get lost in the maze the first few evenings I was allowed to work alone. I often heard footsteps or voices, and sometimes laughter, at these times.
On one of these first nights I had been asked to come in to help with some paperwork and filing. I had just completed the work my boss had asked that I do and was heavily focused on the papers in my hands and where they needed to go; as I wandered about the halls, I paid no particular no attention to where I was going. I looked up, realizing that I'd taken a wrong turn somewhere, and was a bit disoriented at not knowing what room I had walked into; I then heard the soft voice of a man utter, "Go straight, then turn right." Being still rather preoccupied, I thought nothing of it and even thanked the voice, not thinking about the fact that I was supposedly alone in the building.
As I followed the instructions of the soft voice and entered the office where the papers needed to go, the soft voice then said, "You're welcome" as I crossed the threshold; for some reason that got my attention. Stopping dead in my tracks, I quickly turned around to see who had spoken these words, and saw a glowing, smoke-like image at the end of the dark hallway; the image seemed to move as if it were acknowledging my seeing of it by bowing its head, then turning and drifting off into the darkness.
This made me realize that I was not alone, and that my preconceived notions of spirits not being in a funeral home were grossly incorrect. I allowed myself to open and connect with the spirits, oftentimes giving them someone to tell their troubles to so that they could move on, while other times it was I who was the recipient of their experience and wisdom.
One such time occurred on an evening when a director and I returned from a funeral away from the mortuary. We had presided over a service in a local church and needed to deposit the casketed remains in the safety of the cooler in preparation for burial in the morning. As I prepared to move the hearse into the safety of the garage for the night, my well-seasoned colleague stopped me and let me know that, as the hearse was a hundred thousand dollar vehicle, one of us would have to take it home for the night, then come back to get our own car. I thought this rather odd, as there was more than enough room in the mortuary's garage for the hearse; after all, that's where it was normally stored.
"Look at the garage doors, Mariah," he insisted. "Tell me what you see."
As it was very late at night and the mortuary's back flood lights weren't on, I clearly saw light coming from under and around the doors. I let him know this and thought nothing of it; someone just left the lights on in the garage.
"Then, no one's told you yet, have they. Girl—there are no lights in that garage, but there's something that shines that light; we just don’t know what. Things get moved when the light shines, and whatever it is won't allow us to open the doors, either," he calmly related. "Go ahead; try to get the doors to open. I dare you!" he laughed.
I went to do so, and as I approached the garage I felt as if I had just walked out into the backyard on a cold, grey, winter’s day in Wisconsin, just before a snow storm. The air was amazingly cold, but delightfully refreshing since it was summertime in our desert. I placed my hand on the garage door's handle, inserted the key, and it was immediately spit out of the lock as if it were an unwanted pacifier being spit out by a baby. I picked up the key that had landed just inches from my feet and reinserted it into the lock, trying to hold it in with force. Whatever was holding the door shut and illuminating the garage interior pushed my hand away with strong force and spit the key a good ten feet away from the door. This action brought my colleague to his knees, doubled-over with laughter.
Upon retrieving the key and assisting my colleague back to his feet after his brief reverie, he let me know that I would be the one responsible for the hearse’s safety that night; I would have to take it home and hope it fit in my garage. We hadn't completely locked down the mortuary for the night, so I sent him on his way after letting him know I would happily do my job and take care of the situation; I just didn't let him know what situation I was going to try to take care of.
After he left I made myself a cup of coffee and sat in the mortuary's living room to ponder the situation in the garage; I also didn't want the liability of having such an expensive car in my garage at home while my own vehicle was forced to sit out in the open on my driveway. During this seeming meditation, I saw images of what the land used to be before the mortuary was built, along with the people who used to reside there. I sensed that the spirit in the hearse garage just needed to be talked to and things would work out.
After washing up my mug and locking up the mortuary I grabbed one of the lawn chairs near the back door and sat by the garage doors to begin an interaction with the spirit inside. I did most of the talking, as the only sounds that came from within were an "I’m busy" along with heavy footsteps and the sound of things such as caskets, boxes, and tools being moved. I explained to the spirit things that I'd seen during my meditation, as well as letting him know that he was indeed deceased and could now complete his work and be at peace with loving family and friends on the other side. I also let him know that we really needed to be able to use the garage to be able to help others who had passed.
At that last point the illumination in the garage turned off, the lock on the garage door turned on its own without a key, and the door slowly lifted. To my amazement, the spirit of a man wearing bib-overalls, a cotton shirt, and a straw hat was standing there. He raised his hat as any gentleman would do to a lady to thank her, turned, and disappeared into the darkness.
I was then able to put the hearse to bed for the night, in the safety of its own little room, and drive my own car home. We never again had the problem of where to park the hearses, and no longer had to straighten up messes created by an unseen hand; no one ever again got the chills of a snowy winter around the building, either. But, more importantly, that spirit is at rest like he wanted to be and would have been had he known the truth. I learned that night, and had it confirmed many times, that ghosts were people, too, and if they’re spoken to with dignity and respect, they'll often return the favor.
Though these two little re-tellings may have supplied you with a case of the tingles, I assure you that not all interactions with spirits are like this. Spirits walk amongst the dead; they guard and assist with the passing of those confused about how to move on. They listen and guide when no one else can, while giving clandestine comfort to those who mourn. I have seen spirits stand by their own casketed bodies and mourning loved ones, reflecting upon their own lives while also giving comfort to those in pain. I have witnessed ancestral spirits arriving on the scene to assist in taking the spirits of their loved ones home to peace and love after a tragic accident, or just because they were hanging around not knowing what was going on, confused and lost themselves. Whether the spirit of a murdered son who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time at his demise, or the youthful image of someone who had suffered long through the ravages of disease later in life, spirits show up to help heal and comfort those they loved in life, oftentimes keeping them from being so distraught that they feel the need to take their own life, which the deceased doesn't want in any way.
Spirits have been seen by me and other people who work in hospice wards, nursing homes, and near the hospital beds of those who are getting ready to make that final journey. While many are there to assist in the crossing, some are there to prevent a mistake from happening. Several times I have gone into a facility to remove a body of someone thought to be dead, only to feel an unseen hand guide mine to check for a pulse where one shouldn't be. Upon finding a pulse I've quickly moved my removal cot out of the room in case the definitely-not-dead individual woke up (what ill person wishes to see their death cot next to them when they open their eyes?) before proceeding to find the nurses and ask if they were sure this was the person I was to take into my care. Upon receiving an answer to the affirmative, I would tell them to check again, which they would do, sometimes finding the supposed deceased sitting up and talking.
I must admit that this does not happen often and is extremely rare, but it does happen. Why, I don’t know. The machines were never malfunctioning and the nurses were not wrong when they called me, but something happened in the interim that brought the person back. Perhaps they just simply weren't ready, but had needed a view of what the other side looked like; perhaps God intervened and let them know it really wasn't their time yet. In any case, though extremely few in number, they weren't alone in their journey or their return and, I feel, had something more to give.
I was blessed and honored to be able to interact with many spirits and other entities during my tenure in the funeral industry; some were wonderfully dear, while others were just plain grumpy. You can read many more of my interactions with spirits of many kinds in my first book, Restless in Peace: A Psychic Mortician's Encounters with Those Who Refuse to Rest. This book, along with working in the funeral profession, was a labor of love that taught me many things, as did the encounters with the spirits. Though I have lived with and interacted with them all of my life, never was I ever as up close and personal with spirits as when they walked amongst the dead, but I certainly am now and appreciating every minute of it.