This happened a few years back when my son was just 4 years old. He is now 10.
We had an old neighbor who just enjoyed talking to my son when he was a toddler. He was an old man who didn’t have a family of his own and stayed with a niece and her family. He was a kind man with a gentle demeanor, and every time my son was out to play he would be waiting on a bench outside his home, chatting with his young neighbor who was still babbling with his words then (he had a sort of baby talk that sounded cute). Maybe because my son was cute and bubbly and the old man (Uncle Fred, he was called) liked him a lot. We liked him back because apparently, my kid also liked talking to him. We were new settlers in the village, and Uncle Fred was just one of the first neighbors who welcomed us in.
My son loved to play outdoors, and every time Uncle Fred was out he would just watch the kids and chat with them. Despite the fact that Uncle Fred’s niece had quite a large family to keep him company, me and my husband could sense that he was in fact lonely most of the time. Going out of the house was an escape, and once he was outside it took him a lot of time before he went in again.
In a way, Uncle Fred was my kid’s playmate. He’d show his toy or ball to the old man and Uncle Fred would ask him questions or tell him stories. This is what I knew from my kid’s nanny at least.
The Catholic that I am, I’ve been always taught to pray for the souls in Purgatory. These are souls that have been saved by God’s mercy but have to undergo a place of purging, or Purgatory as we’ve been taught. I’ve learned somewhere that it is during Christmas time when most of the souls are released. So, it has always been my habit to say a prayer for them, especially for the people who are to depart from this world tonight. Creepy as it may sound, I do that every time.
Every Christmas morning, my husband, kid and I would go to my in-laws to spend the whole day with them. As I try to recall now, it was an early drive (about 6:30 am) because nobody seemed to be up in the neighborhood yet. As our car passed by the corner where Uncle Fred lived, we were met by the kindly old man. My husband slowed down the car and opened the window. We greeted him a Merry Christmas and he greeted back and waved to my kid who was seated at the back.
Uncle Fred was his usual gentle self, dressed in white shorts and sleeveless shirt. We wondered how such a kind man would choose to remain a bachelor.
So that day was spent in revelry and merry-making. We got back home late and my kid’s nanny recounted how her day went at home.
“You know the old man at Ate Vicky’s house? He died this morning,” the nanny said.
I was slightly surprised and saddened by the news. “Really? He looked strong and healthy. Was he sick? What time did he die?”
“Ate, he died at 4am this morning,” was the nanny’s startling reply.
My husband shook his head in disbelief. “That can’t be. Maybe you mean 4pm?”
The nanny looked at both of us and answered straight away. “No. He died this morning at 4am.”
It was my turn to shake my head, explaining this time our refusal to believe. “We just saw Uncle Fred this morning. He greeted us, we even opened the car window to greet him. He was flesh and blood.”
The nanny was stunned, her words seemed to be shaky. “What did he look like? Did you notice anything different about him?”
Come to think of it, we did. We noticed he was dressed all white. There was nobody else on the street that morning. He had the kindest face in all the years that we’ve seen him. Did that prove that what we saw was a ghost? Your guess is as good as ours!
To this day, I still remember Uncle Fred, and continue to pray for the souls in Purgatory especially at Christmas time.
A Blessed Christmas to All!