Thursday, December 31, 2009
From Death-Bed Visions - The Psychical Experiences of the Dying by Sir William Barrett, Chapter 4 Visions seen by the Dying of Living Persons at a Distance - in some cases Reciprocal
This case is taken from Phantasms of the Living, Vol. II, p. 253:
"The lady who sends us the following narrative occupies a position of great responsibility, and desires that her name may not be published, but it may be given to inquirers:
"'When I was eight months old, my mother's youngest sister, Mercy Cox, came to reside with us and to take charge of me. My father's position at the Belgian Court as portrait painter obliged him to be much abroad, and I was left almost wholly to the care of my very beautiful aunt. The affection that subsisted between us amounted almost to idolatry, and my poor mother wept many bitter tears when she came home to see how little I cared for anyone else. My aunt took cold, and for three years lingered in decline. I was a quick child and could read well and even play prettily, so that I was her constant companion day and night. Our doctor, Mr. Field, of the Charter House, greatly disapproved of this close contact, and urged my parents to send me quite away. This was a difficult feat to accomplish, the bare mention of the thing throwing my aunt into faintings. At last Mr. Cumberland (the theatrical publisher) suggested that I should join his two daughters, Caroline, aged 16, and Lavinia, younger, at Mrs. Hewetson's, the widow of a clergyman resident at Stourpaine, in Dorsetshire, who only took four young ladies. This was represented to my aunt as something so wonderfully nice and advantageous to me that she consented to part with me. My portrait was painted and placed by her bed, and I remember how constantly she talked to me about our separation. She knew she would be dead before the year of my absence would be ended. She talked to me of this, and of how soon I should forget her; but she vehemently protested that she would come to me there. Sometimes it was to be as an apple-woman for me to buy fruit of, sometimes as a maid wanting a place, always she would know me, but I should not know her, till I cried and implored to know her.
"'I was but nine when they sent me away, and coach travelling was very slow in those days. Letters too were dear, and I very rarely had one. My parents had sickness and troubles, and they believed the reports that I was well and happy, but I was a very miserable, ill-treated little girl. One morning at break of day - it was New Year's Day - I was sleeping beside Lavinia. We two shared one little white tester bed with curtains, while Caroline - upon whom I looked with awe, she being 16, slept in another similar bed at the other end of a long, narrow room, the beds being placed so that the feet faced each other, and two white curtains hung down at the sides of the head. This New Year's morning I was roughly waked by Lavinia shaking me and exclaiming, "Oh, look there! There's your aunt in bed with Caroline." Seeing two persons asleep in the bed I jumped out and ran to the right side of it. There lay my aunt, a little on her right side, fast asleep, with her mouth a little open. I recognized her worked nightgown and cap. I stood bewildered, with a childish sort of wonder as to when she could have come; it must have been after I went to bed at night. Lavinia's cries awakened Caroline, who as soon as she could understand, caught the curtains on each side and pulled them together over her. I tore them open, but only Caroline lay there, almost fainting from fright. This lady, Miss Cumberland, afterwards became Mrs. Part, wife of a celebrated doctor at Camden Terrace [and now deceased].
"'I never talked of what had occurred, but one day after I had returned home, I said to my mother, "Do you know, Mamma, I saw Auntie when I was at school." This led to an explanation, but my mother instead of commenting upon it, went and fetched her mother saying to her, "Listen to what this child says." Young as I was I saw they were greatly shocked, but they would tell me nothing except that when I was older I should know all. The day came when I learned that my dear aunt suffered dreadfully from the noise of St. Bride's bells, ringing in the New Year. My father tried to get them stopped but could not. Towards morning she became insensible; my mother and grandmother seated on either side of her and holding her hands, she awoke and said to my mother, "Now I shall die happy, Anna, I have seen my dear child." They were her last words.
"'(Signed) D. E. W."
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