Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Signs and Omens of death

Supposedly, there are many signs or portends that announce a death is imminent. When I was writing my novel, Broussard Court, I researched a few and put them in the book. When a picture of the person falls for no reason, for example, or when a candle flickers and goes out without a cause, death is close by. I used both of those to foretell the death of one of my characters.

But I really didn't have to go any further than my family to know about death signs. My mother's mother's family knew all about them. I had heard about them all my life.

My mother's mother died when Mama was a baby, and since her father was an oilfield worker and couldn't tend to his three children, Mama was raised by her grandmother, Nancy Knight Wood, for whom I am named. When she was a little older, her mother's sisters took over the job. My great-aunt Ethel knew someone was going to die when she saw a big "ball of fire" hovering in the air. It wouldn't do to scoff at this idea; she could name the times and people whose demise was foretold in that way—including that of Uncle Jack, her sister Emma's husband. I used Aunt Ethel's 'gift'  in my story "Birth and Death in Shadow Cove" which was published recently in Elements of Life.  http://www.amazon.com/Elements-Life-Birth-Death-ebook/dp/B00BC7AEFG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373461767&sr=1-1&keywords=Elements+of+Life+Nancy+Gibson
My mother had a sign for death, also. She dreamed about mice. I don't know what in the world mice had to do with death, but it's so. I remember the time it was brought home, so to speak.

It was a hot summer day, and as was our habit after supper each evening, my parents and I and the next door neighbors were sitting in lawn chairs between the two houses, in the shade of the house, visiting. My mother was worrying aloud, because she had dreamed about mice the night before and was worried about who was going to die. The neighbors were interested and amused by her tale of dreams of mice meaning death. My father was outright scoffing at the idea, while my mother was telling of instances it had happened.

Then the phone rang. My mother went in the house to answer it. It was her family calling.

Her cousin Bud was closest to her in age. Her Aunt Emma had nursed both Bud and Mama when they were infants.  That hot summer day he had been fishing with a friend. The boat overturned and Bud had a heart attack and drowned while trying to swim to shore.

No one made fun of Mama's dreams any more.

Fortunately, I didn't inherit any 'gift' of foretelling death. I'm glad. It's something I don't want. But I like writing about such things. They are such a puzzle. There are so many 'why's, all unanswered.

There was at least one person in my lineage whose gift foretold good things, not bad. This happened just after the Civil War, the story goes, so it must have been Nancy Knight's mother, Rebecca Little Knight, who had the vision of her son standing in the doorway, leaning against the side. "It must mean he has been killed," the people around her said. "No," she replied. "It means he is safe and coming home to me." And he was. And he did. And leaned in the doorway just as the vision had foretold.

Happy visions and dreams!



  1. Nice entry. Despite my personal beliefs, I find reading about these things very interesting, especially when there's a bit of history and old time traditions involved.

  2. Thanks, Farah. At some point I'll do a post about folklore and traditions. If people all around the world have a similar belief, does it mean it came from a real happening?