Obah-chan’s Seven Peculiar (Mysterious) Events
Have you ever had the experience where you had a dream of someone you haven’t seen for a long time, but then the next day you run into that person on the street? Obah-chan (Granny) has had many incidents similar to this in her life. Whether you believe in ghosts, miracles or superstitions, she believes that there are plenty of phenomena in this world that are difficult to explain logically. Here are seven events that made her a believer of such phenomena.
One: After Three Telephone Rings
A very strange event happened at Obah-chan’s home in 1980’s. At that time, she was working as a secretary for an oil company in downtown Calgary.
Late one night, the phone rang unexpectedly at Obah-chan’s home, seemingly with a sound louder than usual that it startled her. She rushed into the living room to pick up the phone. She managed to pick up the receiver after it had rung THREE times.
She answered, naturally wondering who would phone this late at night.
“Moshi moshi (Hello in Japanese).”
She immediately recognized the voice – it belonged to her beloved father. She was flabbergasted to hear his voice as her father had passed away many years ago. He could not have possibly called her. Then it dawned on her that it wasn’t real and she was just dreaming, her active mind fabricating a conversation with her loving father while she slept.
Dreams often create very bizarre occurrences and this was no exception. Even though she was talking on the phone, she could see her father’s figure standing very close to her in the living room. His face was partially obscured by the darkness. The receiver was in his hand and he was looking directly at his daughter. Odder still, even in her dream, she recognized that it was JUST A DREAM.
Her father spoke to her in Japanese with a sad but convincing tone of voice and said:
“I came to take away someone close to you.”
She couldn’t believe what she heard. ‘Did he really mean what he just said? Who did he mean by ‘someone close? Could it be my husband or one of my children? Oh no!! Heaven forbid!!’ She began to panic. Suddenly, she felt an acute pain in her chest and began to cry and said to her father in Japanese,
“Oto-chan (Dad), please do not take away anyone who is close from me. I love them all so much and I would not be able to live without them.”
She begged him while clutching the receiver tightly in her hand. Watching his daughter sobbing in front of him made her father quite distressed. Then he tried to comfort her by quietly saying,
“Okay, okay. I promise I won’t take away anyone close to you. Don’t worry… Don’t cry… Yoko…”
Obah-chan thought she saw some tears in her father’s eyes as he said it. Then he softly placed the receiver on the phone and, promptly disappeared from her dream. So disturbing was her dream that she awoke from her sleep with a start. As she slowly gained consciousness from the haze of sleep, she began to hear her own sobbing as if from a distance. Awakened by her restlessness, her husband had also come out of his sleep wondering why his wife had been weeping in her sleep. This concerned him as he rarely saw her in such a state.
“Are you okay? Did you have a bad dream?”
He stooped over his wife and gently stroked her face with his hand.
“Was it just a dream?” she thought.
She looked up at her husband and stared into his eyes in the dark. Then she held him tight. She felt relief knowing that her husband was safe beside her. Then she said to him,
“I’m okay. You are here with me but how about our children? Are they safe?”
“They are sleeping in their own bedrooms. Are you sure you are okay?” somewhat alarmed by her question.
Obah-chan nodded feebly and finally calmed down knowing that nothing had happened to any of her loved ones at that moment.
‘Thank God! Everyone is safe.’ She muttered.
After seeing her husband fall back to sleep, she tried to go back to sleep herself. After all, within a few hours she had to be ready for work. Unfortunately every time she closed her eyes, she thought of the eerie conversation with her father. ‘What if the dream was a premonition and something would happen the following day?’ The thought of the possibility of losing her family members kept prevented her from sleeping the rest of the night.
The next morning, she went to work, but felt exhausted from the lack of sleep and the burden of worry. At her office by 7:30 am, she began her day by filing some documents in the cabinets. The cabinets were located in the hallway close to her desk. Halfway through her filing task, she heard the sharp ringing tone of the telephone on her desk. It echoed throughout the quiet hallway as most of her coworkers were not at work yet. It rang THREE times. It was ‘déjà vu’ to her as the ringing tone was exactly the same as the one in her dream. She rushed to her desk to answer the call,
“Good morning. This is Dome Petroleum. Yoko speaking.”
“Moshi moshi.” Obah-chan heard a woman’s soft voice through her receiver.
The phone call was from one of her Japanese friends who had lived next door to her. Ever since Obah-chan met her, they got along so well and treated her friend as if she were her younger sister. At that time, her friend had one year old son whose name was ‘Mah-chan’.
“Is there anything wrong? It’s still so early in the morning. Are you okay?” She asked her friend.
Suddenly her friend burst into tears and said to her in Japanese,
“Mah-chan fell down from our van and fractured his skull. We took him to a hospital in Vancouver. There is a chance that he could die from the injury. I don’t know what to do…”
Her friend began to cry uncontrollably over the phone for a couple of minutes. In disbelief from what she just heard from her friend, Obah-chan couldn’t find any words of comfort or advice to say. The awkward silence lasted for what seemed like hours. Then Obah-chan remembered the conversation she had with her father in her dream. Her father promised that he wouldn’t take anyone close to her. Believing his words and with confidence, she said to her friend,
“Don’t worry, Mah-chan will be okay. He is not going to die. Just be strong! I will pray for him.”
Hearing this, her friend calmed down a little. She probably needed to hear assurance in Japanese of her son’s survival from someone close to her. Obah-chan heard her friend mutter to herself, ‘he is going to be okay…’
Obah-chan wished that she could be at the hospital to be with her friend, but Vancouver is a fifteen hour drive through the Rockies or a one hour flight and further driving to get to the hospital. The boy’s accident happened while the family was on vacation in British Columbia.
After the phone call, Obah-chan prayed for Mah-chan and his family. A few hours later, she received another phone call from her friend. Her friend’s voice had completely changed, now brighter and hopeful sounding. She knew that there would be good news. This time her friend was sobbing with joy because Mah-chan was over a critical point and would survive after hours of being unconscious.
After she heard the news, she put her hands together on her chest and said ‘Thank you Otoh-chan (Father) for not taking Mah-chan away from my friend.’
That night, she thought about what happened to her during the past 24 hours. What a coincidence it was for her to dream about her father’s warning when her friend’s son was in critical condition in Vancouver. He appeared in her dream to take away someone close to Obah-chan. Mah-chan was indeed close to her as she thought of him like a nephew. How odd it was that the same ring tone of the telephone rang THREE times both in her dream and at her work before she answered the call? Was it a coincidence? In the dream, her father promised not to take anyone away from her. Because of his words, she was convinced that Mah-chan would survive. She realized then that the dream she had was a premonition.
Many years passed after this incident. Mah-chan, the boy who cracked his skull, was almost 40 years old. The last time Obah-chan saw him, he had grown up to be a heathy young man. No one would suspect that he had such a serious accident as a toddler.
Two: Father’s Last Good-bye
In another episode about Obah-chan’s father, it was 1978 and at the age of 72, her loving father passed away after suffering many years from stomach cancer.
In 1974, with her Canadian husband and two small children, Obah-chan visited her Japanese family in Utsunomiya. Her parents were quite excited to see their grandchildren from Canada for the first time. However, soon after they arrived, she had to deal with very sad news about her father. Her mother took her aside and informed her that her father was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. In those days, most of the physicians did not inform their patients if they had a terminal illness, leaving her father without the slightest idea that he was dying. Her mother asked Obah-chan not to tell anyone about her father’s illness other than her husband. She was taken aback by the bad news, but she managed to keep it secret and kept her promise with her mother during her family’s stay in Japan.
Unsurprisingly, the hardest time for her was when she was around her father. She was often struck with the compulsion to embrace him tightly and cry with him. But she knew that this was the last thing she should be doing with him. Instead, she made sure to make every minute with her father count. Her Canadian family also spent many hours with her father, including travelling to Tokyo and visiting various parks close to her home town together. She and family did their best to create wonderful memories with her dying father.
The time came too soon for Obah-chan’s family to leave Japan and return to Canada. Some of her relatives came to the airport to send them off. It would be many years before they could make the costly trip back to Japan. Before leaving for the airport gate, everyone gathered around her Canadian family. As always, Obah-chan began to hug the people who came to send her family off. Although hugging was not a Japanese custom, everyone in her family was used to getting a hug from her then. When she stood in front of her father, she looked into her his eyes, then embraced him very tight, knowing that it could be the last time she would see him. Then with a smile, she said good bye to her father. At that moment, she wanted to cry, but managed not to do so. When she took her seat on the airplane, an overwhelming sadness finally caught up with her and she at last shed the tears that she had held back for so long.
Two years past since her family’s visit to Japan when she received a letter from her mother. It delivered the news of her father’s passing. According to the letter, he died in April that year but her mother purposely delayed informing her daughter until May, but there was a reason for it. Her mother knew that Obah-chan’s husband was graduating in April from a university in Calgary and she didn’t want to disturb him during his crucial exam time prior to his graduation.
Though she already understood her father’s fate during her last visit to Japan in 1976, it was still quite upsetting to her. But the news in the letter still seemed unreal to her. She read her mother’s words countless times, filling her mind with endless fond memories of her father, at times she couldn’t help but cry. Her inability to attend her father’s funeral further heightened her grief.
In the letter, her mother wrote,
“We already had his funeral in April. So please don’t rush to come home now. If you are able come to Japan this year, do come around Obon (Japanese Day of the Dead which is August 15th) and visit your father’s tomb.”
The middle of August in that year, Obah-chan alone returned to her home in Utsunomiya.
On the ‘Day of the Dead’, the whole family in Utsunomiya visited the tomb of her father in Otawara, which was one hour away from her home town of Utsunomiya. Under a clear blue sky, Obah-chan kneeled in front of her father’s tomb stone, which was set among many of his ancestor’s tombs. She filled the vase with water and placed colourful flowers there. She then lit incense and placed the sticks in front of her father’s tomb while praying that her father made it to heaven safely. The scent of the incense hung in the air until the soft wind blew it gently away. The string of grey smoke seemed to rise all the way to heaven. She shed more tears there and said a final goodbye to her father.
When the family returned to their home in Utsunomiya to have dinner together that night, they talked fondly of her father and invoked many memories. When it was time to go to sleep, she went to the room in which her father used to sleep. The room was located in the left side of the house with a large window facing north. There was a tall lamp standing beside the window. Outside was dark and the moonlight seeped through the sheer white curtain into the room.
Tired from her commute from Canada and also to the cemetery that day, she lay down on the bed where her father used to sleep. Soon she fell asleep while immersed in the memories of her father. A few hours passed. Suddenly she felt something touch her shoulder. She woke up and opened her eyes to see what it was. But she couldn’t find anything close to her. Then she looked toward the window.
Lo and behold! Her father was standing right in front of the window. He was staring straight at her as if he wanted to say something to her. Obah-chan was startled and sat up on the bed. She still couldn’t believe what she was seeing and she rubbed her eyes. When she reopened them and looked towards the window again, she only saw the tall lamp by the window which was casting the long shadow on the tatami floor. She was puzzled and began to think that she mistook the lamp as her father’s figure. But she knew that wasn’t true because she clearly remembered the expression on his face. Also she saw what he was wearing. He stood right beside the lamp wearing his favorite yukata, a light cotton summer kimono. During the last trip to Japan, she saw him wearing it almost every night, the one with the blue pattern on the light white cotton fabric.
Her father appeared wearing his favorite summer kimono only a brief moment, but she understood that he came to say his last goodbye to her.
Three – Dream of Sister-in Law Tatsuko
When Obah-chan was still in high-school, her second brother got married in Imaichi-city. He had been living there for a few years after starting work for the provincial government. Around that time, the popular place for Japanese couples to have their wedding ceremony was at a shrine or a church. As for a wedding gift, unlike in Western countries, guests generally brought some money for new weds. The amount of the money was determined by how close in relation you are to the bride or the groom. However, her brother’s wedding was completely different from a typical Japanese wedding.
First of all, it was held in a large community centre. Obah-chan had never attended a wedding in such a place before. Second, no one was allowed to bring money as a gift. Instead each guest was asked to pay a very small fee to attend the wedding. This way, it avoided the pressure for everyone to bring a large sum of money. At the wedding, hundreds of guests gathered and celebrated her brother’s marriage.
Third, the attire of the newlyweds was not what everyone expected. The bride wore a blue business suite, instead of a traditional Japanese bright white kimono or a princess like wedding dress. And the groom? He had a dark suite with a tie, not a traditional Japanese black kimono or a tuxedo. Her brother and the bride dressed up as if it were their first day at work. Bright but simple. Funny thing is that unlike the newlyweds, all the guests showed up in lavish attire. Even Obah-chan bought a new pink knit dress for this special occasion, which she thought was quite appropriate for a wedding.
This wedding reflected her brother’s philosophy. He believed in equality in society from a young age. This was because ever since he was a little boy, he wanted to become a doctor. So he wished to attend a medical school after graduating from high-school. Unfortunately, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to such an expensive institution. With having seven children, it was very difficult for his parents even to send every child to a high school. Also his parents didn’t want to favor one child over another. Her brother’s dream to be a doctor was denied.
So right after completing his high school, her brother began to work for the provincial government. Around that time, he began to blame society for his misfortune of missing out on going to medical school. This likely spurred his eventual desire to join the communist party. Although it was more like a socialist party in any other part of the world, he hoped that by supporting such a party would give everyone an equal opportunity to obtain any education they needed or desired.
His desire to change society grew as he became older. While he pursued his dream for social equality, he met his wife Tasuko who also belonged to the communist party. She was a nurse in Imaichi City who lost both parents when she was young. She also had a very difficult time obtaining her secondary (or specialized) education. After they were married, she dedicated her time assisting her husband in order to change society. To accomplish this, she worked full time as a nurse, raised their two children, took care of the house, and attended all meetings and events held by the party. In those days in Japan, it was very rare for a woman to be doing all of that, making her a pioneer of the modern career woman.
Whenever Obah-chan visited her brother in Imaichi, her sister-in-law welcomed her wholeheartedly. Wearing a pair of dark brim glasses, she looked more like an accountant or a math teacher rather than a nurse. But her straight-laced appearance was deceiving. Obah-chan found her to be very loving and kind. Obah-chan liked her very much. She always thought that her brother found the perfect wife in Tatsuko.
Tatsuko kept everything very clean around her home. One particular habit Tasuko had, which is truly memorable to Obah-chan, was the way she brushed her hair. She would sit on a tatami mat in front of a kyoudai (Japanese low standing mirror), then took a clean gauze, folded it in half and patiently place it on her hair brush. Tatsuko used the gauze as a net to catch the hair and dandruff. Then she would cover her shoulders with a small white towel as to keep her clothes clean. After brushing her shiny black hair gently for a few minutes, she would carefully remove the gauze from the brush. Then she would take the small towel which covered her shoulder to the balcony and shook it to keep it clean.
It must have been close to 20 years since the day of her brother’s wedding was held. One night, Obah-chan had a dream about Tatsuko. Because she had been living in Canada for over a dozen years by that time, most conversations in her dreams were in English, and about the Canadian people living around her. It was getting very rare that her dreams were about relatives in Japan. So she was quite surprised, but very pleased, when she had a dream of her sister-in-law Tatsuko.
The dream was about her second brother’s and Tatsuko’s wedding. But this time, it took place in the home in Utsunomiya, not in a community center in Imaichi. To give more space for the guests, the fusuma (paper doors) were removed between three rooms. The house was full of guests, most of whom Obah-chan recognized, as they all were her close relatives, not like their actual wedding where she didn’t know most of the guests. Everyone was dressed up in formal attire and were enjoying the food and drinks placed in front of each guest on the black lacquered ozen (low setting portable table). Those tables were only used for special occasions such as weddings or funerals in Japan. She found herself sitting at the south end of the large room with her other brothers and the sisters facing north.
The bride Tatsuko was sitting with her knees together – the formal way of sitting in Japan, right in front of the tokonoma (alcove) in which the Buddhist alter was placed. It was located on the north side of the house. She was wearing a bright white Japanese wedding kimono with a tsunokakushi (Japanese bride’s hat). Obah-chan was surprised to see that she wasn’t wearing the blue suit. Tatsuko was sitting beside Obah-chan’s brother who was also wearing a formal black kimono, not a suit, facing the guests with a big smile.
She then gently bowed down looking toward Obah-chan’s direction with two hands placed together in front of her knees. This was a typical and traditional gesture of a Japanese bride before her wedding begins. She would be sitting alone with her parents in a quiet room and thank them for all the care they have given to her. And also to bid farewell as she would soon belong to her husband and would no longer be under her parents care.
As she bowed down in a traditional manner in front of many guests, Tatsuko briefly lifted her head and looked straight at Obah-chan, who vividly remembered Tatsuko’s impressionable eyes under the tunokakushi (Japanese bride’s hat), and her warm smile.
Obah-chan was very pleased that she dreamed about her sister-in-law Tatsuko that night. It had been a long time she dreamed about her brother and his wife. However, the following day, she received a long distance phone call. It was from her second brother. He quietly informed her that his wife Tatsuko had died the night before.
The life of the dedicated mother and wife suddenly disappeared from this world. She felt deeply saddened, but at the same time, she realized that her sister-in-law Tatsuko came to visit in her dream to say “good-bye” before she passed away – all the way from Japan.
Four: Tricks Played by Vera
Some years ago, Obah-chan’s church was looking for a volunteer who could take an elder lady to Mass every Sunday. The lady was living in one of the senior assisted homes close to Obah-chan’s house. So her husband volunteered for this task. Their children were married and had their own homes. This meant that Obah-chan and her husband had room in their car. Because of this, they had been taking one or two old women to the church every Sunday for many years. The name of the lady who needed a ride this time was “Vera”. She was about 85 years old, very strong willed, but was unexpectedly kindhearted.
From the first time they took Vera to the church, they got along very well. Every time they arrived at the entrance of her senior’s home, she would throw her arms wide open in her wheel chair and embraced both of them with a great big smile. She particularly loved being treated like a queen by Obah-chan’s husband when she got in and out the car. As soon as she was seated, she began to talk endlessly about her younger days, or what was happening in her old-folks home. She loved every question they asked, particularly about her youth. She had a smile from ear to ear while answering each question.
Nearly one year after they began to take her to the church. Vera’s health deteriorated rapidly and she was unable to go to the church anymore. But they kept in touch with her by visiting her at Christmas and Easter.
One day, her sickness worsened and Vera was taken to a nearby hospital. Obah-chan received a phone call from Vera’s daughter about it. So she and her husband visited Vera at the hospital with a bouquet of flowers to cheer her up. Vera was surprised but happy to see them and thanked them many times during the visit.
Around that time, Obah-chan needed to renew her driver’s license. A couple of days after they visited Vera at the hospital, she went to the vehicle registration office right after her work. The place was crowded. When she finished the paperwork at the counter, the clerk instructed her to have a new picture taken for her license. There was a photographer around the corner of the office. So she joined the people who were in the line and waited. When it was her turn, she sat down on the chair in front of the camera, but it seemed that the photographer began to have trouble with his computer. After a few minutes trying to fix the problem, he said to her,
“My computer suddenly stopped working so I can’t take any more pictures today. I’m terribly sorry. Could you please come back tomorrow?”
She was perplexed as she saw the computer was working for other people until it was her turn. She thought to herself ‘why did it suddenly stop working?’ But she didn’t have any choice but to come back some other time.
That same night, she received a phone call from Vera’s daughter. According to her, Vera became even more ill in the morning before passing away around 5:00 pm that evening. Strangely enough, that was the same time the computer stopped working at the license office. She clearly remembered the time when she dropped by the license office right after her work. She was startled by the coincidence.
Vera’s funeral was to be held the following week at the church. Her daughter asked Obah-chan to sing “Ave Maria” during the funeral mass. Apparently, Vera requested this a long time before she died. Obah-chan remembered how Vera loved to hear her sing. So she gladly accepted the request to sing for Vera.
The next day she went to the registration office again hoping that the photographer’s computer was being more cooperative. When she approached the photographer, he remembered her from the previous day and said,
“It sure was a strange day yesterday. Right after you left, someone else came to have a picture taken for the license. Funny thing is that even though we didn’t fix the computer after you left, it started to work again. We had more people come after that and it was functioning without any problem.”
Then he said,
“Only time it didn’t work was when I tried to take a picture of you.”
When Obah-chan heard the photographer’s comment, she was sure that Vera must have passed away around the time the computer stop working. If that was true, then it could have been Vera who interfered with the computer. She had many experiences such as this before so she was not surprised.
She sat in the chair in front of the photographer and finally had her photo taken. This time, the photographer didn’t have any problem with the computer and Obah-chan’s driver’s license renewal was completed.
Strange events continued to happen after Vera passed away. For example, the garage door at Obah-chan’s home temporarily stopped working even though nothing was wrong with it. Also, while at her office, her computer mouse stopped functioning while she was using it. She called a technician at work; but before he showed up, the mouse began to work properly.
She could have taken all these events negatively. Instead, she accepted them as Vera having fun and playing tricks on her, and each time it happened, she would tell her husband,
“It must be Vera again. She is trying to communicate with us.”
On Vera’s funeral day, the church was packed with relatives and friends of Vera’s who came to celebrate her long life. Vera's coffin was placed in front of the altar, which was surrounded by a bounty of colorful flowers. Vera lay in her coffin, wearing a faint smile, while many people lined up to pay their final respects to her. Obah-chan sang “Ave Maria” as she prayed for Vera’s safe path to heaven. The funeral went very well without incident.
However, Obah-chan and her husband’s drive home after the funeral was a different matter. As they approached their house, they noticed that two policemen in crisp dark blue uniforms were walking around their house. They seemed to be inspecting something. With curiosity, her husband parked the car in front of the house rather than drive it right into the garage. They both got out of the car and approached the policemen.
“Is anything wrong?” Obah-chan’s husband asked them.
“Are you the residents of this house”, one of the policemen asked him instead of answering to his question.
When he nodded his head to say ‘yes’, the other policeman said to them,
“We received a report that the security alarm at you house went off about 20 minutes ago. So we rushed here to inspect if someone broke into your house and triggered the alarm.”
Hearing that, they quickly unlocked the front door and rushed into the house to see if anything was stolen. Thankfully, the house was exactly the same as when they left a couple of hours earlier. Nothing was broken nor disturbed. Both policemen followed them. They walked around the house but couldn’t figure out why the security alarm sounded.
According to the report from the security company, only the alarm in the entrance went off – nowhere else. But there was nothing which could trigger the alarm there. Obah-chan and her husband looked at each other and began to giggle as they thought it happened because of Vera. The policemen looked at their strange behavior and were perplexed, but shrugged it off and they soon drove away in their patrol car.
Even more peculiar incidents happened before and after Vera’s funeral. For example, one of the toilets at Obah-chan’s home broke and needed attention. Also in another bathroom, which was rarely used, was filled with a strange smell even though no one went to use it. All those incidents were not serious nor costly to fix. Most of the time, Obah-chan didn’t do anything as they went back to normal within a few hours or a couple of days.
Until those occurrences, her husband never believed in superstitions. However, when he himself witnessed enough peculiar things happening after Vera’s passing, he began to believe in them. To the point that even he began to say,
“It must be Vera again causing this problem.”
After a month or so, everything went back to normal for a while. There were no problems with the garage door nor unusual incidents in their bathrooms in their house. Even her computer mouse at work returned to its proper function. Their life seemed return to normal for a few years.
Obah-chan’s husband had a sister named Kathleen. She was two years older than him and was single all her life. Except for travel, she never left Hamilton, Ontario where she was born. After both of their parents passed away, she moved into their parents’ home to look after the house. She also decided to take over the responsibility of caring for her younger brother whose mental capacity never grew older than that of a four year old. As the brother had a tendency to wander from the house at night, he was placed in an institution that housed Alzheimer patients. Kathleen understood that her brother still needed the care of his family, despite being institutionalized. So, she made sure that at least one of his family lived close to where he lived. She didn’t want her brother to feel alone and abandoned. Kathleen truly was a very kind-hearted person. A few years later, the brother whom she took care of for many years passed away.
Kathleen was a heavy smoker and had been suffering from a lung problem at the end of her life. When her sickness worsened, Kathleen’s younger sister, who lived in Calgary (a 4 hour flight away from Hamilton) decided to take care of her. She spent time with her dying sister even after Kathleen was admitted in the hospital.
One day, Obah-chan’s husband received a phone call from his younger sister who had been taking care of Kathleen. She informed him that Kathleen had passed away. Upon learning this news, Obah-chan’s husband, his younger sister’s husband and Obah-chan all rushed to Hamilton from Calgary.
Kathleen was not a religious person, nor did she seem to have many friends. Apparently, before Kathleen passed away, she asked her younger sister not to have a funeral mass for her. At this, the family that lived in Hamilton arranged for a small religious ceremony at the cemetery to honor her wish. This ceremony was to be held at the cemetery just before Kathleen’s burial.
The day of Kathleen’s burial began with a beautiful blue sky. At Kathleen’s house, the close relatives gathered around in the kitchen before they left to go to the cemetery. They had some tea and talked about Kathleen for a while. Suddenly, the kitchen window began to shake. Obah-chan’s husband peeked through it and said that a storm was coming. Obah-chan decided to go to the front door and check how severe it was. A strong wind was moving the trees violently and the rain began to pour down. Suddenly, it became very dark around the house. The strange thing was that the storm continued only for ten minutes or so then it completely stopped. Then a beautiful blue sky reappeared. They wondered that if that was Kathleen who came to say “good bye” to those who gathered at her home.
As the time approached to attend the ceremony, everyone made the ten minute drive to the cemetery where the ceremony was to be held. They drove through the gate of the cemetery and arrived where Kathleen’s family graves were located. Because of the storm they had earlier, the green grass on the hill was sparkling and reflecting in the bright sun. As the religion of Obah-chan’s husband’s family was Catholic, Kathleen was not cremated. So her body was placed in a casket, which was sealed tightly, for burial.
In the middle of the hill, Kathleen’s casket was already placed beside her parents’ and her handicapped brother’s graves. Under the casket, the earth was dug out, leaving a rectangle shaped hole slightly bigger than the casket. Kathleen’s casket was suspended above the dug grave by a few straps. Everyone gathered around the shiny black casket, which was beautifully decorated with many fresh white lilies.
The ceremony began as soon as the priest arrived. But just before the priest began to pray, a gust of wind swept away and surprised all who gathered around. Then another gust of wind blew again right after the ceremony had concluded.
The ceremony only lasted for fifteen minutes, but it was very meaningful to the attendees. In the end, each guest laid a white rose on Kathleen’s casket and said a final good bye. After the ceremony was over and everyone left the premises, the employees at the cemetery loosened the straps and lowered the casket gently into the ground.
Everyone moved away from the burial site but stayed close by to watch the entire burial process from a distance. They all wanted to be around Kathleen for as long as possible. After the completion of the burial, everyone drove to nearby restaurant for a late lunch and to talked about Kathleen and her life. At times, tears were shed and in others, there was laughter when funny incidents that happened in Kathleen’s life were recollected. They all enjoyed each other’s company as it was rare for them to be together.
Even though Obah-chan and her husband wanted to spend all afternoon with their family in Hamilton, they soon had to leave to catch 5:00 p.m. plane back to Calgary as they only took a few grieving days off before returning back to their work.
Upon arriving at the airport to catch their flight back home, yet another very strange occurrence happened. The weather was almost perfect until they went through the gate and got on the plane. As soon as they sat in their seats, a horrible rain storm struck again and the sky became very dark. They tried to look out the window. But all they could see was a sheet of rain hitting the window. An intense feeling of déjà vu struck both of them. After all, they had just experienced the same phenomenon at Kathleen’s house that morning. The storm was so severe that, for a moment, they thought the plane would not be able to leave the airport. And then, strangely as before, the storm stopped after ten minutes, just like in the morning at Kathleen’s house and blue sky reappeared, as if nothing happened. They were able to promptly fly out Hamilton airport. They looked at each other in amazement and said,
“I guess this is the very, very last good-bye Kathleen is trying to say to us.”
They looked up to the sun shining brightly in the blue sky through the window of the airplane and prayed for Kathleen’s safe journey to heaven.
Sixth: Brother’s Forewarnings
In December, 2012, the eldest brother of Obah-chan passed away in Japan. Unfortunately she could not attend her brother’s funeral as she didn’t have enough time to get to Japan to be there in time. All she could do in Calgary was to pray for him and his immediate family. How inconvenient, she felt, to live so far away from Japan.
The house in Calgary in which Obah-chan lived was built in 2002, so it was still fairly new and hardly had any problems. There had been no need to fix anything around the house. However, right after her brother’s passing, their house began to have many issues. For example, both toilets on the second floor stopped working properly, one after the other. In addition, the hall way in the basement flooded.
When the house was built, they made sure the basement was developed so the floor was carpeted the same way as the upstairs. So the flooding in the basement almost ruined the carpet. Her husband called the plumber right away and for a while, it seemed that everything was okay. But within a week or so, it began to flood again. Another plumber from the same company came to fix it. However, within another week, the hall way in the basement was completely flooded again. So her husband wound up calling the plumber three times before the plumbing in the basement was fixed completely. How odd that was, Obah-chan thought…
In addition, the garage door, just as it happened after Vera’s passing, stop working. It wasn’t due to bad batteries nor any mechanical problem. Having the same problems a few times when someone passed away in the past, Obah-chan began to think that her brother was quite upset because she didn’t attend his funeral.
Six months after her brother’s passing, she finally figured out the true reason for those problems. Mind you, this logic was only based on her superstition. One day in June, 2013, the water in the rivers which run through Calgary swelled suddenly and flooded most of the downtown. It happened so quickly, the city couldn’t react effectively to the natural disaster. Within half a day, the entire downtown Calgary flooded with up to several feet of water. The people who worked downtown could not gain access to their buildings for a week.
Until that day, she thought how lucky she was to live in a city like Calgary. Natural disasters couldn’t touch Calgary as there were no lakes nor sea around the city. And although the Rocky Mountains were close, there were no active volcanos.
She was completely wrong.
The sudden flood was caused by a rapid increase in spring temperatures, causing a swift melting of snow on the Rocky Mountains. In addition, many rainy days in June increased the water level of the rivers more quickly than the city expected. It was such a huge natural disaster that news of the incident was broadcasted around the world.
Fortunately, Obah-chan’s house was not affected as it was built on higher ground in one of the suburban areas. But they owned a condominium in the downtown area which once was their daughter’s home. Fortunately again, they suffered only minimal damage as the condominium was located on the third floor. However, the damage for the most of the residents in the affected area was very extensive. And generally the insurance didn’t cover flood damage. So many Calgarians needed to spend tremendous amounts of money to fix their homes, especially their basements. Also the residents were told by the government that anything that were in their basement affected by this flood needed to be thrown out for health reasons.
One day, while watching the news on TV, she realized that her brother wasn’t upset at her at all, but rather tried to warn her that a natural disaster was approaching where she lived. “Thank you my brother.” She said to him wholeheartedly.
Seven: 911 Terrorist Attack in New York
September 11, 2001 was the date that everyone remembers especially if you live in North America. The twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York collapsed one by one when hijacked planes crashed into the buildings. It was a coordinated attack on the US by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, killing over 3000 people and injuring more than 6000 others. The peaceful time after the Cold War with Russia suddenly came to a violent end. No one expected such terrifying attacks because of religious differences. The group of people who belong to Al-Qaeda sacrificed their lives to fight against the US that had created this new fear in the world.
Obah-chan remembered the day very clearly because prior to that day, she was experiencing many peculiar events. For many days, she had a strong feeling that something was going to happen, something horrible. And it did…
Being Japanese, she has a tendency to be a little superstitious. For example, if she were to see the number 4 (which means death in Japanese) or 9 (suffering) too often in her daily life, she cannot help but to feel uncomfortable. This was because she believed that those numbers were a part of the warning signs for unfortunate events. For this reason, she even tried to avoid having the numbers 4 and 9 in her phone number or in passwords.
Uneasy feelings began on August 31, 2001, eleven days before the dreadful terrorist attack.
Obah-chan clearly remembers that day. During her lunch break, she went to a blood donor clinic that was being hosted close to her office. She had been donating blood ever since her second brother, who lived in Japan, became ill and needed blood transfusions. Since she was living in Calgary, it was impossible for her to give blood directly to her brother. So she decided to donate hers in Canada as she thought at least this way, she could show her appreciation to those who gave her brother the blood when he needed it. She has been giving her blood on a regular basis after her brother passed away.
That day on August 31 at the donor clinic, there were many people lined up by the time she had arrived. At the reception desk, each blood donor was given a card with a number on it to control who would be next. After registering herself at the desk, she received a card numbered “44”. Even though she knew that she was being silly, she didn’t want to receive the card with that number. So she told the receptionist that she would come back later, and return the card to the receptionist. She then walked a few blocks around the building and went back to the clinic. The receptionist recognized her and was perplexed about Obah-chan’s behavior but she gave a brand new waiting card. The number she received this time was “56”. She felt relieved. Without any incidents, she donated blood that day.
However, starting on that day, she continued to see the number “44” everywhere she turned her head, especially while driving in her car. She saw the number “44” on clocks countless times, in the car, on the oven clock, on TV, and even on her bedside alarm clock. In one instance, when she awoke in the middle of the night and peered at the alarm clock, it showed the time of exactly 4:44. Although these could have just been coincidences, to her, this was a dreadful series of bad ones.
Not only that, peculiar events continued to happen. One day, she went for a walk with her friend during a lunch break. They were chatting happily while strolling around the neighbourhood close to their office when they passed one of the older houses and spotted dozens of large, black crows in the front yard making eerie sounds. What caught Obah-chan’s attention was the fact that she saw BLACK crows in Calgary. Until then, she typically saw more Magpies than black crows in the inner city. Magpies are like black crows but with white chest and are more pleasant to see. Rarely did she see completely black and glistening crows there. So when she encountered this flock of black crows, she immediately felt uneasy and stared at them intently. Her friend noticed the change in Obah-chan’s mood and asked her “Is there anything wrong?” Obah-chan was frightened to see the sight but began to walk without saying anything to her friend. She figured that no one would believe her superstition even if she explained it at length.
The next night she was watching the Japanese news on TV. The biggest news of the day was about a fire in Tokyo. Apparently, a four-storey building burned down the night before that trapped and killed four people.
Then, the following day, she watched a report about Ichiro Suzuki, a very famous Japanese baseball player. He began to play for the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and she began to see him in the news quite often on American TV. Apparently, he broke a record of some sort and the broadcaster referenced the number “144”. As she couldn’t remember exactly what that number represented, she tried to search for it through the internet many years later. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find any records which made reference to number “144” in his career in September, 2001. What she remembered clearly to this day, however, was that instead of praising Ichiro Suzuki for breaking the new record, she felt unnerved at the news.
The following day, a realtor took Obah-chan and her husband to some new homes in the North West side of Calgary. As their daughter-in-law was expecting their 2nd grand-child, they wanted to purchase and move to a house that was closer to their son’s family. The realtor also took them to 2 – 3 empty lots for them to consider building a new home rather than move into one that was already built. When they arrived at the second empty lot, there were dozens of large black crows flocking around the empty lot, flapping their shiny wings in the air. Obah-chan felt very frightened by this.
After that day, she continued to see the number “44” in countless places: on the clock, advertising on billboards, on the back of athlete’s uniforms on TV, etc. With this growing number of occurrences, she eventually felt more and more alarmed.
On September, 9th, she watched a spy movie in English on TV at night, a war movie and which contained the death of many. Of course, the movie’s dark and ominous tone didn’t make her feel any better.
Then just one day before the New York City terrorist attacks, she watched the actual footage on TV of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The American aircraft dropped a new arsenal from the sky and changed Hiroshima city within a second – a sight that no one could forget. She stared at the sight on TV when the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed one by one and turned into a pile of gray ash. She was horrified. As she went to sleep that night, she wondered when this unease feeling would stop.
It was the morning of September 11, 2001. Obah-chan and her husband left home in their car and began to listen to the news on the radio, as they always did on the morning commute to their workplaces. It was about 7:30. The radio began broadcasting the shocking news. Hijacked planes flew into the twin towers of World Trade Centre in New York and destroyed them. They looked at each other in disbelief, with Obah-chan recalling the imagery from the Hiroshima footage just the night before.
At Obah-chan’s work, everyone was talking about the same horrific incident of that morning all day long. As her office in Calgary was also located in tall TWIN TOWERS, each with more than 50 floors, her co-workers began to talk about the possibility of whether their own place of work might also be attacked by Al Qaeda.
When they went home that night and watched the visuals on TV of the attack over and over again, they remained dumbfounded, especially Obah-chan who had gone through so many peculiar events leading up to that day.
What was so strange was that after September 11, she stopped seeing the number “44” or large groups of black crows around her for a couple of years. She finally felt a sense of relief through this time.
She started seeing the number “44” again in the time just before the tsunami hit in Thailand in December, 2014. Once again and soon after that dreadful Tsunami, the numbers stopped appearing. She became weary of having these phenomena and told her husband “I don’t want to go through this again.”
Since those episodes, she now tries very hard not to pay attention to those unlucky numbers even though she may still see them on occasion. She consciously chooses not to have premonitions as they give her an almost debilitating feeling of helplessness. After all, there is nothing she can do even though something bad may happen. She would rather not to know than to spend her life waiting for unfortunate events to occur.