"Now, if you feel that you can't go on,

Because all of your hope is gone,

And your life is filled with much confusion

Until happiness is just an illusion,

Darling, reach out......

I'll be there

With a love that will shelter you.

I'll be there

With a love that will see you through."

Following are a series of ADCs from Johnny, my former fiancÚ who was killed in action in Vietnam in April of 1968.


About two weeks after Johnny died, I began to have a terrible dream that recurred almost every night.  In that dream, I saw a specific and horrifying thing happening to a Marine, I saw how he died, and I thought I was dreaming exactly how Johnny had died, and that the military was not telling us the full facts.  This dream continued for a couple of months, and upset me so badly that I literally shut down hard on remembering dreams and to this day rarely do.   What I have found out now, in 1999, is that there was another Marine who was with Johnny at the time Johnny was severely wounded -- that Marine was killed outright, and he died in exactly the same way as what I was dreaming in 1968.  I now know that in those dreams, I was seeing the last conscious sight Johnny had in this world.  It was not that he ever wished me to see such a thing, but the link we had was so strong that things did come over from him to me at times without his intent

In the Spring of 1969, about 11 months after his death, there came a period of time, it lasted about a month, during which I could feel his presence so strongly -- he was alive!  There had been some mistake, and he was alive after all, and had come to the town where I was living, the last address he had for me, and was trying to locate me because I had moved from that address.   It seemed to me that he would be able to do so, that he would find out where I was working at a department store, and he was going to come there to talk to me.  This feeling was so strong, I was so certain of it, the sense of his presence was so powerful, that when at work I began to have panic attacks if my work took me out of sight of the elevator doors -- I just feared he would not see me and would leave.  Every day, all day long, I was so sure I would see him...on the job, or on the street.   Of course, against this sense, the knowledge of his death which I had no reason to doubt was a powerful thing, too....before long, I was taking tranquilizers to go to work.   After about a month, I simply could not stand this, I was on the verge of a breakdown, so I quit the job.  Now I finally realize he WAS there, he HAD come to me, no doubt at those times he was right next to me, and I was sensing it, but misunderstanding it.   

The problem then was that I could not deal with my grief over him -- the pain of losing him, the feeling of being adrift and alone in life, terrified me, I could not handle it, and so I began to avoid that anguish by successfully repressing thoughts of him...in any case, I had no idea then that contact was possible with loved ones who had passed on. In the Fall of 1992, all those repressed emotions spilled over and I began, after 24 years, to truly grieve the loss of Johnny -- the contact which became recognizable to me as communication started in late spring of 1993, about 7 months later.

But in reality, now that I can think back and know what to look for, the first recognizable ADC from Johnny was in the Fall of 1986...around October -- it was the first dream I'd had of him in about 18 years.


1. The Dream -- October, 1986
I dreamed that I was in a restaurant in Northern Virginia -- it was a restaurant I had actually been to once. Johnny was there, we were seated across a table from each other in a dimly-lit booth. I was angry with him because he had let me and his family believe for so long that he was dead, which obviously had not been true. I also was angry with him for coming back into my life now...I was married, I had children. Johnny explained that he was there to explain it all to me. He told me that the longer he went in Vietnam, the more disillusioned and upset he became over how the war was being handled. After his best friend Ernie (whom he had grown up with) was killed the end of January 1968, Johnny said he felt he was going crazy. By the time he got the word about Ernie, Johnny's battalion was enduring the Siege of Khe Sanh which lasted more than two months. It was over in early April of 1968, and the Marines were then sent out on patrols in the surrounding hills. Johnny said he had decided to just get out, leave.

He said that, on one of the days when they encountered some combat, he came across the body of a Marine who had received severe head wounds. Johnny said he took this opportunity to exchange all his ID with this dead soldier, and that he then continued for a while in Vietnam under this assumed identity. When I asked him "Didn't someone see you do this?" he told me that "Buddies don't 'rat' on buddies." He continued with his story: he had left Vietnam not too long after this incident. Upon arriving in the States at San Francisco, he went AWOL -- still under the assumed name of the dead soldier, who was buried as Johnny. He said he went to Mexico for a while, and then to another country where he requested entry into a monastery he knew about. He said that he now realized he had been really "crazy" and that what he had done had been wrong, but at the time he was convinced that, because his life had been spared while so many friends including Ernie had died, that he should spend the rest of his life praying for their souls. He now felt he should come out of the monastery, that he needed to see his parents again and make right what he had done wrong. He was hoping I could help him with all this.

The dream began to fade at this point, it seemed as if I was coming up, up, up from some deep place...I could hear Johnny telling me that his name in the monastery was "Brother Narciso" and that the name of the place where the monastery could be found was "'Arrivilas" (I knew at the time that I was missing something at the first part of this word).

[I made some attempts to check out this story. The USMC Historical Division told me that it would not have been impossible for a soldier to exchange ID and assume a name as this Dream had described, the Marine Corps has heard of stranger things that in fact were true. Of course, I didn't tell the Marine Corps that I got this idea from a dream!  The name Brother Narciso and place Arrivilas continued to puzzle and haunt me because I didn't know how to check them out.]


2. First ADC -- late April 1993
While riding the Metro train from Alexandria, VA in to Washington, DC to work one morning, I was sitting with my eyes closed, about half-asleep. All of a sudden, I got a brief but extremely clear visual "flash" in my mind -- I saw Johnny running...he was a slight distance from me and running toward my left. He was wearing fatigues, carrying a rifle in his left hand and holding his helmet on with his right hand, and had something strapped to his back. Others were also running. Behind them, I saw geysers of dirt flung in the air from explosions of some kind. And Johnny was laughing! At the same time I had this "flash vision", I received a jolt of emotional feeling about the scene, and it was a feeling of crazy, incredible joy and good humor -- a "Yahhhh! Ya missed me!" feeling. It was gone as quickly as it came, and left me very confused, because the last thing I associated with Johnny in Vietnam was a "good time" or anything being fun or exciting in a good way. It did not make any sense to me, especially because it did not reflect MY feelings about Johnny in Vietnam, either.


3. Second ADC -- May 30, 1993
During the whole spring of 1993 I had been doing my best to recall memories of Johnny. I would often sit at home or on the train to work, close my eyes, and replay in my mind some of the times we'd had together, trying to bring his face clearly into my memory-view. On this day, a Sunday, I was in my livingroom on the sofa and closed my eyes to relax a few minutes and recall one of those memories. Instead, I again got a "flash vision". I saw Johnny facing me, standing a little to my left. He was wearing fatigue pants but was bare above the waist. When I looked at him, he turned his head as if to direct my attention to the direction he was looking, which was to his left (straight ahead for me). Behind him was a wide, shallow river. In the middle of the river, turned sideways so as to face upstream, was a wooden cart and two oxen (I thought) hitched to it. There were a couple of people in the cart who were wearing conical straw hats. On the opposite bank were trees and a few other people standing around as if waiting for the ones in the cart to finish crossing. As I looked at this tranquil scene, one of the oxen stomped its hoof -- I clearly heard the "kerplonk!" sound of its hoof striking the water, and for a brief second I smelled the musty scent of the river water. Then the whole scene blinked out and was gone.

[A year later, in May of 1994, I was contacted by a man who had been one of Johnny's best friends in Vietnam and who had seen my request in a publication seeking men who had known him. In one of our conversations, and without mentioning how I had the information, I described the above river scene to him and asked if it sounded like a place he remembered. He told me it did, that in fact, along this river was where Johnny had been wounded his first time -- sunbathing by the river until suddenly they were fired upon by artillery hidden in the trees on the other side of the water.]


4. Third ADC -- June 16, 1993
While taking my morning shower, I suddenly recalled watching Johnny play basketball -- a Junior Varsity game that my 7th grade teacher wanted to see, so he took the whole class to the gym for it. In recalling this memory, I also remembered how embarrassed I had felt when I realized that I could see his underarm hair when he raised his arms out on the court. Just as I recalled this, I suddenly had the sensation that my lips were pressed against his neck, I could actually taste and smell his basketball-sweaty skin. Immediately, there followed a very clear "flash vision" of Johnny just finishing his shower in the boys' locker -- I could see him from his chest up, he was just turning off the shower tap, and his hair was soaked and dripping, his eyes squeezed shut with water running down his face. Then I saw his hands coming up with a white towel, which he rubbed over his face and hair and around the back of his neck. I saw his face emerge, his hair sticking up in little "spikes", and he flashed a grin. Then this scene was gone.


5. Fourth ADC -- November 6, 1993
A Saturday, and I was up early in the AM. Sitting on the sofa, writing a letter to a close friend and trying to describe my thoughts about Johnny. By this time, I was well underway in investigating his death, including trying to find out all I could about monasteries in Spain (going back to that Dream in 1986 and finally figuring out how to follow through). I had just written in the letter how odd and strange it felt to live so many years after he had died, all the things I have experienced that he never got to experience. I summed up by writing: "It is an abomination to be alive without him," and then sat back to light a cigarette and think what I wanted to say next. I lit the cigarette, it was the first in a just-opened pack. And my mouth was suddenly filled with a wonderful, sweet taste -- I thought: "Sweet!" Then I recognized the taste -- it was Sandalwood perfume. Sandalwood is my most favorite scent, ever since I first smelled it in high school. This cigarette tasted like Sandalwood perfume smelled -- and quite strong! Puzzled, I sniffed the pack, but it didn't smell like Sandalwood. I sniffed my purse, but it did not smell like Sandalwood either, so obviously I had not spilled any perfume into it or had a leak. I did have a small jar of Sandalwood perfume in my bedroom but had not used it in some time. I had just been in the kitchen, so I went in there, too, and sniffed the things I had touched. No scent. Came back to the sofa, the cigarette still tasted like pungent Sandalwood, and its smoke was perfuming the air. Well, what had I just been doing? Writing. I looked at the letter paper and saw what I had just written...."It is an abomination to be alive without him." And then I suddenly realized that I had next thought "Sweet!" In the instant, what came to me was that Johnny had somehow read what I wrote, and somehow made my cigarette be perfumed  with Sandalwood to tell me that what I had just written was "sweet". The thought hit me that maybe he was sitting right there beside me or something, and I literally leaped away from the sofa in shock...standing out in the middle of my living room, shaking all over, and then I burst into tears, staring at the sofa. The cigarette -- it was still lit and sat burning in the ashtray -- I rushed back to the sofa and grabbed up that cigarette and took a deep drag and then began wafting the smoke over me with my hands. It felt like a "blessing" to me, and I wanted to wrap myself in it.  About that time, my housemate got up and came out to the living room. Quickly, I handed him the cigarette and said "Try this and tell me if you notice anything." He took a drag on it, looked at me and said with much puzzlement, "Barbie, it tastes like some kind of perfume. Why is that?"

In nearly 14 years of smoking this same brand of cigarettes, I have NEVER had one taste like any kind of perfume. Nor have I ever tasted perfume in these cigarettes since that one time. [Besides Sandalwood being my favorite scent, I have since learned that Sandalwood is the incense used in Vietnam for funerals and burials.]


6. Odd Things Happen
After this early-November ADC experience, I began to notice my two cats behaving strangely at times. One or the other or both would gaze at some spot in "mid-air" with intent interest, even on occasion climbing onto a table or other high spot so that they could get closer to whatever it was and sniff at it. My theory began to be that Johnny was present, and that the cats could sense or see him although I couldn't.


7. Fifth ADC -- November 14, 1993
By this time, I was ready to really know what was going on. Before I went to bed this night, I had a "little talk" with Johnny, addressing him in my mind as if he could hear me. We'd had a telepathic connection when he was alive, and the things that were happening had so much the same feel to them, that I had to believe that somehow we were in contact, but to me this meant it was most likely that he had to be alive somewhere, perhaps after all in that monastery. I had to know. And I thought that if he could "send" me so many different kinds of manifestations, then perhaps he could also "come and see me", like astral traveling (if he had been in a monastery, he'd had plenty of time to practice). I told him that I wanted to see him.

After I had been asleep about an hour, I woke up to hear a crackling sound like electrical fizzing at a faulty outlet or someone crumpling cellophane. Actually, I was asleep but awake in my dream and not realizing it was a dream. I sleep with my right foot outside the covers, and I felt a hand lift my foot up gently. I knew it was Johnny, although the room was so totally dark I could not see him. I felt him sit down on my side of the bed and then lean over me so that his hands were on either side of my shoulders as I lay there. No words had been spoken. I wiggled my arms out from under the covers and reached up my hands, and I could feel his neck and shoulders, but I could not see him at all. I ran my hands down his arms, and then down the sides of his waist to his hips. That was when I was startled to realize that he was apparently not wearing any clothes -- he was shaking with silent laughter...his joke, to appear to me finally, sans clothes but invisible! I became very prim with him, told him I had asked him to come because we needed to have a serious talk and I could not have that kind of talk with him unless he was dressed -- would he please go get some clothes on and then come back so we could talk?

He seemed a little regretful that I was not appreciating his joke as much as he did, but I picked up that he understood me and that he would return. Before he left, he leaned down and kissed me twice -- not in a romantic way, but very firmly, and I sensed that he did it this way because he wanted to make sure I could feel it. Then he was gone, and in my dream I fell back asleep.

And was wakened shortly again by the crackling sound and my foot being lifted into the air. This time, I could see him -- he was wearing something like a one-piece coverall that seemed to be dark brown. I got out of bed and we sat together on the side of the bed. Suddenly I was tremendously excited -- he was really, really here! It was just a miracle, something magic! If he could come here and visit me, what else could he do? My mind began racing wildly...gee, could he snap his fingers and turn something into gold? All of a sudden, I picked up from him that he was feeling uncertain and shy...he was not "magic", he could not do things like that, and my thoughts were making him start to worry that he would not be "enough" for me, that he was somehow going to fail me. Immediately I was remorseful...it was just that it was all so amazing to me. He must never think that he, himself, just being there, was not much more than enough for me.

And we had to have that talk. But then I noticed that he had a small streak of something just above his upper lip. I touched it with my index finger -- and it clearly was blood. I said, "Johnny, you're bleeding there, are you hurt?"

He wiped at his upper lip with his hand and looked at it, then kind of grinned and said, "Oh, it's nothing. Just before I came back here I was over in Soldier Grace horsing around with some of the guys, must have gotten bumped on the nose."

Then we both heard a noise outside the window in the parking lot. It sounded like breaking glass. Johnny asked, "What's that?" I got up to look out the window, saying, "Oh, sometimes the neighbors are a little noisy."

And then I woke up -- Really. There was indeed a sound of breaking glass outside, someone throwing a bottle. I wrote down "Soldier Grace" so I wouldn't forget it -- the sense I got from his words was that this "Soldier Grace" was a kind of spiritual therapy/recreation place or condition that he and other soldiers who had died in Vietnam had access to.

And because I understood that Soldier Grace was a spiritual place, this was a pretty big hint that Johnny was truly dead and not in a monastery, even though we never did really talk.


8. Sixth ADC -- week of November 15 - 20, 1993
My TV reception had been just terrible for about 2 months. Some kind of interference was frequently causing lines in the middle of the screen and "staticky" noises that would come in and out and block the sound. The same thing was causing static on the radio. My housemate and I had tried everything we could think of, such as plugging these devices into other wall sockets, even by extension cord to sockets in another room.

On the Sunday after having that marvelous visitation dream, it occurred to me that Johnny had gone to electronics school while in the Marine Corps and had been a radio operator in Vietnam -- maybe he could somehow figure out what was causing this problem with the TV and radio and fix it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, I sent him a mental message, describing the problem as I saw it, asking him to try to take a look and see what he could do. I set a timeframe, telling him that if the problem was fixed in 2 days, then I would know he had done it.

By the end of the second day, the TV and radio were interference free, and I continued living there more than a year with never a repeat of the problem.


9.  Seventh ADC -- February 12, 1994
On this day, I finally talked with someone who had known Johnny in Vietnam. This was the man who had been his Commanding Officer (CO) when he was killed, and this man became the first of several of Johnny's Vietnam friends whom I was able to find and talk to. This officer had been only a few feet away when Johnny had received the mortal wounds that he died from an hour later.  I asked to know, if he could handle telling me, exactly what had happened.  He described how they were on patrol, and that he and Johnny and others were waiting on the side of a ridge while a smaller group went higher to take a look.  This CO advised Johnny to get down into a B-52 bomb crater nearby, as it could provide some protection similar to a foxhole, in case anything happened.  Johnny and another radioman got down into the crater.  The CO said that they never heard the mortar fired (usually, a "popping" sound could be heard), that the ridge blocked the sound.  Just before the explosion, the CO had glanced over his shoulder at Johnny and the other guy in the bomb crater, and in telling me about it, the CO said, "..and immediately there was this explosion, and I just instinctively threw myself at Johnny, because __"

-- at this point in the CO's narrative, I interrupted him and finished his sentence, "because Johnny had taken off his helmet."  The CO made a choking noise over the phone and said "How did you know THAT?  I never wrote that to Johnny's family."  And I said, "I don't know how I knew that, I can't say I DID know it, but as it was coming out of my mouth, it feels like I've known it forever." 

[There is no way I could have either known or guessed that Johnny had removed his helmet that day, thus exposing himself to a mortal wound that otherwise likely would have only concussed him if he'd had the helmet on.  At the time I spoke with the CO, there were many fine points about soldierly life in the field that I had no knowledge of.  For example, I knew that the men were issued flak jackets and helmets.  And, from what I knew of the military, I assumed that they were under orders to wear them at all times, or certainly at least when on patrol or out where there could be action.  In fact, this WAS the rule, so if I had thought about it I would actually have been correct.  My point is, I had no reason at all to think that Johnny would have been "allowed" to remove his helmet when out on a patrol, and I didn't know that the guys commonly ignored such rules.   So this information did not come from my knowledge, and it was not a guess.   Someone put the information into my mind just as the CO reached that point in his narrative.]

After this phone conversation and the details he provided, I could no longer continue to think or believe that Johnny might somehow be really alive in a monastery somewhere. It was depressing to have that hope crushed, but on the other hand I was not very surprised...I knew it had been a long shot.


10. Eighth ADC -- February 14, 1994

This day was a Monday. When I left work at the end of the day, I had to walk a long city block to get to the Metro station to catch the train home. Since the phone call talk two days earlier with the former Commanding Officer, I had been puzzling over that Dream of 1986...why did I have such a clear Dream conversation in which Johnny had told me he was in a monastery? Obviously, he wasn't in one. As I walked down the street, I was asking these questions in my head, and...lo and behold, I started "hearing" answers!

This "hearing" was not with my physical ear -- I was thinking those questions in my head and another voice was coming in right on top, so that there were "two voices talking at the same time" in my head, and one of them wasn't mine!

At that point, it didn't even cross my mind to think it was not Johnny talking to me.  I did not hesitate to question the reality of this, I was so full of curiosity and interest that I just "went with it".  The substance of the conversation, which lasted about 40 minutes, is as follows:  

I wanted to know why he had talked to me about being in a monastery in that Dream. His answer: "Well, being here, is pretty much like being in one." We talked about the day he died -- about how he had been so badly wounded because he had removed his helmet moments before the mortar exploded and he was struck in the head with a large fragment of it. The reason he had taken it off: it was a hot day, and he was feeling the heat...he knew he really shouldn't remove it, he was being very careful and cautious because he only had 5 more days to go before coming home...but he also did not want to appear to the other guys to be "ridiculous" about being cautious...and for himself, he did not want to let fear rule him to the point that he wouldn't even do a simple thing like take the helmet off for a couple of minutes to help himself cool down...so he took it off. He now refers to himself as "Brother Narciso" in sarcasm, since he feels he was just like Narcissus of Greek mythology, so involved with his own image of himself that he didn't do what he needed to do to survive. In the brief talking we did about this, I sensed that he could hardly stand to think of it, to think about what he did that basically caused his death. He really was not ready to talk about it.

We talked about the fact that we were now conversing "mentally", basically I supposed it was telepathy but wondered how it worked. He was not sure himself, he thought maybe something like radio waves.

Things he said indicated he was at that time very hung up on what he was missing in this life -- he spoke about missing the physical enjoyments. I had the idea that yes, he did miss those things, but that he also was saying so out of consideration for me.  But he also said that some true pleasures of being where he is are that one does not have to be afraid of anything, and that there are tremendous possibilities there -- he seemed excited about those possibilities, indicating that there are so many of them that there seems to be no limit. He had not done much exploring of them yet.  These things seemed to be in the line of learning a great many things that he wanted to know, and abilities to invent or create things.

Other matters regarding the Dream from 1986...I wanted to know where he came up with the idea of telling me he had exchanged his ID with a dead soldier, was it something he had seen someone actually do? He said: "No, I actually did it. In a way. There was a dead soldier, wasn't there? And he was buried with my name. But here I am." He wouldn't answer all my questions about the details of the dream -- he said: "If I tell you everything you want to know, I'll lose my 'mystery' for you, and I know you -- if I lose my mystery for you, you won't care about me anymore. So, I'm going to keep that from happening. You're a smart girl, you'll figure it all out sooner or later."

He told me he had been trying to reach me since not too long after he died. He wanted me to know he was there. But he couldn't get my attention because I turned away from thinking about him. In time, he decided the easiest way to reach me would be by dreams because then my guard was down, so he went to work to think up a really good one that would get my attention and appeal to my curiosity (he knew that was the key), and the Dream was it! But then, eventually, that kind of backfired because the more I pursued trying to find him in a monastery, the more I was tending to interpret things he was showing me to mean he must be alive. So then, he kind of backed off a little, because he did not want to be the one to tell me he was not "alive" the way I was hoping. He knew I would find out in time.

I could feel his emotions, and he was angry with himself about getting killed, and very much wishing things were different, that he could be with me here in the right ways. I couldn't stand feeling his pain about all of it -- I could literally feel his emotions IN ME, it was his pain but I was sharing it -- and so I started trying to get him to look at the positives, I guess. For example, I mentioned his best friend Ernie...surely it was good to be with Ernie? His response: "Oh sure, but I was never counting on spending eternity with HIM!" I also pointed out that, had he lived, who knows how happy he would have been here...for example, he might have found himself in a frustrating job and with a bad boss harping at him all the time -- to this he said: "Are you hearing yourself? I can't believe you are trying to tell me I'm better off dead!" (I got a mental image with this, of him standing with his hands on his hips in annoyance.)

One of the things I brought up was that I would like to be able to prove that he was really communicating with me, because otherwise, if I mentioned it, people would think I was crazy. He said (with humor): "But I thought you'd do ANYTHING for me -- what's so bad about being crazy for love?"

He informed me that he can't read minds, but he can tell what *I* am thinking about, or people he was very close to here. Mostly he does not pay attention, he tunes out on things he can't participate in.

He said that time over there moves very slowly compared to here -- minutes compared to years (that was an example, not exactly how it works). This raised another concern to me. He said that my spirit will always be 19 to his 20, this is how it seems to him and how it will seem for us when I come over. But, realizing that he can SEE me from there, I suddenly thought about getting old and wrinkled and him seeing that, which I didn't like at all.  He said, with gentle amusement: "Would you feel better if I promise to close my eyes?"

This day was Valentine's Day. After departing the Metro and while walking to my car, I commented wistfully to him that I wished he could dedicate a song to me on the radio. He said that actually, he could do that. He'd already thought of it and there was one waiting for me. I worried that I wouldn't know what song that might be, and he said, "Oh, I think you'll know." I got into my car, started it up, turned on the radio. Just before the next song played, I felt a little "nudge" in my mind and turned the volume up. The song was "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, so extremely apt to how we had just been communicating. Vibrations.


This experience was the beginning of communication that by now has lasted 5 years. Most of our conversations or shorter exchanges are of a personal nature, comments to each other about various things. We continue to "give" each other songs from the radio -- at his end, this is a convenient medium through which he can more fully express things in words to me. For want of a better term, I call our communication "telepathy", and it is not easy to do at my end. It requires stilling all my own mental chatter and thought, and yet holding on to what I want to say to him or ask him, then being totally still in my mind until he "comes through" -- I can't actually say that what I "hear" is words...it seems more like what I pick up are his emotions which seem to translate to words as if through some kind of interpretive barrier. This requires concentration on my part, a kind of "balancing" as if my mind is holding its breath, and it is a strain and tiring.

He is helping me with a book I am writing about our relationship in the past and the effects of his death on my life afterward -- this will hopefully one day represent a perspective on the effects on family and loved ones here from loss of someone in the Vietnam War. And I am helping him write a book about his work on the Other Side with Vietnam veteran survivors still living here.

I believe we do go on.


Christmas, 1999

My husband and I spent Christmas in Arizona with my family, my parents, sisters, their children, etc.  My son and his wife and two small children were also a part of this gathering.  Since my son and his family live nearly clear across the country from my location, I don't get to see much of them, but I feel very close to their little girl, my grand-daughter, who is 3-1/2.  She is just beginning to talk clearly, and she and I spent a lot of time together during this Christmas visit.  She liked to talk about two little girls who are her best friends at home, and told me a few of the things that they all did together, including some things that got them in trouble.  Along with talking about these two little girls, she would also fairly often mention "the ghost" -- she would be chattering on and she would say the names of her friends "Julie" and "Cindy" and then would say "and the ghost".  Well, of course, I noticed this, but I didn't make too much of it, because I just thought that she is old enough now that Halloween a couple of months earlier had made an impression on her.   As she was not saying "the ghost" with an attitude of fear, all seemed to be well.

The day before my husband and I departed to return home, this little grand-daughter's mother (my daughter-in-law) came to me with a request:  did I have with me, by any chance, a photo of Johnny?   Yes, I did -- when I travel, I normally carry with me a small pocket-album that contains pictures of him.  I took one out and gave it to her, and she said "I just want to try something," and called my grand-daughter in to the room.  When the little girl came in, my daughter-in-law held the picture down to her and asked, "Do you know who this is?"

Now, a few times over the holiday, we had family pictures out.  And we had some fun with having my grand-daughter look at some of them to see if she could recognize me with my different hairstyle of some years back, or her father when he was a teen-ager, and so on.  She was pretty good at picking us out, but when she didn't recognize someone, she didn't guess at it, she always just said, "I don't know."  She never tried to make anything up, either.  So far, she seems to be a very literal child, in all our talks and games together she did not make things up to say.

When her mother held the picture of Johnny down to her and asked if she knew who it was, my grand-daughter put her finger on it, and said, "That's my great ghost."

My daughter-in-law, without looking at me, reached out her hand and beckoned for the whole small photo album, which I gave her.  She flipped through it and found another picture of Johnny, and showed that to my grand-daughter, who said, "That's my great ghost again."

Then my daughter-in-law turned to a photograph that was taken in Vietnam, of Johnny standing side-by-side with another fella.  She held the picture down and said, "Who's this?"  And my grand-daughter put her finger on Johnny and said, "The ghost."  My daughter-in-law indicated the other guy in the picture and said, "Okay, then, who is THIS, do you know?"  and my grand-daughter said, "That's the other ghost."

I got into the act then, and asked my grand-daughter, "What does the ghost do?"  And she said, "He colors with me."

My daughter-in-law then asked me if I knew if the other guy had also been killed in Vietnam, and I don't know.   I don't know who he is, I don't have his name, so I can't check it out.

Needless to say, both my daughter-in-law and myself were deeply impressed, touched and amazed.  With tears in her eyes, my daughter-in-law hugged me and said, "Oh Mom, Johnny's looking after our little girl!  Maybe he's her guardian angel!"

This was my best Christmas present this year.