The Woman in the Beige Cloak

I usually publish a ghostly little poem or story near Halloween. But this is a true tale of a paranormal event.

My mother had been dead only a few months when, my Dad described to me an odd encounter he’d experienced a few nights earlier.

He’d gone to bed at his usual time, his little cat, Nefertiti, sleeping, as she usually did, curled into the jeans that he always left just lying on the floor. He hadn’t yet quite fallen asleep (or so he thought) when he suddenly saw a beautiful, unknown woman standing beside his bed, clearly visible in the darkness.

“You’re so lonely!” she said compassionately, and leaned forward to kiss him. Then she was gone. Just gone.

Grabbing the giant Maglite that always stood ready beside the bed, Dad clicked it on, swinging the bright beam around the room as he stumbled toward the wall switch to turn on the ceiling light. There was no one in the room. Neffi still slept peacefully, curled into the bed she made of his jeans.

Shrugging, Dad turned off the lights and flashlight, and went back to bed. But it took him a very long time to fall asleep.

Was he crazy, Dad now asked me? I soothed him, explaining that he had probably been just on the edge of sleep and had a very realistic dream.

But I had reason to remember this incident when, during Dad’s final six months of life, he told me one afternoon of something that he’d been experiencing: the Woman in the Beige Cloak.

“Don’t tell your brother this,” he begged me. “He’d think I’m losing my mind.” Then he proceeded to describe a vision that had occurred multiple times since his hospitalization and transfer into nursing home care. At the edge of his vision, for just a moment, he saw a woman standing in a hooded beige cloak. “I can’t see her face,” he told me. “The hood covers it. Do you think I’m hallucinating?”

I was impressed, not because of what he had seen, but due to his description. A “beige cloak” wasn’t the sort of thing my father would usually say. He’d generally describe such an outfit as a “this long tan thing with a hood”. That was much more Dad’s style of speaking. The alteration to his usual speech pattern indicated the seriousness of what he’d been seeing.

I considered my reply carefully before telling him that, no, I absolutely didn’t think he was hallucinating or losing his mind. “I think you’re seeing your Guardian Angel,” I told him honestly, without adding that I believed he was seeing this Being because he was very close to making his journey to the other side. But I reminded him of his long ago experience with the woman who had appeared at his bedside and spoken to him and kissed him; I suggested that this was the same caring Being.

Dad’s visions continued occasionally during the final months of his life, as he mentioned to me a few times. He seemed to find them bewildering, but comforting, complaining only that he wished he could see her face (he never doubted that the person he was seeing was a woman).

Later, though, and violating dad’s stricture against doing so, in a text exchange with my brother and Dad’s closest friend, I mentioned these sightings. My brother immediately brought up the possibility of several types of illness that would cause hallucinations. I conceded that possibility, choosing not to argue. I’ve always believed in angels.

But on December 1, Dad’s friend walked into his room at the care facility and found him waking the minute she entered to exclaim in total shock, “Who was that beautiful woman hovering over me?!” There was, of course, no other person in the room. But before his friend could remark that he must have merely been dreaming, he answered himself: “It was the woman in the beige cloak! I’ve never seen her face before.”

The next morning, the care home staff found my father cold and unresponsive. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack. Hospitalized for three days, Dad survived the attack to return to his room at the facility. But ten days following his heart attack he was dead.

As I believed then, so I believe now: the woman in the beige cloak was his Guardian Angel. She had revealed herself to him once during his time of uttermost grief, to comfort him in his loneliness. She had been with him throughout the long six months of his dying, watching over him. And she fully revealed herself to him on that day before his final illness spiraled into the debility that would take his life.

My father died in his sleep, but he was not alone.

May we all be so fortunate.

If you’d like to read another true paranormal story for the season, scroll to the Archives, below, and choose “A Ghost Story (Only It Isn’t a Story”) from October 27, 2021.

Ghost Kitty Walks…

If you don’t believe, I don’t expect this essay to convince you.

On the night my father died, the ghost of my dead cat came to comfort me.

If you don’t believe in survival, or spirits, I know that sentence will have you rolling your eyes, or even laughing derisively. To me, however, it is simple, verifiable fact; undeniable personal experience. Bella, who was always my comfort cat—“The more you pet me, the better you’ll feel”–came to care for me as I grieved, reminding me that her continued existence proved that my father, too, survived.

My brother had called me with the sad news at about 9:30 that Sunday night. I was shocked; we’d been preparing to initiate hospice care for our Dad the very next day. I’d anticipated more time—weeks, at least, maybe months. But Dad had, after chatting amiably with the aide at his assisted living facility, indicated that he was going to go to sleep. Twenty minutes later, that same aide found him gone.

A relative who had also been involved in Dad’s care hurried to my home to spend the night. I was indescribably grateful for her presence: grief shared is grief halved. Finally, around midnight, we went to our beds. I did not anticipate sleeping much, if at all, but I turned out the light and pulled the covers up, sliding onto my left side as I usually do when preparing for sleep.

Now, I’m well acquainted with that “almost like being touched” feeling when the bedcovers, pulled just so over one’s back, move eerily, usually in sequence with one’s breathing. It’s a familiar, if unnerving experience. But it is distinct from the feeling (well-known to any cat owner) of a cat who, wanting attention, begins to pick at the blankets: “Pet me!” Since Bella’s passing only one of my three cats, Zoe, was in this habit—and I really preferred it to her other habit, that of getting in my face and howling like a lost soul crying to Heaven from the Gates of Hell! So when the “pick-pick-pick” began, I wearily reached my hand backwards toward the small of my back to stroke Zoe and get her to stop.

My hand touched nothing. There was no cat there. I reached further around, all over that side of the bed, in fact, but could not find her. Puzzled, I sat up and switched on the light.

There were no cats in the room. The bedside lamp cast its light into the hallway, also. None of my cats were in the hall.

And then I understood.

“Bella,” I said quietly, “Mommy’s okay. She’s sad, but she’s okay. But thank you for taking care of me.”

Then, turning out the light, I slid back beneath the blankets and, surprisingly, slept for an hour. Waking, though, I knew sleep would not easily return. So I plumped the pillows and turned onto my back, staring at a ceiling faintly illuminated by ambient light seeping through the curtains from the distant interstate highway.

And then I felt it again. Impossibly (because my bed has an iron bedstead against which my pillow and head butted up, leaving only a smidgen of room, certainly not enough for a four-legged animal to stand), I felt it: “pushy paws” kneading the top of my head, rustling through my hair. As if a full-grown cat, perched in a spot not large enough for a newborn kitten, was kneading against my scalp. Wide awake, I lay there, feeling that comforting, uncanny massage for several minutes, before, once again, reaching up a hand to touch…nothingness. No kitty. No kneading paws. Only the cold iron headboard and the top of my pillow.

And I smiled again. “Bella,” I whispered again, “it’s okay. Mommy’s going to be all right. But thank you for taking such good care of me.”

In the difficult days and nights that followed—making arrangements for my father’s funeral; going to his assisted living facility to pack and remove his things; and lying, wakeful, night after night, I wondered if my best beloved, lost little cat would come to me again. But she, having done her job and done it well, did not return, instead going on to whatever busied her there in Bubastis, the great citadel of the cats in the Egyptian afterlife of Amenti, where she was worshipped and adored.

As I say, for anyone who does not believe, this epistle will be something to mock; to laugh at long and scornfully. But for me, just as on the night my grandmother died and came, impossibly, to surround me with love in a space and at a time when no one could have been there—to me, it was just one more brick on the wall of proof that we do, indeed, go on; that we continue; and that love will not, does not, could not ever die.

The title of this essay is drawn from an earlier post, the poem “Ghost Kitty Walks”, October 30, 2017, about the little ghost cat who has always lived in my home, and with whom all my other cats play. You can find that post in the archives.