I wrote this one for my sister Esme who was a midwife and told me about a ghost who used to comfort the babies where she worked.
Just Doing Her Job
by Oonah V Joslin
“I’m already worn out,” I told the ward Sister Bridget at midnight break. “Four times up them bloomin’ stairs for nothing. Just as I get to the door, the baby stops crying. I checked all the cots. Only one baby was awake and he was beaming up at me, making gurgling noises.”
“Well” she said, “I never go unless they keep on crying,” said Sister. “Matron usually gets there first.”
“We think she must have been Matron at one time. Dear knows when.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“Did nobody tell you? The nursery is haunted.”
I nearly choked.
“Oh don’t fret about it! She calms the babies down. If there’s something really needs seeing to, they keep on crying and she leaves it to us. I don’t think she can actually change nappies or anything. Sometimes babies just cry. Newborns don’t see well. They only want a bit of attention, a friendly presence. She can do that.”
“So have you seen her?”
“Seen? No. But I‘ve heard her singing to them and once, when a baby died, there was a very faint scent of lavender in the air by that cot. Another nurse told me she saw a figure, like a tall, grey mist, she said it was, moving slowly away, cradling something.” Sister Clarke looked far away for a moment. “We liked to think she was taking its soul to heaven. But if a baby dies – which is very rare by the way, that spritz of lavender is always in the air.” Sister smiled. “So you see there’s really nothing to worry about, Nurse Smyth. It’s just Matron – doing her job.”
Call me a worrier but I wondered exactly what her job was. I was appalled by the notion of babies being comforted by a ghost.
That was decades ago now. I went visiting there the other day. It’s a nursing home now and Bridget was sitting in a chair in what used to be the old nursery. She looked up like she recognised me for a change. “Brought you some nice flowers,” I said. “How are you today?”
“These babies keep on crying.”
“There aren’t any babies here now, Bridget.”
“Who are you? Where’s Matron?”
“Nurse Smyth. Jeanie. We worked together. Remember?”
I went to speak to the Charge. “Bridget’s very agitated.”
“Yes. Babies and Matron? She’s had her medication. We hoped your visit might calm her down.”
Just then I caught a faint scent of lavender on the air and turned. Bridget’s wrinkled face was beaming in recognition but not of me. Then her expression changed and she relaxed. A gathering greyness surrounded her and I knew immediately what was happening.
“Don’t worry,” I told the charge. “It’s just Matron — doing her job.”