When I was 14, my grandfather passed away in a freak accident. He was very stubborn and antisocial and preferred to live alone, even though the rest of his family were all still alive and well, and he definitely liked to do as he pleased. One of these things he liked to do was to ride his motorcycle everywhere, even though he was nearing his eighties. Nothing we said would break this dangerous habit of his. As it turned out, one day, just two weeks after our annual family reunion, his motorcycle turned out to be his undoing, as he was riding it - God knows where - along the state roads at 7.00 am in the morning and crashed into the back of a stationary lorry. His whole face was caved in and for that reason none of us really wanted to peer into his coffin during the entire one-week funeral service.

At this point, I should explain that in my culture, families honor the deceased by placing the coffin and an altar in their living room, holding prayers and inviting friends and neighbors to pay their respects. My family held this mourning period for my grandfather for a week, so the coffin, with his body in it, was in the middle of the living room for 7 days and nights. Anyway, this was the first death of a relative I'd ever experienced, so I was nervous and creeped out for the entire week, and tried not to go near the coffin.

For the whole week I avoided looking at his body whenever possible (they made us do this during the prayers), and stayed out of the room unless there was someone else in it. On the last day however, my parents told me we'd have to SLEEP with the coffin in the living room, as the final chapter of the one-week funeral ritual. I was on board with the idea at first, anyway, I knew that everyone else in my family would be sleeping in the same room with me, and there were well over 10 of us.

So the night came, and I chose a spot as far away from the coffin as possible, with my aunt on my left and my older, male cousin on the right. I should mention here that this side of the family has, let's say, paranormal inclinations. For example, another one of my aunts is a medium, and my cousin can see ghosts. I believe them wholeheartedly, because I've seen how distraught they get when they experience something. Anyway, I managed to fall asleep.

Sometime during the night, however, I woke up. I remember the time was around 4am, as we'd kept all the ceiling lights on and the clock was easily visible from where I was lying. I felt the urge to pee, but definitely did not want to cross the coffin - or my grandfather's old and unused room - both flanking the narrow entrance to the bathroom. Damn, though, I really needed to go, so I stood up and walked very slowly and very hesitantly towards the toilet. All was uneventful, until I came back and tried to fall asleep again. I could not sleep for a long time, since the lights were on, as I mentioned earlier.

I tossed and turned as the minutes ticked away, and suddenly, I felt something graze my cheeks gently. It was warm, like a human hand. I did not dare open my eyes, but somehow, I was not afraid, just mildly shocked. Then, just like that, the feeling was gone. I lay in the same position, confused, for another half an hour before I summoned enough courage to open my eyes. To my right, my cousin was sitting bolt upright in his sleeping bag, looking across the room, but apparently zoned out. I caught his attention and asked him what he was doing. He told me to stay quiet and to listen, and to my horror, as my ears adjusted to the silence of the room, I could make out, very faintly, the sound of children singing. We did not dare to investigate what it was, and just sat looking at one another for a long time. I told him what I'd experienced earlier, but he asserted that he did not touch me, and most certainly not my face.

We fell into a restless sleep, and the next day, I woke up feeling very sick with a fever and a bad cough. When I related to my mother what had happened to me the previous night, she immediately had my grandmother take me to see a local spiritual-healer-type person, who I'd been to several times before throughout my childhood and had always secretly thought of as some kind of witch doctor because of the strange ways in which he would consult and "cure" his so-called "patients".

I recovered normally from then on, but this is not the end of the story. Throughout this week, a multitude of other strange things happened. Our house and garden became infested with caterpillars, and later in the week, moths and small butterflies. Granted, I live in a tropical country in South-East Asia, where insects are common, but these caterpillars all looked chillingly the same - fat and bright green, as big as even a person's thumb. It is common superstition here that butterflies are always present during death, as the temporary reincarnations of the deceased. We'd never seen them around before, and not in the 5 years since his death. Furthermore, whenever we passed our grandfather's unused room in the house, we would always feel a wave of cold air. On one of the days, my cousin reported that he'd seen a bloodied figure inside, knelling, and praying, face turned away from the door. We are a religious family, and my grandfather had been buried with his rosary and a copy of the Bible. From that day onward, we chose to keep the door closed and locked for the entire week. My aunt bought lottery numbers based on the numbers of my grandfather's death certificate and won 2 consecutive times. The most ghastly thing was my grandfather would begin bleeding from his nose, mouth and ears without any warning. The blood stained the white satin pillows and we would always have to get one of us - usually my father and the oldest cousins - to dab his face and restore him to dignity as best as they could. The first time I saw it, I actually had to go and have a lie down as the blood looked fresh and smooth, not darkened and clotted with decay.

It's been 5 years and now and then I think of him whenever February rolls around, because he passed away on the morning of Valentines Day. I hope this story will always remind me, and others who hear this, to cherish their loved ones, and be respectfully fearful of the things in this world which we just cannot explain.
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