So okay, as narrated in the previous column, Ramona’s spirit extracted its price, won her long fight for justice by finally killing the person who had killed her. In a sense, this was closure of a painful chapter for both Ramona’s spirit and the person—her former lover, who she haunted and hounded to death over not just a few months or years, but decades. Ramona’s spirit continued to torment him till the time she chose to snuff out his life. Obviously, closure was the only way to ensure that justice was done. However, amongst several other questions, this highlights two vital issues. One, why is closure so important for a spirit or ghost? Two, are there no remedies to prevent or neutralise a haunting spirit or thwart a spirit intent on taking revenge or appease it in some other way? 

The answer to the first question is easier to understand than the answer to the second question, on which I’ll focus in the next column. Without closure, an incident or event continues to trouble, hurt and eat away at a living person, particularly if there is some kind of mystery involved, as in the case of the still unsolved Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370’s disappearance in 2014. The “troubled and hurt” feeling is compounded many times when it comes to a spirit, partly because it leaves the spirit trapped in the time zone of the event, unable to move on until a closure can be effected. The incident or event which requires closure need not be a physically violent one. It can be an emotional one too with no violence involved.

There are many instances on record where a spirit had been cheated in its lifetime or wrongfully deprived of something, or wrongfully accused of something and couldn’t move on till a closure that satisfied the wronged spirit came about or was brought about. Ramona’s spirit got its closure by killing the person who had killed her and thus freed itself to be able to move on. But killing or retribution are not the only ways for closure in the spirit world. Some years ago, I dealt with the case of a young woman who died of cancer, leaving behind a seven year old son to whom she was very attached. After her death, since her husband had a “travelling” job, the boy was sent to live with relatives where he was not treated too well. His mother’s spirit hounded the relatives till she brought about a satisfactory closure of the matter.

Less than a fortnight ago, John Ismay wrote in the New York Times that a 75-year-old mystery has been solved, and the families of 80 American sailors lost at sea will now have closure: the U.S.S. Gray back has finally been found, hidden from discovery all this time by a single errant digit. “The mystery began on Jan. 28, 1944, when the Grayback, one of the most successful American submarines of World War II, sailed out of Pearl Harbor for its 10th combat patrol.” The Grayback, which had already sunk more than a dozen Japanese ships, was thought to have gone down in the open ocean 100 miles east-southeast of Okinawa. Apparently, a Nakajima B5N carrier-based bomber had dropped a 500-pound bomb on a surfaced submarine. The sub exploded and sank immediately, and there were no survivours. But the Navy had unknowingly relied on a flawed translation of Japanese war records that got one digit wrong in the latitude and longitude of the spot where the Grayback had probably met its end.

The Grayback was found by Tim Taylor, an undersea explorer who has set out to find the wrecks of every American submarine lost in the war. According to the NYT report, “In 2010 he found his first submarine, the U.S.S. R-12, off Key West, Fla., where it sank in 1943. He set up the privately funded Lost 52 Project to track down the rest, relying on technology that had become available only in the last 10 to 15 years. Mr Taylor says that of the 52 lost American submarines, 47 are considered discoverable; the other five were run aground or destroyed in known locations.”

Tim Taylor’s reaction on finding the Grayback: “We were elated. But it’s also sobering, because we just found 80 men.” Significantly, the next day, Mr. Taylor and his crew held a ceremony to remember the sailors lost aboard the ship and called out their names one by one. Amongst those names was that of John Patrick King. His nephew John Bihn, born three years after the Grayback went down, is named after him. With no body to bury, recounts the fascinating NYT story, Mr Bihn’s grandparents, Patrick and Catherine King, memorialised their son on their own headstone. Under their names, Mr Binh said, they had engraved, “John Patrick King ‘Lost in Action.’”

When news came that the Grayback had been found, Mr Bihn was dumbfounded. In a video taken by the vehicle that surveyed the wreck, Mr Binh said, the camera tilted upward at one point to show the conning tower, and a plaque reading “U.S.S. Grayback” was plain to see. “It’s like someone wiped it clean,” Mr. Bihn said. “It’s like it wanted to be found.» Every aspect of the finding of the Grayback illustrates the supreme importance of closure even for those not directly linked to a happening or loss.

Pam Ramsden, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Bradford has explained that sometimes, things go wrong and although it does not feel fair, and it is very hurtful, life goes on. But Ramsden’s explanation is difficult to extend or apply to the spirit world or a post death state. When things have gone wrong in life or someone has been wronged in life and it still rankles after death, the spirit cannot begin its astral journey, cannot move on until closure is achieved. Writer and filmmaker Celeste Chaney wrote in her novel ‘In Absence of Fear’, which received Honorable Mention at Foreword›s 2015 Book of the Year Awards: “What was closure if not a clock? Not an end as everyone imagined, but a beginning.” A new beginning, a new opportunity to begin anew and move on as much for us living beings as for those who have been unable to move on after death. Interestingly, Bob Livingstone, a licensed clinical social worker in California, USA, has a different take: “We are taught this concept called closure. It is a term used often in contemporary media and it means to heal a personal loss or trauma such as death of a loved one… After this process, we are supposed to ride off into the sunset with this emotional pain never darkening our door step again. Well, this is actually impossible to accomplish unless you get total amnesia.” But in the spirit world, closure does enable troubled spirits not just to move on to wherever, but to move on peacefully.