ESSAY: Thinking About Ghosts – 4-19-2017



ghostrightDo you believe in ghosts? Paul does. After his parents were laid to rest, he returned to his childhood home. He went about fixing up “the old house”, getting it ready for the marketplace. He settled in temporarily. But he would never make this his permanent residence. No sir. Too many ghosts!

When he was seventeen, he watched his mother succumb to a heart attack as she reached for a can on the topmost shelf of the pantry. Her hand only made it to the shelf’s edge. She became dizzy and her fingers clenched the splintery edges for support. She and the shelf toppled to the floor. Paul did what he could. An ambulance came but it was too late.

Paul rebuilt the pantry with brand new shelves. Still, he continued to see that old rickety shelf that went down with his mother. When his mind’s eye took in this unwelcome sight, he grieved.

Down in the basement there was a fruit cellar. Paul left this as is. He preferred to stay far away from it. His older brother Jim had once locked him inside and then forgot about him. For several hours Paul had been trapped in this small space. To this day, Paul cannot stay in the cellar longer than ten seconds before succumbing to an attack of claustrophobia.

The upstairs hallway needed painting. Paul went to work, fully aware that the bedroom at the hall’s end continued to give him the creeps. This is the room where Paul’s father spent his final days. Many times he had visited his bedridden father and listened to him as he called out to his caregiver late in the night, begging for a glass of water. Sometimes it seemed as if he could still hear his father’s pleas echoing through the hallway.

There are ghosts in Paul’s childhood home. I bet there are ghosts in your home as well. They don’t have to be ghosts of tragedy. They can be tender, heartwarming spirits. But this doesn’t make them any less haunting.

Let’s examine the average household attic – a place where families store their memories. There are old photo albums. Furniture that was once was part of the dining room. Games that thrilled children in simpler times. Every memory that is triggered by an attic relic beckons a ghost. During this reflection, something suddenly trespasses across the heart. It’s powerful but fleeting. It’s the briefest of peeks into another world. Another time. The ghost is pointing to a place that cannot be revisited. As powerful as a memory is, it is not able to recapture the past. Nothing can be the same, but when the ghost takes possession of the heart, you want what was. You can’t have it. Therein lies the haunting. It teases with its fragile glimpses of eternity.

Ghosts exist in new homes as well. An old feeling in a new setting brings about the most haunting ghost of them all. Perhaps this ghost is more elusive than the rebirth of a forgotten memory, but it’s more striking. It clears all thoughts from the mind with its sudden “Boo!”

Ghosts are everywhere, though some are better at hiding than others.

Look into a mirror – chances are, a ghost hides in your reflection. Dig through all the surface build-up. Stare hard into the eyes until they protest with tears. Look at what’s there and remember what was. Find the ghost.

Expect them to be around the corner; waiting, watching, haunting. Accept them. Let ghostleftthem in. Let yourself shudder; take in the prickles against your skin. Let your heart go on a little ride. Feel them. You need them. They add a glow to the dark, empty spaces of our lives. They reanimate the past. If such a revival is not to your liking, then use the opportunity to learn why it is that certain things refuse to go away. Once you confront that which won’t stay dead, you may go on with your life, even if ghosts still linger. They will fade deep into the background.

Do you believe in ghosts? Pamela does. Every time she winds the handheld music box, she remembers her grandmother fondly. It was a keepsake given to her by her mother a month after grandmother had passed. Grandmother is still with her, inside the music, inside the memory. Sometimes we can turn the ghosts on and off. Enjoy this power while it exists. Ghosts aren’t always so accommodating.