It has recently occurred to me that I may qualify as an “expert” on grief. I have been an estates and trusts attorney for seventeen years. Meaning, for seventeen years, I have worked with families as they navigate their worlds after the loss of a loved one. As one would gather, some of those losses are expected, some are sudden and tragic, and some leave a family in a state of turmoil for years. As my career was opening my heart to loss, I watched my healthy, vibrant mother be diagnosed with, battle and die of lung cancer as I was pregnant with my second child and chasing my first. Shortly after she died, my dearest friend was diagnosed with lung cancer as a young mother herself, and I relived the entire process, treatment and death all over again. In the months before she died, my father died suddenly and I delivered a stillborn. My life changed dramatically and for over a decade, grief has perhaps been the central experience of my life.
I have waded through the loneliness and grief only those have suffered loss know in a 107 year old house, mostly as a single mother to three spirited children. My house is surely haunted. It’s a large white colonial that desperately needs painted, the floors creek, the attic is amazingly creepy and the basement once perfectly served as a broiler room scene for Freddy Krueger in a Halloween eve haunted house. Repair men have found secret rooms (that’s rooms – plural) and there is a back servant’s staircase with a light that has flickered and baffled electricians throughout the 14 years I have lived here. A woman once cleaned my house and declared she would never be here alone again.
Life is always a mystery, and that’s the only way I can explain that it is this house, and the ghosts and spirits that have shared these last several years with me, that have supported me through my sleepless nights and constant pains of loneliness. It seems counter intuitive, but stories of ghosts, hauntings and lucid dreams have been a part of every culture and religion since the beginning of time – and we are so quick to sensationalize the dark stories that we lose sight of the beautiful ones.
It was in this house my father sat in my dining room with my toddlers in their footie Santa pajamas and ate monkey bread while they basked in the magic of Christmas morning giggles. My mother prepared for, set up and planned my eldest son’s first birthday party here in this house while unbeknownst to me, she was waiting on a cancer biopsy. She was careful with what she wore that weekend so I wouldn’t see the bandage and wound on her neck because my celebration of my baby was more important to her than her own fears. My dear friend Tasha, my former roommate, bridesmaid, godmother to my first born and life’s soul mate, planned and celebrated parties in this house that ranged from sacred baptisms to wild, feisty, sexy, girls-only parties that ran into the early mornings. And my baby Roman, who was delivered with no heartbeat only weeks before I lost my father, sits in a beautiful tiny urn, right next to my mother’s ashes, wrapped in a simple white rosary in my dining room. To me, they share in every chorus of happy birthday sung in that room, every Christmas eve feast, and listen to each story unfold over chicken and dumplings about playground antics, volleyball victories or even scoldings for my son’s constant, unbreakable habit of leaning back in his chair.
Their spirits live in this house. I feel them when my kids chase each other through the house like maniacs and when we snuggle up to read bedtime stories. They live amongst the ghosts that were here before them and come out when my daughter sings, or when my youngest snuggles his kitten, or when my oldest watches horror movies with his friends, and they visit me in my dreams. The ghosts in this house, and in my heart, have allowed me to thrive, grow and raise these inspiring, bold and fearless children and keep joy the heart of this home instead of unbearable sadness and loss. So yes, my house is haunted, and I pray one day when grief brings you to your knees, yours is too.