Sometimes I can feel them watching me, the loved ones I’ve lost. Not everyone, I can’t feel my former boss from the restaurant I used to work at nights and weekends after my relationship with my daughters’ father fell apart and I had to work two jobs to make ends kind of meet; the boss who hung himself in the back office rather than face prison time for his third DUI. I can’t feel the high school classmate that died of a drug overdose or the one that got hit by a train down by the beach either. But those I was truly close to, I can feel them alright. Sometimes they cheer me on, sometimes I feel judgment (from one set of grandparents in particular – their minds have yet to be opened), and sometimes I swear my good friend who died tragically young gets bored and tries to scare me like the dead couple in Beetlejuice try to scare Lydia’s family. She always said that was her goal for the afterlife. I often feel this when I am trying to sleep, and it makes me cranky. I am not a person you want to wake up without a valid reason, and a boring spirit life is not one.
Sometimes I hear them, too. This is most common with my “Big Grandpa”, who was my mom’s step-father. He was my favorite, and I was his “Skinny Mini”. I heard him say “calm yourself down or you’ll ruin it” when I was in danger of letting anxiety talk me out of a relationship that was not meant to last forever but was important in leading me in the direction I needed to go. He also told me to “just wait and see what happens” when I told myself that it would not work out long-term with the man I was on a date with because he is a lawyer and former law enforcement and I worried he wouldn’t be interested in a free-spirited hot mess like myself, and vice-versa. That man turned out to be my husband and biggest fan, and marrying him was one of the best decisions I ever made. Big Grandpa stepped in to keep me from getting in the way of myself more than once.
When my ex passed away of failure of his vital organs, including his liver and lungs, I took my daughters to see him before he passed. We lived in San Diego, CA while he was in Reno, NV, and we sped through the desert, then mountains, and then desert again to get there in time. I spent most of the time in the room they reserve for people that are there to wait while someone dies, being a rock for my girls to lean on. Right before his time came, the grief in the room became overwhelming. I switched places with my mom, who had been outside walking my dog that had accompanied us on the trip because we had not had time to find a dog-sitter. Desperate to get away from that overwhelming cloud of grief, I took Buttercup on a walk down the hospital driveway. I planned to walk to the end of the driveway, cross the driveway at the entrance, and come back up to the hospital on the other side. The hospital’s driveway was long, my guess is at least half a mile, and I had gotten perhaps 2/3rds of the way down it when I felt a charge and the hairs raised on my arms and back of my neck.
I heard him say “You better go back. They need you. Remember, I’m going to haunt you, DJ. That didn’t change.” Then the charge vanished and I turned back. I knew in my heart he had passed, I did not need anyone to tell me. Minutes after Buttercup and I got back up the drive, my girls and mom came out of the hospital. I was right; his time had come.
I don’t know if he is haunting me or not, but sometimes doors will not swing shut behind me like they are supposed to, or drawers will slide open without being touched. At least not by anyone I can see. But I also live in an area that is prone to earthquakes both minor and major, so there could be a more scientific reason for the delayed doors and opening drawers. The possibility exists that I have an overactive imagination, I am, after all, a writer. It does seem to have stopped or at least slowed down since my move to Santa Clarita from San Diego to live with that former law enforcement guy I married. It could be that the ex isn’t as comfortable haunting me now that I’ve got a man around all the time. Or it could be a sign of approval; he can leave me alone now because he trusts Luke to back me up if I start “slipping”. He always did imply that I was the train wreck and not the other way around. Denial is a b!#ch.
The passing of my former boss (I wish you had stuck around and done your time instead), followed by my ex, and then my dear friend, changed me. It made me reassess how I was living my life; how I was wasting my time. Loss made me see that my children were almost grown and I had missed a lot of it because I had been too preoccupied with or tired from work. My eyes were opened to the toll my job as a manager was taking. The cost was too high. I awoke to the fact that none of us, even those that are young and seem healthy, know how much time we have left. Life is precious and fleeting, and a moment wasted is gone forever. Death has taught me much about life and how to live it.