[Eric Maschwitz’s lyrics in my title are from ‘These Foolish Things” which, the story has it, was written about Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star back in the 1930’s, and the love of his life.]
I believe the essence of people lingers and that you can see it—if you want to.
People linger after death in the familiar, in the places that held strong ties for them.
I’ve seen and felt it too many times to dismiss it.
(Of course, your mileage may vary.)
Example #1: We live in the house my grandfather built and lived in for nearly 60 years.
For several years after his death, he made regular return trips to check out what we were doing to his house.
He wasn’t angry, just sort of keeping vigil.
I saw him clearly.
I smelled his distinctive, powdery aftershave, and I heard the familiar rustle of his clothing.
The first time, he stood in the doorway of the remodeled kitchen, head tilted to one side, clearly puzzled by all the changes we’d made in the space. I took a breath to say something, and he was gone. It made me so sad. It’s hard even now to revisit that sense of loss and longing I felt in that moment.
It wasn’t like movies. He wasn’t some white, shadowy figure. But it wasn’t the same awareness you get from the living, either.
Real, but not real.
I saw him again in the garden, with the breeze fluttering his wide-legged pants and lifting his white hair playfully. His expression was stern. He obviously disapproved that we’d removed the fence between us and the neighbors, whose yard maintenance my grandfather always called “sloppy.” The neighbor was somewhat eccentric because he gardened in his bathrobe and threw the dandelions on the driveway all the while whistling madly. It drove my grandfather nuts.
This time I didn’t try to talk to my grandfather and he followed me around for several minutes before disappearing again.
Example #2: By the time our elderly, “sloppy” neighbor died, I’d learned he was actually a highly intelligent, world-famous cranial doctor. But as a kid, I knew him only through my stern German grandfather’s eyes as someone who needed to be fenced out and shaped up.
For weeks after our neighbor’s death a couple of years ago, I heard his distinctive whistling and saw flashes of that bathrobe disappearing around the corner of his house. It wasn’t that I “remembered” him whistling. I heard it. Doctor Bob hung around for nearly a year, then I didn’t hear or see him anymore, and I find that I miss his annoying whistling.
So have ghosts clung to you? Told you things? Or maybe just given you comfort? Let me know. I’ d like to hear from you.