A day or two ago, I saw my father’s ghost in the living room. The irony of that didn’t occur to me until just now.
He looked troubled, I would say. The word that first came to me was “tormented,” but that is maybe too dramatic, or leaping to a conclusion.
But surely troubled. Out of focus. Lost.
My initial reaction was to pray that he would find his destination. That he would find God, if that was a prospect, and peace. Pray that he would be led to the light by loved ones that had preceded him, and that if there are more than one place one can ago in death he would go to the best place, and sit at the right hand of Jesus beside his beloved brother Jack.
Assuming that is an option.
But what do we know of prayer? What if it is not a good thing? For we know nothing of the effects of prayer on the living or the dead.
What if prayer is like asbestos or cell phones? Will our grandchildren one day shake their heads and murmer, “They actually prayed for the dead”?
What if my father, or his ghost, or however that works, only wanted to talk, and I, out of fear of ghosts masquerading as filial love1, prayed him away? Maybe he was all, “Son, listen, the six right numbers are…” and then, SSSSUCK! as the force of my prayer for his peace and salvation created a metaphysical vacuum.
Cause later on I had to wonder about that. Why he visited. Was he lost and wandering, or was he looking for parts of himself in others (the parts of others we bear in ourselves) or do we lose pieces of our souls and he was just checking everywhere he’d been, or was he fine and simply visiting loved ones?
I had to wonder what he would have said. Maybe, “Son. When we’re dead, we’re dead, except for the ghost thing. There is so much of me in you that I can do dice tricks and become visible, if only at the very edge of your peripheral vision. I loved you so much. You know the feeling — I loved you as much as you loved me. I’m sorry we didn’t talk more, but that’s how it turned out. You talk more to your kids, maybe that is a good thing.
What I wanted to say: I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to give up on happiness, even if the pursuit makes you miserable. You don’t deserve unhappiness and fear. You don’t deserve to be anyone but who you are. It is so brief! Believe me. It is so brief, there is only time for honesty and love.
I want you to be the you I love, the shining spark at your center. The rest of you is merely fuel.
I never told you what I wanted, because I didn’t want to interfere. You thought it proved your unimportance or insignificance, but I just didn’t want to interfere. I have never wanted anything for you but for you to be as only you can be. Not good or bad or afraid or careful or successful. Be you. Do what you do. What life tells you through you and through the world, not what others say or what you think they want. Not what good sense says or the ghosts of your forefathers.”
Maybe he just wanted to say, “I love you so much.”
Maybe he just wanted to say, “where are the goddamned dice?”
- 1The fear, of course, is masquerading as filial love, and not the ghosts. No one fears ghosts masquerading as filial love.