I wondered when I would see him again – not if, but when. It’s a question that has lingered since my father passed away exactly four weeks ago and I returned home to a now empty house. My eyes were red from crying, my heart feeling both heavy and empty at the same time. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I knew somehow, instinctively, that I would see him again.
It’s not that I’m an avid believer in the paranormal, though I know that’s how it may seem. I enjoy entertaining ideas about the existence of things we can’t explain and weighing these experiences against the sound, steady logic of science. There’s so much we know, and even more that we don’t. I like to imagine the world in a hundred years and wonder how people, with decades worth of information we don’t have, will look back on us. Will they be kind when they see our ignorance? Or will they think we were silly and superstitious?
I recently confided these thoughts to a good friend who is a respectable person with a respectable job, the kind of job that practically forbids expressing opinions that aren’t based in fact, at least publicly. Their response was that this topic is surrounded by logical inconsistencies: we dismiss experiences we’ve had simply because they can’t be explained, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Countless religious people believe in a spiritual afterlife while also believing there’s no such thing as ghosts. Does it have to be one or the other? Can it be both?
When I was training to be a social worker one of my professors, a respected and experienced clinician, shared some interesting information about death and grieving. Many people who have experienced the loss of a loved one report seeing their loved one days, weeks, even months after the death. It wasn’t a comment on faith or the afterlife, just a heads-up that this is a phenomenon that many people simply don’t talk about. She went on to say that the majority of these sightings are not particularly significant or even all that interesting. The departed are seen opening refrigerator doors, folding laundry, or simply watching TV in their favorite chair. Technically it’s a ghost sighting, but not the kind they make movies about.
Our minds are capable of incredible things. As a student, I wondered if the grieving brain is able to manufacture such sightings and experiences as a way of creating the closure that is needed. If so, it’s not a matter of mental illness, but a matter of healing. We unknowingly create what we need in order to move on.
The truth is, I haven’t seen him – at least not yet. I’ve felt his presence in the same inexplicable way we know someone is looking at us or silently reading over our shoulder. I say hello, and sometimes I ask if he’s here and if he wants to tell me something. Each time I’m met with silence. No blinking lights, disembodied sounds, or other horror movie tropes. Each time I wonder if it’s my imagination, my grieving brain trying to heal itself.
Then, two days ago, something happened. I felt him, spoke to him, and then left the room when nothing happened. Seconds later I heard a loud crash from the room and went running. A heavy box of tools that had been squarely placed on a table was now on the floor, several feet away. It didn’t make sense and I certainly couldn’t explain it, but I also felt him there, stronger than ever before.
I’m still wondering what it means, or if it means anything at all. Death does not end relationships – it just significantly and fundamentally changes them. Maybe he’s here and maybe he’s not. What matters to me is that he’s given me another great story, and, in a way, that means he will always be here, with me, even if I never see him again.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.