Conversations With Dead People

Have you ever found yourself making a mental note to tell someone about something that happened to you, a trivial bit of news you know that person would relish; mentally saved up a choice morsel of gossip; or smiled in anticipation of the reaction you expect when you relate recent shenanigans only to realize, with a belated shock, that the person you are planning to tell is dead?

I hope I’m not the only person out there talking to myself AND dead people. I have, at times, questioned my own sanity and determined that although I can distinguish the living from the daisy pushers, my brain occasionally seems to willfully jump its track to continue sharing amusing anecdotes and all the other wonderfully ordinary events of daily life—never mind a little thing like mortality. I’ve asked myself the standard emergency-room-orientation questions, and I can name the current president and get close on the exact date, but somewhere, deep down, I still long for contact with all the people I have ever loved, the living and the dead.

I can’t decide if this is one of those comforting mind games our brains play to fill the void of missing people in our lives or if we continue in some way to commune with all those who have gone before us. All of this is just way out of my theological and metaphysical comfort zone. But I admit to feeling the presence of all those “others” sometimes, a comforting, you-are-not-alone feeling, as if it’s okay to share a one-liner with a deceased friend because I already know what he or she would have quipped in response.

Maybe love is just so strong you can feel it from one world to the next. Love may, in fact, be the strongest force in the universe. It is, after all, one of the primary catalysts for human behavior, yet it is something intangible and impossible to prove. Strangely enough, most of us hardcore, show-me humans—those of us who struggle daily with issues of faith in our religions—still believe in love. If asked, most of us say we believe love exists. We are convinced of it, have seen evidence of the power of love in our lives: love between children and parents, lovers, and friends, even between humans and animals.

The last words from a dying person’s lips are almost always words of love or caring, not expressions of hate or enmity. And love doesn’t end with death, does it? The object of affection may be six feet under the ground, but the love and longing for that person do not end. Grief is, in fact, frustrated love.

Katharine Hepburn has a great line in the movie Love Affair about just this subject. In reply to a question about the wedding ring on her finger, she says, “Dearie, I am married—although my husband has been dead for years.”

I know exactly what she means by that, don’t you?

Want to read more? This essay is an excerpt from my second book, The SWAG Life. I took the photograph this month in an old cemetery in Selma, Alabama, where I had a wonderful time poking around. The Spanish moss was very evocative to me as a writer (of all kinds of things!), and the craftsmanship in marble and concrete was breathtaking. Imagine being loved that much!  To me, it  looked like a restful place to spend forever.

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