Silly ideas and ghost hugs

This may be a silly idea, but this silly idea has been swirling around in my head so much so, it woke me up this morning and it started writing itself in my head. So here I am at my computer typing it out to you, dear reader, whoever and wherever you may be.

I get to meet the most remarkable souls. And so do you. They are your friends, family, and neighbors. These are the people we build a life with. These connections create and cultivate meaning in our lives. But some of the ones I get to meet, they are in heaven. Which means, you may not get to meet these souls who come to talk to me. Frankly, I think that is the first of two travesties.

The second travesty is how much worth our society places on celebrities, athletes, on anyone or anything famous really. We have websites, magazines, news programs, and a plethora of social media accounts dedicated to them. Now, I don’t know anyone famous so these individuals might be just as remarkable and lovely as the souls who do come to speak with me every day, they just might be. In fact, I am sure they are to the people in their lives. But the importance we put on glitz and glamour is overrated. We are extraordinary at our simplest, rawest selves. This is where the magic in life lies, in the simple. In the ordinary.

So, I think instead of putting these celebrities up on a pedestal, instead of touting fame, glitz and stardom as our goals, we should be putting those we love, in our very own lives on a pedestal instead. We should lavish our loved ones with praise, grace, and affection. We should make them their favorite meals, write them notes about how much they mean to us, put their towels in the dryer and deliver them secretly to the bathroom so as our loved ones get out of the bath or shower they are wrapped in cozy, warm, fluff. Give our loved ones too many hugs and too many kisses (with their consent of course). Because the sad truth is we only have a limited time in flesh and bone with these precious gems. And while I know we are human and we cannot possibly make every second count, since sometimes the people we love the most are the people who annoy us to our core. In fact, so much so, we have to find a quiet place to take three deep breaths and try again. Despite these rare times of annoyance, we can take opportunities to ensure our earthly time and human connections count. Our people and how we love them should be our focus. Not celebrities or status or material objects. Those things all fall away when our time here is done, but our relationships, our love, it grows and continues into something far greater than what even existed in the flesh.

So back to my silly little idea, I want to share the souls who come to speak and share parts of their lives with me. The ones you won’t get to meet until you are in heaven and maybe not even then, though I have a sneaking suspicion our souls can comprehend every other soul across time and space. But just in case, you can come and read about them here.

Why? Well, sometimes when we read about other people we see parts of ourselves with a little more compassion. Or possibly as we read about someone else it reminds us a bit of someone we care about and gives us the courage to let them know just how very special they are to us. Or quite simply the genuine purpose of reading about someone else makes us feel less alone. So, I am giving it a shot (with the permission of their loved one of course). The following is the first in a series about my ghost friends, I hope you enjoy meeting these souls as much as I did.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”

Walt Whitman

Last week, I had the honorable privilege of meeting Richard. He is a father and grandfather. One of the first things he wanted me to understand about him, is how important his family is to him. It was mainly just Richard and his daughter for most of his life, he was divorced, but to him his daughter and her family are his family. Family encompasses the people we do life with day in and day out in whatever form that may come in.

(I know it may seem strange for me to write about these souls in present tense, dear reader, but here is the thing, for me they are in the present tense. They are alive and thriving wherever they are, however they are. I can’t bring myself to use the past tense. To me past tense implies they ended somewhere in the past, when in fact, they did not. They still are. Therefore, the present tense is what I use to discuss them with you.)

When I met Richard, he appeared just over my left shoulder in my cloffice (Definition: closet office. Yes, I have a little bit of space in my walk in closet with a small table and I have set it up as my home office. Thank you, Glennon Melton for the term, cloffice. Someone else may have said it first, but Glennon is where I heard it so she gets credit here.) Richard was wearing a pair of old, faded jeans, and a navy blue shirt. He has dark hair, short, but with a bit of wave to it and the starting of some grays. He proceeded to show me a brown, well worn, soft leather wallet. It was filled almost to the brink. Richard doesn’t like to throw things out. He likes to get his money’s worth of anything he owns. He will use something until it quite literally falls apart.

Richard was wearing dark blue running shoes with a square toe. They had a white, zig zaggy decal on the side with white eyelets around the navy blue laces. They reminded me of something you would have seen in the mid eighties. “Style,” he told me, “is timeless.” He is average height with a lean build. Even in all these things about him which seemed relatively ordinary, they struck me as quite extraordinary. Like staring in awe at the color of a single rose and witnessing its beauty for what it is. I saw Richard in exactly the same way as the rose, simply exquisite because he was a human with hopes, dreams, and the miracle of a beating heart. Which he shared with me stopped without him even realizing it at first, because of a problem with his inferior vena cava. His oncoming heart attack actually felt like a pulled muscle across his back and nothing more.

Richard loved his work as a human. He was good with his hands and worked long enough in the same field to garner respect and authority with his peers and coworkers. He still values a work ethic where you put your time in and you take your time to do a job right. Richard shared with me his ability to work with metal, I could see sparks flying around him at one point. But Richard didn’t wear or use the protective equipment I would chose to wear while working with such materials, he said that made me a novice and he wasn’t a novice. And while he may not actually have worked with metal; he had a job that was dangerous and he did it bravely and with integrity.

The most endearing part of Richard, besides his clear definition of himself as a family man (a loyal, committed, protector), is his snarky sense of humor. My most favorite people are smart-asses. I just love a sarcastic sense of humor coupled with a bit of a gruff exterior and a heart of gold.

Richard did not want to make my job easy, and wasn’t going to answer my questions in the order I asked them or how I expected them to be answered. He just wanted me to listen to him and follow his lead. This may allude to his stubbornness, a quality he finds both charming and necessary because it is so closely linked to determination and perserverance.

Richard loves the outdoors so much so his slice of heaven is outdoors. He shared with me how he sets out a vintage, green, webbed aluminum folding chair next to a crackling campfire in a clearing surrounded by redwood trees. He looked up so I could see the clearest night sky I have ever seen dotted with millions upon millions of stars. “This is my favorite place,” he said. These same images he shared were signs for his daughter, Chelsea. When Chelsea smells a campfire, her dad is close by. When Chelsea sees a vintage aluminum folding chair, her dad is paying her a visit to say hello. If Chelsea sees even a label on a jar with a redwood tree her dad is using it to let her know he has a big, wide, goofy grin on his face solely meant for her.

Richard shared with me how he wants his daughter to believe in herself, live her life to the fullest, take trips, make a bucket list and cross of every single thing all the while dreaming BIG. He believes treating others well and living a full life becomes currency we can use in heaven. He happened to mention he wanted his daughter, Chelsea, to collect as much of it as possible just in case he needed to borrow some. And then he smiled a smirk of a smile. “I am not above borrowing from you,” he told her with is hands stuffed into his pockets and one leg crossed over the other as he leaned against the wall in my cloffice.

Richard isn’t overly affectionate, his humor and work ethic are how he shows love. He said he doesn’t really hug people here he cares about now that he is in heaven because, “what good is a ghost hug?” But he visits and is so proud of his daughter and grandsons. In fact, as he showed me a child resting on his daughter’s chest his own heart swelled with love, pride, and contentment. In him, I felt his need to protect and guard them fill his thoughts. “I can do that from where I am,” he told me. “I protect them always.”

I am not sure what protect means here, dear reader, because the only guarantee we have in life as far as I have seen is uncertainty, but I believe Richard is taking care of his family right from wherever he is, I could feel it as real and tangible as I can the keys under my fingers as I type this, so I believe it with as much certainty as I know my fingers and these keys exist.

Richard is most happy with the simplest of things, good health, the outdoors, the people he loves most, the ability to work with his hands, and his most well worn items of clothing and accessories. His view on the secret to life is a simple one, “A good day is one lived exactly how you want to live it.”

He thinks heaven is great, but maybe a little too perfect which can make it seem boring at times. If Richard would add anything to heaven it would be a soul who is brave enough to criticize heaven with him . I told him I would join him in complaining about it; just for the pure joy of saying snarky, hilarious, silly things for fun. He told me he absolutely would hold me to it.

Honestly, a truth I know down through the tip of my baby toe, is that it is the tiniest, itty-bittiest of things that matter most to us now and when we are wherever Richard is. It is the old, worn, navy blue running shoes we look at and remember them like the first day we put them on. It is the vintage, green woven, aluminum folding chair set out to watch stars and a fire crackle that fills us with the most hope, wonder, and everything-ness that life has to offer. It is the people, bodaciously complicated and profoundly simple that make us feel safe, whole and comfortable which bring us to the feeling of a complete and well-lived life. (By the way I don’t care one iota if bodaciously is grammatically correct or even a word – it was the exact right word I wanted to use and is pure Richard in style so, I am using it.)

And then Richard had to say, “until next time” to Chelsea. But even if we say until next time or see you later, it is still a good-bye leaving us feeling slightly sad. Which may be another reason I had the silly idea of sharing Richard with you because it turns “until next time” into an opportunity for a greeting. A hello from the other side to you.

I am grateful to have met Richard, we most certainly would have got along swimmingly, even if he proudly wears the title of “pain in the ass” with a sideways smile and a short, stunted laugh as he tells me about it. So if you have a smart ass in your life with a heart of gold maybe today is the day you let them know how much they mean to you by giving them a hug they shrug out of. Maybe don’t let their wry, sarcasm sting you so much, because these tough on the outside humans use that humor not to wound, but to connect in their own unique way.

Thank you for indulging me, kind reader. I hope you enjoyed meeting Richard today as much as I did. Below is a photograph of Richard from the 90s. It is exactly how he looked to me, just slightly more transparent.

If you have an opportunity to reach out and cherish someone important to you I urge you to do it.

Until next time,

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