A year ago today, my best friend died.
I don’t actually believe in ghosts. I do believe in an afterlife. Quite firmly. I have solid reasons, reasons that are as convincing for me as the evidence of gravity that we all have any time we drop a glass and wind up with milk spread all over our floor.
My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Long before her actual physical death, she had mentally left her body. She was alive but absent. And yet there were times when I felt her in my life, when I knew that even though she was actually trapped in a nursing home, a prisoner of a body that no longer worked, she was with me. I felt her presence in a room. And I knew it was ridiculous, because she wasn’t there. But I felt her love for me, her affection, nonetheless. And then she died, and I stopped feeling her. She moved on.
My grandfather died much sooner. But he left behind one of those plastic circles with a rough surface that you use to open jars. It held the name of his hardware store. It was a promotional thing, just a piece of plastic. Except when I couldn’t get a bottle of pickles open, I could say–can still say–“Boomie, give me a hand,”–and the jar would open after having been stuck for minutes. Okay, sure, it’s ridiculous. It’s psychological. It’s just some subliminal thing that lets me think that those words mean something. No one with any sense would believe that he’s actually helping me. But I feel him with me in those moments and he is helping me. Sometimes he’s laughing at me, not in a mean way, but in a loving way. So, okay, it’s just some quirk of psychology. “I feel” proves nothing.
My father-in-law, Malcolm, didn’t believe in life after death. He was a wonderful human being. At his memorial service, people talked about what a curmudgeon he was. Yep, he was a curmudgeon. It didn’t stop him from being wonderful. He was filled with energy, with life, with persistence, with joy. He wasn’t perfect, but no one is. I think, if he could have gone back in time, he would have been a different kind of parent. But he did the best he could with the information he had available to him at the time that he had it. Malcolm was…oh, love is such a strange thing sometimes. Malcolm was technically my ex-father-in-law–I divorced his son. Realistically, he probably had lots of people in his life that he loved more than he loved me. Except I don’t think so. Honestly, I don’t think so. He had four sons. I think his life would have been different if he’d had daughters instead. He probably should have had daughters instead, but he loved me like a daughter. And I was lucky to have him, to know him.
I’m not actually easy to love. I’m kind of a pain in the ass. I’m rigid, I’m stubborn, I’m opinionated, I tend to be sure I’m right. Malcolm and I had one final conversation, in which I said to him, well, we’ll see. He knew that death meant dead, gone forever. I knew that he was wrong.
The day after he died, I woke up to weird light. The sky was strange. I went outside and I didn’t see it. I knew that something was odd, but I didn’t know what. I went back inside. Then R went outside and called me to join him, his voice hushed. A double rainbow was spread across our house, starting at one side, ending at the other. I absolutely believe, one hundred percent, not a doubt in my mind believe, that Malcolm was responsible for that rainbow. That his spirit broke out of the shell that had been trapping him for so long and danced across the sky. That he found my mom–who had died exactly one month before him, to the day–and said, come on, let’s paint her a picture. You don’t have to believe that. It’s okay if you don’t. But I know, absolutely, that Malcolm and my mom painted me a double rainbow.
Michelle died a year ago. I’ve felt her with me. And she’s mostly exasperated with me. I can feel her kicking me. I know she’s telling me to get over it. I hear her voice saying that I should use the time that I have. I know that’s what she wants from me.
But I miss her.
I called tonight. I’ve been thinking of doing it for ages, weeks, months. Chris hasn’t changed the voice mail. It’s still her voice.