Ghosts Among Us

Holly Varni

April 27, 2022

I was having dinner with my family when I looked across the table and saw my Aunt Tilly and Grandpa Gus looking back at me. What made this strange is that both people have been gone for a long time. On the other side of Tilly, I could see my father. I wasn’t hallucinating. There hadn’t been any mistakes with my medications, and I hadn’t had so much as a drop of alcohol. I also wasn’t having a stroke or on the brink of death, being beckoned to the other side by dead relatives.

After blinking a couple times, I could see plainly the people across from me were my son and grandchildren. The shared physical features, like the arch of an eyebrow, eye color, or that crooked half smile that has been passed down through the family tree took me back. And it got me thinking. . .  

Our children and grandchildren carry parts of the ghosts that walk among us. This is intentional. I believe God understands the depth of our sorrow and sometimes debilitating grief when we lose our loved ones, and these similarities and glimpses are like winks from Him that those people still live on. Those we dearly loved are imprinted in unique ways on the following generations. When you notice your grandson has the same dimple on his chin as your father did or your granddaughter has those same gangly, long legs as your grandmother, it softens the blow to the circle of life.

There is something reassuring about life continuing after we’re gone, but it goes on in the smallest ways in the people left behind. It happens more than you realize. When you stare at your child and wonder where they got their musical talent because you can’t play a note, or that ability to sew or knit anything when you haven’t so much as even threaded a needle, they are all remnants of ghosts. My son from an early age had an interest in woodworking and gardening, neither of which my husband or I ever did, but my son’s natural ability is identical to both his grandfathers. He also was gifted with their patience, neither of which my husband and I have much of, but he has a bottomless reserve that truly feels out of this world.

These coincidences, similarities, quirks, and correlations are all winks from heaven.

I also include people who are not connected to our genetic lineage. There was a woman who lived across the street from our family when I was growing up who made the most wonderful Christmas cookies. Every holiday season we received a big box of them. There would be neat little rows of different varieties. She kept doing it right up until she was moved into a nursing home. Of all the traditions of Christmas that my parents tried to instill, the cookies from Mrs. Reitburger are right up there at the top. As soon as I was on my own and had my own kitchen, I worked at making a wide variety of good cookies, wrapped them in small boxes, and distributed them to my neighbors and friends.

I suppose my point is that, whether it is the natural curl in your hair that you inherited or the hobby you adopted, the people from our past make an impression and are never forgotten one way or another.

All the traits and traditions, talents and temperaments we possess, carry within them the ghosts among us.

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