Updated: Feb 22
By Ellen Nimmo
This Halloween I’m going as a ghost.
A ghost is a simple, classic costume. All one really needs is a sheet to cover oneself and a pair of scissors for the creepy-peepers.
No racking my brain for clever puns. No pretense to become crafty overnight. No spending next week’s gas money on a one-day outfit. Far easier on me to ghost-it.
Many contemporary adults have been “ghosted” on some level, that is, served up a sudden and unforeseen halt in communication without explanation. A sign of the times I’m told.
With more and better technology allowing for more and poorer communication, we’ve all been, whether intentionally or unintentionally, at one time or another, both ghoster and ghostee, so to spook speak.
Psychologists seem to agree, ghosting says more about the person doing the ghosting than it does about the person who is the macabre recipient of the eerie disappearance. Still, ghosting, in this modern, figurative sense, can hurt. As beings wired for connection, when we feel the sting of rejection, a la the ghastly vanishing act, it can send some of us into self-doubt or shame. It can feel confusing. It can heighten anxiety. It can lead to rumination or fear. In short, being ghosted is the pits.
For the past decade I’ve been haunting the halls of Veterans United. VU is a niche bank. Mortgage lender to the stars and stripes (principally). Yes, VU’s main clients are those daring men and women who chose to become daring men and women in uniform: Veterans of the United States Military. A home loan company born out of two brothers’ quest for entrepreneurship, grown out of remarkable up-ticks in markets (for a time), and employee written company values that helped shape a now renown company culture, that’s VU in a nutshell. But for many, it has been more.
I ought to mention, upon coming to VU, I was what one might call a skeptic. Cynic. I wasn’t looking to network or make new friends. I wasn’t looking for training opportunities or to work my way up the ladder. I didn’t want a bunch of corporate bull or bologna of any sort. And I certainly wasn’t looking to overhaul my worldview. I was simply a wary woman who needed a break from pouring pervasive tavern-haunts their cocktails. Yes, that was me. That is me. I took the job, but what I didn’t realize ten years ago, was just how much working at VU was going to change my life.
Ghosts are curious. They are neither proven nor disproven. They are partially here, partially gone. Sought after by some, hid from by others, and completely repudiated by many.
Religion has an interesting relationship with ghosts. So does the moon. And howling wind. And jilted lovers. Guilt, loss, and dread all spend time with ghosts. Because ghosts linger, they taunt, they haunt. It’s kinda their whole schtick.
There are some famous ghosts from literature, entertainment, and lore. Casper, for one. He’s the friendly sort. King Hamlet, the tragic Prince’s poisoned papa. Ghostbuster’s ever-belching Slimer, the Christmas Carol crew, the Headless Horseman, and The Flying Dutchman, to name a few.
I reckon what all these specters have in common is one unnerving plague – unfinished business.
But can I tell you a scary something? Unfinished business might just be about the best thing that can happen to a person. Provided it’s on this side of the grave.
Unfinished business means you ain’t done yet. It means there’s more and there’s hope.
And, oh God, please don’t hear me saying that we ought to go on about the enterprise of living by painting our faces, grinding our teeth, and pounding the pavement. No, no, no. The challenging, creative work of living out our morrows, as any good ghoul knows, requires authenticity and patience. That’s where we taste the sweetness of life, beyond the pallor of duty, in choice. Tomorrows are created for and out of the goodness yet to be revealed. Of course they are! It’s kinda their whole schtick.
That’s what I’ve learned over these past 10 years. Through opportunities, through disappointments, in pain, in joy, in books, in talks, over meals and coffee, in my regrets, through relationships, stillness, hard work, failure, and the mystical moments which found (and loved) me, desperate as an outlaw in prayer.
If we rewound the clock or passed through time, as spirits do, we might have heard me sneer at someone for their faith in anything soulish those strange ten years ago. These days? Souls are at the top of my list for 1) being real and 2) being real important. You see, during the days of the decade past, my views on life, God, and souls have radically changed.
A few times over actually. But I digress.
The Psalms are a book of sacred songs and poems written thousands of years ago. They are meant to be sung I’m told. Praying them is also nice. I like Psalm 139 because it brings me peace when it feels like a world of worry is trying to frighten me from my good morrows and send me into the grisly pit.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. -Psalm 139: 1-12
The Spirit. Holy, Ghostly, Divinity. God is entirely everywhere and knows where I am (physically, emotionally, spiritually) always; I believe that now. So I suppose it is no shock to you that I also believe it was God who brought me to VU those years ago. And, using the same logic, away from it too. Indeed, the Holy Ghost was present at the beginning of time and, once the days reach their fullness, he will be there too, at the end, the greener beginning. During the turbulent dark nights of the soul, during the mountaintop moments of festivity, the Spirit of God is present and faithful in them all. In my fears, my doubts, my pains, my motivations, my tomorrows, my unfinished business: the goodness yet to be revealed.
Today is my last day of work at VU. God used this time, this place, and many people to shift the course of my life and I am worried that some of those wonderful people will feel I ghosted them. Suppose I didn’t know quite where to begin saying all the so-longs and see-ya-laters, and, ultimately, became spellbound, transfixed, by the luminous hem of my dusty, ghostly attire.
May the Great Spirit guide you, until we meet again, and forevermore.