There’s a reason why Mac returns to his wife this way. It’s because I lost my beloved husband in 1998 and all these years later he haunts me, in a good way. Oh, I don’t see him – Devon “Pete” Hall – in the traditional sense that people talk about ghosts and nowadays he rarely comes around anyway. But that wasn’t true in the beginning and I tried to let Red have a similar experience.
Whatever your religion, most people believe in an afterlife of some kind. I don’t have any secret keys to how or why, but I’m completely convinced that we become something else on a different plane. Part of the reason is because I’ve experienced times of knowing Pete was around me. I still do – not as often as I’d like, though.
I’m sure this will seem too weird or too personal for some, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to say for a while and giving Red her ghostly husband was part of that. Here’s the rest.
When Pete first passed away, my first awareness of his presence was very physical. Twice I felt him pass through me. Once it felt as if he was massaging my terribly bruised heart. I relaxed that time – quit crying and was able to return to work. I know I didn’t imagine it – he WAS there.
Then there was a whole series of instances when I would smell him. Not just in the apartment where our little family had lived, but in a house in another state, with all his things put away. The strong scent of Lagerfeld, cigars and Ben-Gay permeated the air around me, suddenly and regularly.
My favorite way he presented himself, and the only way I still sense him, is with the appearance of butterflies. Once, we had gone as a family to the San Diego Zoo and all of us entered the butterfly exhibit, where the magical winged creatures fly freely. While most people had a butterfly, or two, land on them, Pete was swarmed with them. One persistent Tiger stayed with us throughout the time in the exhibit and finally Pete had to shoo it away.
Whenever I’m sad or just kind of blue, a white butterfly will appear out of nowhere. Pete’s favorite song at the end of his life was “If I Could Change the World,” by Eric Clapton. About a year ago, I was feeling devastated and at a traffic light turned on the radio. That song came on and at just that moment I looked out at the hood of my car – right then a white butterfly landed smack-dap in the center. No one will ever be able to tell me that this wasn’t Pete giving me encouragement.
So, I made a conscious decision to put ghosts in all my stories. Why? Because I love writing the part of a happy ghost and because I believe that spirits are all around us, especially those of the ones we still love whether they are with us anymore or not.