When we’re talking about ghosts, “death” is the elephant in the room. I’ve spent plenty of time thinking and writing about death, and what comes with it. But death is a specific line in the sand. It’s the moment when your physical body ceases to function. What happens after that moment, we can debate. But I want to discuss what happens before that line in the sand: the process of dying.
When does dying begin? Some would argue it happens when your health starts to fail. This can occur in a moment, such as the case with a heart attack, stroke, or sudden trauma like a bullet or accident. Or it can happen over months and years like when we suffer from a terminal illness that slowly kills us over time. Even with suicide, you can argue that dying doesn’t start when the victim begins to take their own life, it starts earlier as depression seeps in and all hope is lost.
Given dying is a moving target, it’s only fair to place the start of that process at the moment you take your first breath outside of your mother’s womb. From that moment, you’re dying. Hopefully, the inevitable happens a good many years down the road after you’ve contributed to the world, left your mark, and built a life. But we just don’t know how long we get, do we?
When you make a living in and around the subject of death like I do, you can’t help but think about your own mortality. When I explain to people what I do for a living, I might end the description with a joke: “As long as people keep dying, I’ll have a job!” Undertakers give me a knowing wink when I dust that one off. But what about my life? What about my own dying process?
When I accept that I too am dying, I tend to live my life a little differently. I put more value on my time and the best way to spend it. Traveling, or gaining some new experience? Yes, please. Getting caught in a long conversation that’s nothing more than a bunch of small talk? No thank you. Maybe the next time I find myself trapped in a situation like that, I could try this line, “Hey, I’m sorry, I’d love to keep talking like this, but you see I’m dying and only have precious little time left. Would you mind if I moved along now?”
Imagine the shock and horror on the person’s face? “Oh, I’m so sorry... Yes, of course, go live every moment you can, you brave soul!”
I wouldn’t be lying. Because I truly am dying.
It sounds weird to those who haven’t done it, but I feel most alive when I’m exploring haunted buildings and looking for ghosts. By accepting the fact that I too am dying, maybe I’m more in tune with truly living and chasing my passions.
Death is life’s only guarantee. What we do between now and then is what makes us who we are. As I talk to people about their own brush with the supernatural, I can sense a change that overcomes them as they share the experience. It’s subtle, it takes years of hearing these stories to detect it, but it’s there. It’s like a soft sigh when the person telling the story realizes that they too may be the ghost one day. We can’t help but wonder what kind of spirit we’ll leave behind.