This week’s feature will prove that not all ghost stories have to be scary.
It was late. The house was quiet… tonight was the night. I knew I should be sleeping like the rest, but I had some important writing to do. I wasn’t ready to write this piece. I wasn’t ready to sit and think about it. But I knew I had to.
It was time.
Losing my nana was like losing some of the special pieces of my childhood. I watched as they slipped right through my fingers. If only I could keep her memory alive through my writing, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
I sat in my bed with my notes scattered all around me. Notes I had jotted down since I heard of her passing. Notes I had hoped would just miraculously come together. My mind was racing with ideas, but nothing sounded right. I knew I would be sharing this piece with my entire family at her memorial service. I had to do it justice; to honor her memory the way she deserved.
I sat there wishing the words would just come to me.
I paced the room and remembered a box of old cards and letters I had kept in the back of my closet. I dug through it knowing very well that she had written more than half of the ones in there. With a deep breath, I decided to read all the letters I could find, to hear her “voice” again, and to finally let myself cry it out. For several moments I shook with tears (as quietly as I could) reading the words in her letters. The letters I knew I would never receive again in the mail.
With a steady stream of tears rolling down my face, I laid my head back on my pillow and closed my eyes to envision all of our times together. It felt good to cry; to let it all out.
Moments later, when I sat back up, now with a tear-stained face, I noticed that the old lamp from across the room was on. Had someone come in and turned on the lamp without me hearing them? I looked around to make sure I was still alone. Had it been on the whole time and I was just now noticing it? I popped up and started retracing my steps— there was no way I could’ve missed it. And, yet, there it was now, shining brightly.
My heart skipped a beat. I had an overwhelming sense that she was with me. My nana was paying me a visit.
A smile spread across my face and I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re here, aren’t you?” I whispered. “It’s okay. You scared me a little, but it’s okay.” I choked out. “I love you and miss you, Nana.”
With another deep breath, I got a tissue and started to write— the words flowed out of me now— faster than my pencil could move! And as I sat writing and sniffling, the lamp continued to shine brightly in the corner. I wrote each verse, reread and revised, until I was happy with my work. All the while smiling and glancing up at the trusty, old, lamp.
And it wasn’t until I had tweaked the very last words of my poem that night that the lamp went dim and then finally flickered out. I knew it was her way of telling me that I had done it. I had found the right words. I had made her proud… (and most likely that it was way past my bedtime!)
Knowing that I could still find her in my everyday life, I took a moment to feel grateful. Grateful for the things that we just can’t explain. Grateful for the memories I’ll always have. And grateful that I was able to capture them in a piece of my writing that night… with her help, of course.
“Thank you, Nana.” I looked up and whispered.
And although the lamp is just for show and was rarely ever used, I am happy to know that the last person to turn it on was my nana.
The following poem is the piece of writing that I created that night, and what I later read aloud at her memorial service:
Her letters, they’d begin with a “Hello, how are you?”
And almost always the weather was stuck in there, too.
The love and care and time that it took
to sit down and hand-write us, it wasn’t a book,
Just a quick little note to let us know she was there.
There was never a doubt, we always knew that she cared.
Our nana was fun, and wow, she could bake!
We went berry-picking, fishing, and spent days at the lake.
She spoiled us rotten, not with candy or things,
but with stories, and snacks, and fun songs that we’d sing.
“You are my sunshine” we all sang in the camper on repeat.
In fact, we sang it so much, I think we had to move our seats!
She loved to laugh and had a great smile,
even after listening to us in the camper for miles!
One of her favorite funny stories, I’ll always remember,
was about one of us getting locked in the camper bathroom in December.
From board games, to paddle boats, and snow-mobile races,
Spending time with our nana was one of our happy places.
She was always so humble, but as talented just the same.
She could knit like no other and had baked goods whenever we came.
And, if you were lucky enough to receive one of her letters,
her simple heartfelt words could always make your day better.
So, thank you Nana for giving us everything that you had.
We all know that you don’t want us to stand here and be sad.
So the next time that we’re out and feel the sun’s rays,
We’ll know that you’re with us forever and always.
Because Nana, “you are our sunshine.“
(c) 2018 Abbie Richey Butler
Original poem written in memory of my Nana Richey (c) 2017