MY LIFE WITH GHOSTS
It’s Halloween, a time for frights and chills, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is as flimsy as the night is dark.
It’s a time for sharing ghost stories, of which I’m the keeper of a few, having written two non-fiction books on the subject. But people are surprised when I tell them that my fascination with the paranormal has little to do with fear, and everything to do with hope—and the love of a good story.
When I was a child of about seven or eight, I was suddenly gripped by a fear of death. I’d been reading a kids’ encyclopedia, which explained, matter-of-factly, that one distant day, the sun would engulf the earth and then there would be … nothing. I read this sentence over and over, stunned by its implications.
That marked the beginning of a string of sleepless nights, where, laying in the top bunk of our little flat by the main road in suburban Eastlakes, in Sydney, I would try hard to imagine this vast nothingness, this vacuum of life, this treacherous sun snuffing out everything.
But I couldn’t. Every time I came close, my stomach would swoop and dip and I’d be back to where I’d started.
I found solace in an unexpected way, wrapped inside a story my mother handed to me like the gift it was. She described how as a girl growing up in Uruguay, she’d had moments of precognition, where she’d sensed the imminent deaths of loved ones.
Of course, the stories were sad: two family members had died, one a cousin of only four. But how could my mum have known that tragedy loomed? What force steered her to her little cousin’s bedside in time to hold her hand as she died from an illness not even her mother knew she had?
It was a delicious mystery, hinting at a world beyond our own, of universal secrets and magic tucked away within everyday people.
It was an antidote to the fear that had lain in me like a weighted rock since I’d read that (deceptively harmless-looking) children’s reference book. Now, I could see a way out.
Many years later, as a journalist interviewing people who’d felt they sensed the spirits of late loved ones, I recognised the familiar flicker of those embers of hope. I’ve learned how these experiences can work as powerful healing agents.
I will never forget interviewing Kath Campbell for my book Spirit Sisters. Over the phone, Kath unravelled a story of loss that had me stifling sobs, as my children played in the room next door.
When her two little girls perished in a car accident, along with their grandmother, it was only the experience of seeing her daughters’ spirits that gave her the strength to go on.
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