Valerie Harper

One of the things that bothers us about the current culture of ghost hunting is the sometimes shallow view of death that paranormal hobbyists are liable to assume as they walk around museums, graveyards and haunted houses with blinking devices and IR lights, asking for unseen spirits to “give us a sign” of their presence.

As our friends (and readers of this blog) know, we also visit and photograph a lot (ALOT !) of cemeteries. Part of this comes from our love of photography and road-tripping, but also a significant part of this I think comes from the fact that we are widowed (we both lost our first spouses in 2004) and that we both feel an almost mystical need to reconnect to the soul-grinding, and paradoxically life-affirming, experience of grief. We certainly don’t feel ourselves better qualified to hunt for ghosts because of our losses, even if we do feel as if we know firsthand that “the transition” isn’t all poetry and harp music.

We’ve been following the story recently of Valerie Harper (best known to late-boomers as Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore TV series of the 1970′s), who recently disclosed the fact that she is suffering from an extremely rare and almost-certainly-terminal form of brain cancer. She has been very upfront about her condition in TV interviews, and has insisted that she is merely living her life, hoping for the best and wants people not to be afraid of death.

Laudable and brave, we might think, but it also makes us realize that as a basic, primordial thing, death is awful and complete and non-negotiable and often leaves the loved ones who are left behind – even those who have had time to prepare – absolutely shattered. Her ride is here, as Warren Zevon might say, and we cannot help but look at her as a somewhat familiar face now changed by a sudden expiration date.

We wonder sometimes whether the spirits we look for, all of us, have an awareness of the grief that was left in the wake of their passing, and what (if anything) they think about it. Has anyone gotten an EVP that says “do not fear death”, or “tell them I’m okay”, or for that matter “I wish I weren’t dead”. One must live one’s days, in some sense, in denial of The Inevitable, and we understand that. But why do we not ask the dead about the suffering of the loved ones left behind?

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