“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”

– Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

Do you believe in ghosts?

If you’d have asked me that six years ago, I’d have said no. I may have added a caveat that anything is possible and we can’t know what happens after death, but ultimately I thought that when we died we were gone forever.

Then my gramma died, and every night for months after she would sit on the edge of my bed and sing “Que Será, Será” to me like she did when I was a kid.

It was a particularly poignant song for her to sing because at the time I was watching my brother fight cancer and constantly fretting over what the future would hold. I would curl in a ball and cry, wondering if Andrew was going to live or die, wondering what I was going to do with my law degree, wondering if my tumultuous relationship would last, and I would hear her voice in my head singing:

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será

Was my actual grandmother sitting on my bed and singing to me? Did she leave an ethereal imprint that could still interact with the world, something we might call a ghost?

Was it real or was it just happening inside my head?

“Of course it is happening inside your head … but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

– Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

I’m still not sure I believe in ghosts, but I fully believe in the power of memories.

The memory of my grandmother singing to me as I went to sleep soothed me after she was gone. Every day, my farmer-turned-artist grandfather talks to me through his paintings on my wall. When I’m struggling with my career, I hear his encouragement to keep creating, the permission to be an artist.

On Sunday, it will be five years since I watched my brother die, and I can still feel him squeezing my shoulder when I cry, just like he used to do.

Memories are magical. They hold a power we cannot begin to comprehend. They can transport us to another time, bring loved ones back from the dead, and ease our suffering.

Today is Día de los Muertos, one of many sacred holidays around the world that celebrates the memory of loved ones. A two day festival originating from a combination of ancient Aztec ritual and Catholic doctrine, the sole purpose of this holiday is remembrance.

Growing up in a border town, my childhood was filled with Mexican culture and traditions, including a celebration of life every November 1. We’d bring photos of loved ones to school and share memories or write stories about them.

When you tell someone’s story, you create a ghost. You bring them back, if only for a moment.

Ever hear the term “speak of the devil”? Even simply saying someone’s name out loud can feel like an invocation.

Words hold power. Memories are magical. Stories are sacred.

I encourage you to take some time this week to share the story of a loved one who is no longer physically with you. Say their name out loud. Put a photo of them on your wall. Journal about your favorite memories of them. Cook their favorite meal. Dance to a song you both loved. Share stories with others who loved them too.

Surround yourself in their story. Create a ghost.

With love and light and memories,

Lauren

P.S. Every year during the first week of November, I create an altar full of the names of loved ones – mine and yours – who are no longer physically with us. If you have a loved one whose name you’d like me to include on my Altar of the Remembered, leave a comment below. <3

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