October 4, 2011

Dead Friends, Living Friendships

Recently I went to the see the final Harry Potter movie. To anyone looking on, it appeared that I was alone, and physically I was. But really I wasn’t. My friend Wayne was sitting there next to me. We had gone and seen the first Harry Potter movie together in 2001, it seemed only fitting that we go see the last one in 2011 despite the fact that he died in 2004 (I mean, why should a little thing like that get in the way?).

Wayne is dead, but our friendship lives on.

Most people get this… metaphorically. Our loved ones that are gone live in our hearts. The things they taught us, they ways in which they changed us, made us better, go on after they are gone. We are changed, and hopefully improved, by having known them.

And I mean that, I do. But that’s not quite all I mean. I talk to the dead.

Now don’t freak out and run away. I’m not a ghost whisper, or a psychic, or a mental patient. I am just a man who has had his share of loss and has found it useful to talk to the dead.

I try not to get hung up on if it is “real” or if I am “making it up”; I just sometimes talk to those that are gone. Like in the theater with Wayne waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

You see Wayne loved the movies, and while he was alive we went all the time. He would call me up in the middle of a work day and tempt me away from my computer. It was fun and simple and easy; and very good for me. I don’t have anyone in my life that does that now—living that is. I still sometimes hear him tempting me, whispering in my ear about some promising action flick.

I took Wayne with me to the latest James Bond films. I had no choice, really. He was a huge Bond fan and didn’t live long enough to see the Daniel Craig version while he was alive. How could he not be there with me for Casino Royale? It was a darker, tougher Bond, but it was fabulous. He would have loved it… he did love. I know, he told me.

Now remember when I said not to get too caught up in whether this is “real” whether I “made it up”? You see it doesn’t matter. If it is real to me, if it helps me to talk to my dead friend, then so be it.

There’s limits of course. I have doubts, plenty of them. It took me a while after Wayne’s death to get to the point where I could talk to him. Too soon and I was too deep in the grief. And it’s been a while since he left, so it doesn’t happen as often as it used to; life has changed a lot since 2004.

But sitting there, waiting for Harry Potter to start. Who else would be there with me?

When my friend Jeff was murdered in 2009 I started writing. Not about Jeff, but about death. I didn’t know Jeff as well as I knew Wayne, but the circumstances and suddenness of his passing hit me hard. I had to write.

I didn’t even know what I was doing when I started. It began as a quiet meditation on death:

When someone dies, the world doesn’t stop. It seems like it should, but it doesn’t. It would be useful if it did stop. You know, take a moment, get your bearings, and deal with practical and emotional details that engulf a death. But no, no stopping, no break, you just gotta continue your drunkard’s walk down the path of life.

Then a few paragraphs later I was surprised by:

When I died, the world didn’t stop, not a bit. I wasn’t expecting it to, but it would’ve been nice, you know?

Soon I learned his name was “JJ”, and he had died suddenly and he was dealing with the life he left behind and his new after-life. And before I knew it I had a novel, Shuffled Off: A Ghost’s Memoir. Nearly 300 pages full of ghosts and friendships and adventures, all from the ghost’s point of view. This wasn’t a book I wanted to write, this was I book I had to write. For me it was a trip to the other side and a chance for the dead to talk (even the fictional dead have a lot to say).

I don’t pretend to have the answers, and maybe I am making it all up. But, I do know that friendship can go beyond, as Shakespeare would say, the shuffling off of this mortal coil.

Do you have dead friends you miss? Maybe you should try talking to them once in a while. Maybe they are waiting to hear from you. Maybe it will do you some good.

You can find Shuffled Off: A Ghost’s Memoir at Amazon.comand BarnesAndNoble.com




I wrote this a while back but was waiting for the release of Shuffled Off to post it. So, as it turns out, today is the seventh anniversary of Wayne’s death, and today at 9:34a I got the notice from Amazon that the book was officially available on the Kindle.

To be fair the book showed up on Amazon yesterday, but just wasn’t official. And to be clear, I didn’t plan for the book to come out today, I have just been moving at my best pace to get it out and today is the official day.

Spooky? Strange? Hell, I don’t know. What I do know is that I miss my friend Wayne and I kinda think he’s still around helping me out, helping this book get out.

So thanks Wayne, love you man.

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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  1. Congratulations! I know Wayne talks to you and Aleia and to me. I am excited to read your book. Great Accomplishment! Robert. Thank you for educating all who are willing to be.
    Love, Carolene

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