David Foster Wallace once said, “Every love story is a ghost story.”

I never quite got his point until recently when I entered the final stretch of selling and emptying my family’s house for the past forty years. But now I think I do.

Get his point (or at least my version of it!).

You see the story of my family’s house is very much a love story.

The love story of Barb and Tommy. My mother and stepfather.

And now, as I say good-bye, as we say good-bye, to the house that Mom  and Tommy bought in 1983 to live the ideal, perfect even, version of their love story, all the ghosts ever associated with that story, are showing up.

To say their own good-byes.

They arrived on Friday.

I had been out of town for a few days and the minute I stepped back into the house, I was overwhelmed.

By a feeling of overwhelm.

I felt every possible emotion under the sun (and moon) and, quite literally, could not settle down.

I had a few extra gin and tonics and fell asleep/passed out around, I don’t know, 10, 11, 1, maybe 2.  When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I was in a tilt-a-whirl.

In my bed.

Not because of the gin, but because of the energy.  I called a wise one who lives in Portugal.

“Something’s up,” I said.

“Yes, yes, it is,” she said, before going on to explain that all the energies associated with the past forty years of that house, of Mom and Tommy’s love story, were running rampant.

“You need to leave,” she said. “This has nothing to do with you. But the energies are in your way. And you’re in theirs.”

So, I packed up the pooch and went to stay in a hotel for the weekend.

To give the energies, the ghosts, their space.

“Y’all need to get this out of your system,” I said more than a little impatiently. “The house is going to sell. The story is going to end.”

I’m not going to lie: When I came back on Monday, I kinda half-squinted my eyes and most definitely took a deep breath as I opened the door from the garage back into the house (I almost called out, “Honeys, I’m home.”).

The house was more still than I’d ever experienced. It was the stillness.

Of death.

I walked into the kitchen and looked in the den. There, amidst the stillness, I could see the tiniest flashes of light whirling around, ever so gently.

Like little lightening bugs.

Of yellow. And orange. And green.

It was the final embers.

Of the energies, the ghosts.

Circling one more time through all the years.

Taking one more look at the love story.

Of Barb and Tom.

Watching those energies swirl in room after room, any impatience I had felt faded away.

In its place, I felt nothing but grace.

At witnessing the fragile, wondrous, beautiful truth.

That “every love story is a ghost story.”

As I write this, a big storm is approaching Plano, Texas, which is where my family’s house sits.

A storm of high winds, heavy rain and maybe a little hail.

“It’s a typical spring storm,” a friend said to me this morning, before adding, “which is weird because it’s not yet spring.”

Of course, it’s not weird at all.

Because this isn’t a spring storm that’s coming to Plano in an hour or two.

It’s a ghost storm.

A ghost storm that is headed this way to lift up and scatter across the four directions the dying embers of all the love.

That was born from Barb and Tommy’s love.

So that new stories, new love stories.

Can begin.


Note: The LOVE sign you see in the picture above is the only thing I’ll be leaving in the family’s house when I walk out of it for the last time. It seems the perfect gift to say good-bye. And hello.


The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.