As most readers know, the original Doc passed away tragically on Halloween day 1985. As a result I stopped celebrating Halloween altogether. The raw pain of Halloween was way more then I could bare so I would sit home, cry and beg God to make the nightmare come to an end. However, having my own children 12 years after Doc’s untimely death brought the inevitable question, “Mommy, why can’t we celebrate Halloween like my friends?”, ever closer to a reality I would have to deal with.
Finally, about 4 years ago, my daughter popped that very question that I had dreaded for so long. I sat her down and we talked about it. That is when she came up with a profound statement that was well beyond her age of about 8. That statement hit me like a ton of bricks and sent into motion a new family Halloween tradition that is continuing to this day. A tradition of celebrating a once dreaded holiday and a tradition of slowly healing still painful emotional wounds formed so long ago.
So what was that profound statement? It was, “Mommy, maybe if you celebrate the holiday that makes you hurt so much then you will eventually heal from the pain.” Those adult like words sent me to my computer to think out a plan. A plan that would make Halloween something special rather then something dreaded. I sat for hours staring at that blank screen before it hit me. Why not a haunted house tour and murder mystery dinner? Our house after all was haunted so why wouldn’t it work? Soon I was tapping out invitations and a complicated murder mystery story designed to send all our guests into mass confusion over who the real murderer was.
Before I knew it Halloween was here and our home was full of guests racing about trying to find clues. All made a guess but no one actually figured out who the real killer was. As I divulged who he was guests ooed and awed over how neat this all was. Then it was time to retire to the dining room for dinner and some ghost story telling, starting with the scary but true history of our little haunted house. As I talked our ghosts made themselves known, thrilling some guests and frightening others. A few hours later, those not brave enough to spend the night were scurrying home. Everyone else remaining stayed up and giggled through the wee hours of the night. As I slipped into bed that night, the giggling echoing through my head, I realized that I had learned from my child. Maybe healing would be good for me. Maybe we should do this again next year. Days later, after hearing all the gossip about how our Halloween party was the coolest ever, I knew without a doubt that I had to do it again.
The next year we updated visitors on the latest ghostly occurrences in the house and sent them into the graveyard on a treasure hunt. Soon they found the final clue and my friend looked at me incredulously, “You really want us to dig up this grave? Are you nuts?” I smiled and answered, “Yup on both counts!” Realizing that this was indeed a real grave and I wanted them to dig in it, kids began to back away and pass the shovel to the person next to them. Finally my friend grabbed the unwanted implement and said, “Ok, Ok, I’ll do it.” Just a few feet down they unearthed the treasure, a box full to the brim of all sorts of candy. Forgetting the fact that they were over an open grave, kids began grabbing handfuls and running for the house giggling and talking loudly about how cool this party was. My friend turned to me and smiled as I put the grave back to rights. I had done it once again, the perfect Halloween haunted house party. One that kids would talk about for years to come.
The following year we continued with the haunted house theme with a fun, candle lit ghost tour of the house and grounds that sent some nervous party goers home very early. Thus continues the healing process that my little girl set into motion all those years ago. Sure, my heart still aches and I still cry come Halloween but the pain is lessened oh so much after I look into the faces of my daughter and all her smiling friends. Their giggles and all their gossip of what next year will hold gives me something to look forward to instead of something to dread. Yet another reason to go on, provided by my little angel.
So what is on tap for this year? A ghost hunt of course! And why not? After all, doesn’t my daughter deserve some healing in her life? That is the least I can give her after the incredible gift she has given me.
In loving memory of Doc of District 13, Sr., loving father, writer and most importantly, grandfather.