It is better to be haunted by the dead than the living. The dead are, by far, more easily dealt with. The dead tend not to want much, just someone to listen to them. To observe and note that they are still around, still have something to say. Once so acknowledged, they move on or fade into the background. The dead are largely ambivalent to our existence beyond that need to have someone notice them.
On the rare occasion when the dead become more persistent, more pernicious, there are ways to deal with that. These ways are effective, and permanent, and guaranteed. Banish a ghost and it is gone. Destroy a spirit's link to our world and it remains forever sundered. Be gone and haunt no more.
I was visited by a spirit, once. Not a ghost. Ghosts are more permanent fixtures. This spirit was passing through. It did not shake me to my core. It did not alter my perceptions. I do not see dead people unless I visit a funeral home. The spirit had a message to convey, and that was all, and I have not heard from it since.
The living are different. They can be thousands of miles away, living out their lives, oblivious to the ways in which the ghostly memories of them constantly intrude upon another. Unlike ghosts, which can be ignored (you would be surprised at how quickly your mind relegates the ghost on the landing to just another personal landmark, like the table with the vase of flowers at the end of the hall), the phantasmic souvenirs of the living command your attention.
This is not about obsession. This is not about wanting to be reminded, about looking for signs and portents in the mundane minutiae of the cereal aisle or the particular path a leaf takes when falling. This is about trying to forget, then coming around a corner and finding yourself face to face with a reminder that is as specific to that person as it is out of place in its location. Not just one item, but half a dozen, each unique and specific, each undeniably linked to that person.
Like a bumper sticker in support of a college a thousand miles away, suddenly there on the car in front of you, when all you were thinking about was what to make for dinner. Or a news article about how hard it is to find this little spot, this little piece of something, that you found once before, and not by yourself. As out of place as a palm tree in Maine, as random as a star falling into your backyard.
The dead do not apologize for haunting. It is what they do. The living, if confronted, say that they are sorry, though rarely what they are sorry for. And what have they done that they should be sorry for? It is not on them, they are not doing anything but going about their lives, oblivious to what is inadvertently left in their wake.
The dead know they haunt.
The living do not.
The above is part of the October 2012 blog chain over at Absolute Write. There are a number of other great writers (and soon to be great writers), some you may know, some you may not, participating in this event, and I don't really have space to list them all. That said, you can find the two in front of me here: http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com and here: http://erlessard.wordpress.com and I encourage you to check them out. (Hillary Jacques also has a new book coming out, which you should preorder.)
And the full list can be found over at Absolute Write.
In case you're wondering, my entry is entirely fictional. Except for the parts that are not.