Author: Michele Hiester Marcum

It’s that spook-tacular time of year, with all things creepy and frightening lurking in the shadows and lunging from television ads as you mindlessly surf channels, looking for something worthy of your time and energy. And, quite frankly, I absolutely hate it.

Carved Pumpkin

At one point in my life, it was an exciting challenge to see who could unmercifully scare whom, and it was doubly entertaining if someone cried or at least wet their pants. But that was long before I understood what real fear is. Military death has a way of putting life in perspective and squelching any humor that might otherwise be found in stories of ghosts, goblins and the walking dead. Real fear can be found in living, living without a loved one. 

I’ve talked to so many surviving siblings in the years since my brother’s death, and I can confirm while every story is different, most share the commonality of fear in some form. We’re scared of never finding happiness again… and equally scared we someday will. We are frightened by the thought our memories are finite and terrified we might fail to recall even the tiniest piece of our history. We worry we’ll forget the cadence of their voice, the exact color of their eyes, the burble of their laughter. Grieving can be as downright scary as it is exhausting, and I find this time of year to be a concoction of nonsense and disappointment that does nothing but drain me further, leaving me as hollow as a gutted jack-o-lantern. Aside from the majestic blaze of fall foliage, which I adore, I would just as soon skip the creepiness of the season, leaping from mid-October straight into November. 

Marcum Fall PhotoI know there are people who embrace Halloween as forcefully as I abhor it, and as much as I’d like to accept their preferences, I simply don’t understand them. I’ve never wanted to construct a make-shift coffin in my yard, or splatter fake blood across my porch, or terrify innocent children in search of sugar. I don’t like being scared and will not even consider visiting even the least frightening of all haunted houses. Cemeteries are for daylight hours only and warrant respect, not creepy antics. No, there is absolutely nothing about death or fear that appeals to me, especially since the day evil stole my brother from us.  

I realize I undoubtedly sound like a total bore, with my intolerance for one of America’s favorite holidays, but I accept that title and all it represents. The truth is, I experience the horrors of Halloween every day in my own mind. I wasn’t there to witness his death, but I have unwittingly conjured up every possible scenario of what might have happened. I see the blood, I feel the palpable fear of his comrades, and I hear the horrific silence that reportedly followed the explosion. I don’t want or need a holiday reminding me of the single worst moment of my life. 

At my house, we celebrate autumn, minus all the creepiness. We still carve pumpkins, but their faces all sport friendly, lopsided grins, and mine always includes a hollowed star. Our porch light stays on, and we welcome trick-or-treaters with treats rather than tricks. We sip cider and share chili together as a family, learning to be content in this insular world where real fear lurks every day.