hannah died at the age of 42 on february 10, 1840. hannah’s mother-in-law preceded her in death 363 days earlier at the age of 74 and is buried several gravesites east of hannah. after losing his mother and his first wife less than a year apart, josiah starling married susan who joined hannah in death nearly eight years later at the age of 46. josiah lived another eight years, dying in 1856, buried next to susan in the row of gravesites north of his mother and hannah. hannah is the ghost who accompanies me as i contemplate death and grieving in a cemetery two hundred yards downhill from monhegan island’s lighthouse. hannah resembles an older, more beautiful ghost-cousin of mine. she doesn’t speak to me. she doesn’t haunt me. she walks next to me. i speak to her. i ask about her death, was it childbirth or pneumonia? it was both. or neither. i don’t know since she won’t tell me. without speaking she lets me know that the cause of death is irrelevant. she was only 42. her daughter lizzie is buried next to her. josiah had more children with his next wife, susan, and all these children are buried next to susan, commemorated with a single headstone without names or dates. did they die together? did they die of illness or fire? hannah won’t tell me. hannah wordlessly communicates that the spirits of lizzie, josiah, susan, and their children reincarnated into new lives more than a century ago, that she is the only one left here alone. she is the only ghost in this cemetery. she is a peaceful spirit at home among these headstones downhill from the lighthouse. her life is unfinished, even though she has been dead for 173 years. she helps the living ones that are lost. she helps me. i pace the cemetery, weeping. i don’t know why i’m crying. i’m crying for no reason and every reason and hannah knows all these reasons. hannah carries the peace that comes after grief has passed. i ask her when i’ll find that peace. she says nothing. i stop walking. she walks on. i remain still. she keeps walking, but slower, waiting for me to catch up. we walk together again. i have no more questions. i ask her nothing. she says nothing. and for a few hours neither of us is alone.