ashtrayThe internet is a weird and wonderful thing, and this past week it connected me with a man who lives halfway around the world and is struggling with the death of his mother.  I am about to do a reading for him, even though there is a language barrier — I only speak English and his deceased mother only speaks a regional dialect of her country.  Everyone but me is concerned about this.  I am not concerned because language is only one way to communicate, and is not the preferred way for spirits of the dead.

To be clear, I am a “word person,” meaning that I love reading, writing, talking, and playing every word-centric game ever invented.  But words can be slow, clumsy, misunderstood, and wildly inaccurate.  If you exclaim, “I need a cobbler!,” you could be limping along on a broken shoe, needing someone to fix it, or you could be ravenously hungry and wanting a tasty dessert.  And if you say to me, “There’s the solution,” when I’m not looking, I will have no idea if you just solved a problem or found a vial full of a substance dissolved in another substance.  Spirits of the dead don’t like to be misunderstood, so they often skip the words and go straight for the illustrations.  When I do a reading, spirits show me things instead of telling me — they manifest a screen and show me a video, or show me photographs, or show me objects — all of which are, in some way, the answer to a question that has been asked.

I once did a reading for a man who lost his wife to pancreatic cancer, and in the middle of the reading, he asked about her brother and her brother’s wife.  The man tried to be diplomatic about it, but he wanted to know if it was okay for him to end his relationship with them, now that she was gone.  Her spirit showed me a stick and an ashtray, and she held them out as if to say, “Like this.  They are like this.”  I was reluctant to tell the man what she was showing me because it seemed absurd.  But I did tell him, and he paused a moment and then burst out laughing, exclaiming, “That’s EXACTLY what they are like!”  The woman’s spirit clarified her “statement” by modeling the stick for me, highlighting its unremarkable straightness and bland color, and then she stuck it in the ground.  I relayed this information and the man laughed again, saying, “Yes, her brother is boring and a real stick in the mud!”

The woman’s spirit picked up the ashtray to show me the contents: hundreds of cigarette butts.  And then she showed me another woman (presumably the sister-in-law) carrying the ashtray around, collecting really nasty cigarette butts from other people, from the ground, from other ashtrays, and holding them like they were treasure.  I said, “She’s showing me….” and described the scene.  The man understood perfectly, and said, “Yes, her sister-in-law is like that.  She is a receptacle for other people’s rubbish ideas and nastiness, and she is every kind of offensive -ist you can imagine.”  Then the woman’s spirit held up the stick and ashtray again and clinked them together while looking at them with a puzzled expression.  The man understood this, too, and said, “Yeah, they make a weird couple and don’t have much of a relationship.”

Words could not have conveyed all of that so quickly and so accurately.  Or so memorably.

Emotional states and feelings about things are similarly expressed during a reading.  A spirit that is agitated or upset doesn’t need to tell me, I can see it in how agitated they look.  And — not surprisingly — guilt looks the same on you, alive or dead (hint: you look down).

And so, I am not that worried about being able to bypass the language barrier and communicate with the troubled man’s deceased mother.  I am confident that pictures will tell her story better than words ever could.

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