And you probably do to. You just may not admit it. No, I don’t see them, and no, they don’t talk back.
Starting as a young child, I would talk to those who have passed this earth before me, sort of like an imaginary friend. I only talk to those I knew before and only when there (was) is a specific concern that call(ed)s for it. If I feel that person in life would have been there with helpful words to ease a certain situation, I sometimes reach out with a non-verbal convo.
For example, I remember clearly my beautiful Bubby. Her skin was soft, her eyes a kind and sweet understanding blue and when she was buried on my 6th birthday (if my memory serves me well) it solidified the connection between us. She became my go-to friend or listening partner. When I was sad or angry or upset by something family-related, I would go to my room and talk to her, sometimes out loud (or more like a whisper) but most often in my head. It helped me sort out my feelings and release the heavy emotional burden I carried.
When my friend lost her mother, though I had only remembered her mother lying on the couch when I’d visit *never realizing she was ill, just thought she was always resting*, when I went back to pay my respects we had a “conversation” and I asked her silently to make my friend’s pain go away. It was awkward at a young age and I had no experience in comforting someone on that level, so I searched her mother’s features in my mind and begged her to make it better. Because in my mind, dead people had super powers.
In high school, there was a student struck down by a driver, hitting him while he was mowing his own lawn. Horrifying. Terrified to know these things could happen, even when you think you are safe on your own property, I sought out my Bubby’s face to make it better because I still had a weird concept of what happens to people when they die and this poor young boy needed someone. He was only a year or 2 older than me and all I could think of was to ask my Bubby to watch for him so he wouldn’t be so alone.
I have lost a few really close friends, mostly to illness. One friend in particular died after we were both married, had children, but someone I had known since we were in kindergarten. We used to talk on the phone all night and as teenagers shared many feelings about the future and things that frightened or excited us. He used to drive me home and we often took detours for nature walks or to a sports complex just to spend more time together. After he was gone I’d find myself “talking” to him. Things I’d think he would have appreciated or acknowledged or simply taken notice of, I would say a quick – hey, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
This past year, I had a friend whom I channeled more than any of those in the past. I felt like she would always have said something to help me with the struggle of balancing parenting while working from out of the home (an issue I deal with weekly). When I notice someone in need I can bring up her silent voice egging me on, convincing me not to be lazy but to take action. I know this is my yetzer tov, *positive inclination*, but it has her voice all over it. When I notice the pajama pants my daughter is wearing that she left for me on my front doorknob a few years ago, she reminds me to pay it forward. I never asked for those clothing that no longer fit her daughter but she thought of me, and I truly appreciated that random gesture of kindness. And now, about a year later after she left us, I have spoken to her many times and asked to give me strength as an emissary of G-d. I’m not cuckoo, I believe that G-d is the only one who can answer my bakashot, *requests*, but I can’t help but imagine that if there is such a thing as souls being G-d’s helpers I’d bet she is there making things happen.
So I still talk to dead people. After all these years, so what? Lots of people have ways of coping with (or avoiding) issues that we find difficult. When there are stresses in life, or worries that we have no control over perhaps it seems we are powerless to make effective change. We need chizuk, *strength*, from things we find comfort in. As devout as I’d love to be, I wish I could have the memory to bring up certain phrases from prayer to balm the sores of sorrow, panic and fear, but I am not. Some people abuse food, some people exercise, some people garden, paint, play music, meditate or sleep it off. Me? I still talk to dead people, so there.