An hour goes by fast in the intuitive medium's office. With a pad and pen, I prepared for the discussion of health, home, career and the status of our dearly departed babysitter who left us almost a year ago. Never had I asked Delphina to talk to the dead before. Channeling seemed very cliché and Victorian high society, and not the reason why I waited ten months for this appointment. I am here because the quality of conversation is unlike any other in my life -- direct, thoughtful, private, boundless. I am nurtured by the intimacy and range of discussion, not necessarily by talking to spirits. But because we lost Carie so quickly and because my 5-year-old still asked "is Carie happier now?' not inquiring would be silly. After all, Delphina has the technology, and I had only to endure a traffic-heavy drive to Chicago's more modest West side to use it.
She says talking to Spirit is a dual process. Part one is to see, feel or hear it and interpret what it's saying. Part two is when her own spirits chime in and help clarify. I had seen her give invisible high-fives to her personal spirits once before. She waved her hand up in the empty space behind her, like a team member whacking another's butt after a field goal. Unlike a lot of people who use Intuitive Mediums, I have not lost a child, just a friend. I trust her not to tell me the future, but what she feels, sees and hears, and although the process is exhilarating, I know Delphina can be wrong.
"Let's see if she'll come through," she said about Carie. She closed her eyes. After a moment, she rubbed her cropped spiky hair like it was a luscious mane.
"Her hair is incredible," she said, eyes still closed. "She's like the little girl from Brave." I was dumbfounded. I hadn't seen the Disney movie that featured the new, red-haired princess who wanted to be a warrior, but that was Carie exactly.
"Not just her hair, but her attitude. She wanted to be seen differently, and your family saw her. You saw who she really was."
I am not a crier, but my eyes welled up. The truth was, I hardly knew Carie. Just that she was 37, spirited and funny, loved working with children and wanted more than her Southside Chicago upbringing had promised her. One night, my husband and I came home after a date. Carie was curled in our most comfortable leather chair, reading A People's History of the United States. She wore small, wire frame glasses I had never seen before. They suited her.
"She was more like a nanny than a babysitter, wasn't she?"
I shook my head. We only hired her a half dozen times before she got sick.
Delphina insisted very rarely; only when the spirit/ client narratives didn't match. At that point, she pressed both of us for clarity. She was like an ombudsperson, or a project manager mediating between the in-house team and the client.
"But you helped her. You gave her advice. They keep saying the word mentor."
By 'they,' I knew Delphina meant the spirits. I didn't know my input had made an impression. I only knew that Carie was my daughter's favorite, and I wanted her to know us, trust us, stay. Even a year later I often thought about how fast Carie got sick. Her last text, which I still have, says, I intend to get through this and on with my life! I started to cry.
"Her body didn't have a chance." Delphina said.
"She is at peace."
I made a mental note to tell my daughter that much.
"You know your daughter really misses her." Delphina's eyes were open now.
I knew this.
"No, I mean really misses her. Talks to her every day and every night. Cries about her. Who is Ella?"
The subjects often change like this, with haste and randomness. As a client, you are obligated to say the first thing that comes to your mind, even if it's 'I don't know.' Lots of times, mediums miss. They don't always know the nature of what they're asking. It's not a perfect interface at all. But as it happens, my daughter has a good friend and classmate named Ella, a soulful little girl who had lost her grandmother the year earlier.
"Ella can help your daughter," Delphina said, tapping her own heart. "She knows how it feels. She has a space in her heart."
Only now did the point of my inquiry, of my trust in this strange form of communication become clear. Once you're given the direct experience of comfort, it's hard to deny.
That night, while putting my daughter to bed, we lay in the dark and stared at her glowing, remote control moon. In the quiet she usually asks if she's going to live a long time, or if I will still love her after I die. Instead, I spoke first.
"Today mommy talked to a lady who can talk to the angels."
"Yes. She told me Carie can hear you talking to her."
"Yes. You can talk to her as much as you want, whenever you want. She hears you."
The joy and relief and wonder that came over my daughter's face erased every misgiving, every urge to feel guilty of spreading misinformation. As she fell asleep my heart lifted. Her comfort, I realized, was worth to me one hundred times the risk that Delphina's understanding of spirit was incomplete. Because frankly, whose understanding isn't?