I Wonder: Connecting With The Dead


I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone when I say that psychics bug me. It’s the cold reading, the lying or fuzzy-thinking, the misguided and arrogant belief that they are helping people cope with death by making up stories about their dead loved ones – it’s all creepy and wildly disrespectful, I think.

I can, however, entirely see the appeal psychics have. We’ve all lost someone we love – it’s part of life, part of the human experience, and it utterly and completely sucks. The idea that there’s something beyond the world we see, that somehow a form of our consciousness survives it and is able to come back through the void to reassure the ones we love is immensely attractive. It’s also, thus far, demonstrably untrue.

When I was growing up, I’d spend every summer at my grandparents’ static caravan in a little wooded caravan site, every year between the ages of 1 and 14 (or so). When I was maybe round about 4 or so I made friends with a kid there, and every year we’d spend the whole summer at each others’ side – he was the first person I’d go call for when I woke up in the morning, and other than mealtimes I’d be with him until I went to sleep, for 6 weeks every year, for maybe 14 years. We were as close as brothers. His name, too, was Michael, and though I’d only see him a few weeks of the year, for those weeks we were like family.

Still, kids grow up, and the appeal of a tin-pot caravan in the middle of small wood in County Durham soon wears off for a teenager, and I stopped heading to the caravan site every year, and in doing so I lost touch with Michael.

When I was 20, I learned Michael had taken an overdose, and had died. Understandably, I was knocked sidewards when I found out. To this day it still hurts that my best friend isn’t around any more, and that I’ll never see him again.

I got to thinking of Michael the other day, and how we were when we were growing up. I remembered one time in particular when – disaster! – I’d run out of cereal. I was a dramatic sod of a kid at the best of times, and early morning with nothing sugary to put in my bowl of milk is most certainly not the best of times. The small caravan site shop was pretty limited, and offered no solution – but a quick knock on Michael’s door and I was soon tucking in to a bowl of Sugar Puffs (something of a treat at the time, as my parents didn’t believe in buying named-brand cereals). It’s a memory that, for no clear reason, has stuck with me very distinctly.

The other day, I was making a similarly-urgent dash to the shops for cereal, and I found myself hankering for some Sugar Puffs – not one of my regular cereals these days, but I thought ‘Why not?’. Pouring myself a bowlful, I suddenly remembered the time I had it at Michael’s and it made me smile to remember my best mate at the time, and the years spent with him as kids.

I guess my point is: we all have people we’ve lost, and we all yearn to connect with them again. Personally, rather than paying a ‘psychic’ £30 or £40 to invent from whole cloth new memories about someone I loved, I spend a little money on something that brings back genuine memories. Listen to a CD they loved, go somewhere that meant something to them, or even just buy a box of the cereal they used to eat – that’s how we can truly re-connect with the ones we’ve lost.

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  1. #1 by seedy Pete on March 7, 2010 - 19:29

    Nice piece Marsh! My father died 21 years ago and some music and some smells instantly transport me back to a time when I was a child with him around, I for one do not need a or want a ‘psychic’ charging me money to spoil those memories!!

  2. #2 by Cici on March 7, 2010 - 20:19

    I remember being tempted to go to psychic when my boyfriend died 5 years ago, but I knew they would only be telling me things I wanted to hear and that there was no way I would or could possible feel any better. I would leave with nothing and they would leave with my money and absolutely no guilt about lying to me to get it. Took me a long time to be able to go back to things that reminded me of him, but rather that than false impressions to fill the void!

  3. #3 by Jo on March 8, 2010 - 08:11

    That’s lovely, and you’re right, sometimes the most ridiculous things can bring back the best memories of people, and also you can choose to remember loved ones in the way you feel is most appropriate. When my Mum died 10 years ago, we had the wake in the pub that’d been her favourite in her teens and then we promptly went on the fair that was present in the town square at the time. To quote my Auntie: “Your Mam always loved the fair.”

    They may all be slightly nuts in Mum’s family but to me, that was the best thing we could have done as it celebrated Mum’s sense of fun.

    No ‘info’ in the world that a psychic can try and pass off as genuine can replicate authentic memories that we already have.

  4. #4 by Kelly on March 8, 2010 - 10:48

    Very moving post Marsh. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

  5. #5 by Stu on March 8, 2010 - 11:32

    Brilliant post!

    Where do I start?

    A couple of my sisters keep being told my father is ‘with them’ at all times looking over their shoulders to make sure they’re alright! It costs them £30 or so a pop to hear this useless shite!

    My father was a violent alcoholic who abused his wife and all of his kids constantly. Thankfully, he drank himself into an early grave (unmarked and untended ever since (1985)), and the quality of life for the rest of us has improved year on year. If he is over my shoulder(!) I hope he can see me typing this and f@£k off!

    I won’t vent my spleen fully as I am wont to do whenever the subject of these con artists comes up – I’ve said enough in the past.

    Any chance of an anti psychic campaign like 1023?

  6. #6 by Simon Nurse on March 8, 2010 - 12:11

    On a completely different – and some would say very trivial level – our cat was knocked over and killed on the weekend. It came as a complete and utter shock and it was only then that we truly realised that Lucy was a very loving and very loved family member who will be sorely missed.

    To some degree I feel a little envy towards people who hold religious or paranormal beliefs. You can see what an attractive bolt hole that must be when coping wth any sense of loss, worry or concern (which undoubedtly drives the belief). It would certainly make it a lot easier to explain to a 3 year old toddler who keeps asking ‘Where’s Lucy?’ At least I could answer ‘She’s playing a harp on a fluffy cloud love, all cosy and warm’.

    However rational and non-religious people have to deal with reality; it comes to all of us and life moves on. Pyschics who prey on feelings of loss are a complete disgrace.

  7. #7 by Simon Nurse on March 8, 2010 - 16:47

    ……(sorry, meant to add – excellent piece).

  8. #8 by Miguel Corkhill on March 11, 2010 - 17:58

    So not only are you lot being paid by big pharma, you´ve taken the sugar puffs shilling aswell. Is there no evil corporation who´s money you won´t take?

  9. #9 by Michael on March 11, 2010 - 20:40

    When my mum died I didn’t grieve. But when my cat Lola died I did. However I think the upset I had about the cat was really about my mum, or in fact both. It was cathartic and also loving. I feelthey are with me in my thoughts and also they affect my actions. But they are both definitely gone physically and in every other way. It is the mind that holds them now – nothing else. That is good enough for me.

  10. #10 by Stu on March 12, 2010 - 11:32

    MIguel

    Just in case you aren’t not joking, I’d like to draw your attention to the ‘who are we’ tab at the top of this page. Particularly the following:

    “The Merseyside Skeptics Society is a non-profit organisation which aims to develop and support the skeptical community on Merseyside.”

    You may also find the following useful:

    http://tiny.cc/2T2Ej

    warmest Regards

  11. #11 by Stu on March 12, 2010 - 11:35

    Apologies. There must be a glitch in tiny’s site. Try this one:

    http://tiny.cc/2T2Ej

  12. #12 by Lloyd on March 14, 2010 - 05:07

    Good story, good point thank you

  13. #13 by Miguel Corkhill on March 14, 2010 - 12:38

    It´s ok Stu, I was joking. It´s just that I found the image of men from Sugar Puffs wearing black suits and Ray Bans, handing over brown envelopes, amusing.

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