I knew it was coming, sooner or later, that inevitable moment when Sam would say “We need to talk” all the while avoiding my eye, looking about as if he expected phantoms to pop up in every corner. I won’t rehash it verbatim, but in essence, it was a conversation with which I am familiar. It’s the conversation that usually begins with some kind of compliment or loving statement like “You’re a really nice person” or “I really like having you in my life” followed by an unspoken “but”. Eventually, at some point after a lot of hemming and hawing, the speaker gets around to the heart of the matter: “It’s not you… it’s not me… it’s the ghosts.” “The ghosts” being some statement about the threshold work that I do. The conversation ends usually with a severing of ties, either for the reason of non-belief (and the implication that believing is somehow a character flaw or personality disorder) or of a fear of the work itself.
At the end of the day, the conversation becomes about the speaker’s comfort zones. Modern western society is, on the whole, uncomfortable with death. Spirit work tends to be dismissed in popular culture as a form of entertainment that attracts mostly curiosity seekers who want to experience the adrenaline rush of a good scare. While most people can accept ghosts-as-entertainment, the thought that there might be something more to it frightens them. Even those who profess a belief in spirits are often happiest when keeping them at arm’s length, usually as the subject of some distant tale to be told rather than something to be dealt with directly.
I am under no illusions that what I do will ever be widely accepted, so I do tend to limit my disclosures when dealing with people on a face-to-face basis to those who absolutely need to know. Sam was on that short need-to-know list for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that he’s been on the receiving end of my work. Samhain brought it home to him that the work that I do is a lot bigger and more encompassing than he had imagined. As he put it, it is one thing to hear about it second-hand or get a small glimpse of it, it’s entirely different when the person sitting across the table from you lives and breathes the work. The “enormity” of it is not something that he’s equipped to deal with right now. I recognize that and would rather absent myself from his life than be a source of consternation when he’s already facing so many other challenges.
A long time ago, I made the decision that I would answer these conversations with understanding rather than resistance. There is no argument that I can put forward when someone tells me that they cannot cope with who I am or what I do. I am what I am and the work that calls to me is the work that I am meant to do above all else. It is work that springs, not from some morbid desire to dwell in shadows and dark places, but from a well of love, compassion, and duty. It fulfills me in a way that nothing else does. I cannot change that aspect of myself for the comfort of others, nor can I cease my work to spare the feelings of one person. Letting go, and doing so as graciously as possible, is the only solution that I’ve found that limits the pain involved in severing ties.
I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to put all of this into words. This post is perhaps one part apology to someone who will be hurt and angry that I did not fight to keep Sam in my life, one part warning for those who take up threshold work with any seriousness that there’s more than one way to lose someone in doing this work, and one part recording of where I wander as I tread my path. In any case, there it is, ghosts and all.