What are spirits if not the memories of the living? The part of those you've known that you carry within you, like a program you've downloaded into your own body (mind | heart | soul) which you can open or run at any present moment... or play like a song.
A client named Lisa expressed her regret to me that she lives too far away from where her parents are buried to visit the cemetery and put flowers on their graves for Memorial Day. Lisa said that every May, year after year, she feels she is "failing" to properly honor the spirits of her family members. She does technically remember them, but with a deep sadness and guilt, picturing their markers bare except for weeds. She worries that they wonder why she is not connecting with them.
Memory and Mediumship
I assured her that the physical location of their remains aren't nearly as relevant to that connection as she has chosen to believe. Contrary to the popular teenage creep factor of ghost hunting in graveyards, spirits don't hang out around the spot where their bodies are interred -- indeed they may never have visited that location in life.
Spirits visit the places where they have lived -- and even more so they are drawn to the souls of those who love and remember them, wherever the living may be.
There are powerful alternatives to putting flowers on a grave in order to connect with departed loved ones:
Look at photographs
Get together or call those who have known them and revisit shared memories
Tell stories about them -- especially to your children or others who did not know them in life
Write (journal or blog) about them
Wear a piece of jewelry or clothing that you've inherited from them
Hold or touch a beloved treasure that belonged to them
Read their letters, diaries, or books you know they loved
Cook a dish they used to prepare for you
Listen to their favorite music
Go to a special location or a view they loved to visit
Rent their favorite movies and watch them with someone who's never seen them before
Research your family tree and give copies to younger generations
Throw a party and create new wakes now -- more thankfully distant from immediate grief
Buy flowers for them and place them in your own house
Sit in someone's favorite chair and see the room as he must have seen it
Take a nap with a quilt that they made
Display their artwork
Make scrapbooks or publish your own book about them
Plant trees in your own yard that can be continual reminders
My parents planted a weeping willow tree in the yard of the house where I grew up. My mother told me that it was my grandmother's favorite tree, and although it's hundreds of miles from her grave or anywhere that she ever lived, it makes me think of my grandmother every time I see it.
"How long should you wait after people pass away before trying to connect with their spirits?" Lisa asked me.
I've always been told it takes 45 days for a soul to cross over, review their lives, travel through the bardo (the "intermediate state" of the soul), and establish themselves on the Other Side before they return in visitation.
Assuming they are not earthbound... I would not recommend trying to contact the recently dead prematurely as it may inhibit their transition or keep them here.
Be Your Own Medium
Just like your computer can open a document or an image or a file that was created on someone else's machine, your heart (mind | body | soul) is a medium for spirit -- your own and anyone else's. The key to opening that spiritual file in this moment, to running that program of another persona, to playing the music of someone else's voice or laughter, is not just any memory but a specifically a joyful one.
Who wants to come around so they can revisit only painful moments from their lives or witness your grief, sadness, regrets?
If you want to connect with your departed loved ones, the magic password -- the secret URL that pulls their spirits up on the browser of your soul -- is laughter-through-tears:
When you recall that memory that makes you laugh out loud or at least smile -- even if it follows those painful thoughts and emotions -- THAT's the frequency, the vibration, the signal, that reconnects the eternal, the timeless, with the present.
What simple, creative ways do you choose to call on -- to honor, to remember -- the spirits of your loved ones?