I was a little nervous, because I’d never given this type of reading before. I was going to be a detective, a seeker of souls lost in the mystery of time. Dora wanted me to contact spirits she’d never met, because they held important clues to who she was, and where she came from. So, when she knocked on my office door a few afternoons ago, I whispered a quick prayer to my guides for help, then ushered her in.
People generally book sessions with me because they want to hear from the spirits of their loved ones. Or, if they prefer a psychic reading, they want to know about their life in general. With that type of sitting, I still bring wisdom from the spirit world, and then encourage people to make their own choices about what’s best for them.
Dora was a second-generation Canadian; her parents, born in Hungary, "named me after Saint Dorothea of Caesarea, the patron saint of gardeners," she said proudly. Clearly, this woman knew her history. (Maybe, I thought, I should ask her to look at my garden, which wasn’t doing so well after the harsh winter.)
She was compiling information about her family tree, and hoped her ancestor in the spirit world would talk to her. She’d traced her family back to Hungary and Romania, but many records had been either lost or destroyed during World War II and the subsequent Communist occupation.
In one hand, she clasped a dark green folder filled with papers. The other hand held a small brown paper bag. As I led her to my office, she asked me about my own Hungarian background – Molnar is a common Hungarian name, like Miller in England or Kelly in Ireland.
"Sorry," I said with a laugh, gesturing for her to sit. "I married into the clan."
She pulled a small cellophane-covered paper plate from the bag and placed it on my desk. "I made some poppyseed kolaches. It’s from my grandmother’s recipe."
The moment I touched a kolache, I felt a gentle male presence nearby. I can’t eat and message at the same time, so I just held the cookie and began speaking.
"I have a gentleman with me," I said, "a gregarious fellow who can’t wait to talk. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, and has a thick moustache. He’s identifying himself as great-grandfather. He’s showing me his hands – he worked with his hands. Was he a sander?"
Dora dug through the papers in her folder and pulled a cracked, yellowed photo of a burly man in a three-piece suit standing next to a seated woman who looked like she’d just swallowed a lemon slice. "This is Sandor," she said, pronouncing the name as the Hungarian Shondor.
For the next twenty minutes Sandor "spoke" to me about the Nagy family, and told Dora where she might find some information about her family. Unfortunately, the church in Sandor’s village that held the records burned down in the late 19th century. But the church’s graveyard had a small section for the Nagy family, and she could view the tombstones.
"Sandor’s son had two illegitimate children," I said, passing her the information. "He also fathered a girl out of wedlock. By a woman who lived on a neighbouring farm."
She sighed, a bit embarrassed to admit her grandfather’s fallibility. "We knew Béla was quite a rascal!"
A few more members of Dora’s spirit family came through and Dora filled several pages with notes. When the session was over, she smiled and said she’d check out the information I’d given her.
As I headed back to my office, I wondered about my own family tree. I could only trace my relatives back a few generations. There was so much about my roots I didn’t know, and seeing Dora made me curious to know more.
On my father’s side, grandfather Sidney Kelly left Belfast for Canada; my father joked that Sidney was "kicked out of Ireland for stealing cows." My mother’s family came from Austria and Czechoslovakia, and her father, Oscar Epstein, was regarded as a hero for saving hundreds of Jews during World War II by bringing them to Canada.
And before that? Who were my ancestors during the Renaissance? Did some ancient Kelly in Gaul fight against Caesar’s armies? Do I have Druid blood within me, and did my kin worship at Stonehenge?
Someday, I’ll travel to Belfast and get Sidney’s story. We should all try to keep the roots of our family tree healthy and strong, I thought, as I reached for another kolache.