My blogger friend Hal had a very interesting piece recently about dreams. He said that he viewed his dreams about his wife and son as gifts. His wife and son are very much alive but he has to be away from them from time to time.
Hal's piece got me to thinking. This is the time of year that my mother died, in the fall, of 1996. I don't make a big deal about the anniversary of her death. This year I did not even think of it until the day was almost over. But when the fall season comes I do tend to remember the circumstances surrounding her passing and the months of suffering she endured.
For a long time after her death I would have very vivid dreams about her. In those dreams she was always sick. I would wake up sad because, even though I was 39 years old when she died and I had a lifetime of "healthy" memories of her, I was beginning to always think of her as sick. Of course I could remember her as a very well person but for some reason the "sick" memories were very much trumping the "well" ones. I did not want to remember her only in that way.
I cannot remember exactly when it happened, but eventually I began to dream about her the way I wanted to remember her -- as the compassionate, funny and caring mother and person that she was, and not sick. Although I would awake from those dreams and have a quick twinge of sadness as I remembered she was no longer with me, within minutes I would feel extremely comforted. And the dreams made me feel as if she were right there with me.
My dad died nearly ten years later, in 2006. His death was sudden, so I did not have the dreams of him being sick.
Strange thing was, I almost immediately began to have dreams about both of them. I still do. I guess I average several dreams per month about them. Often they are in the house where I grew up (which we sold after Dad died); sometimes I am a child again in the dreams.
I almost always awake from these dreams with a great sense of comfort and peace. Although I still miss both of them very much, in a very real sense I feel as if they are with me when I have these dreams.
And I believe I might have hit on something here, thanks in part to Hal's recent blog which got me to thinking about all of this. I think I have come to realize that yes, they are in fact with me in these dreams.
But not just in the dreams. They continue to live because all they did for me and everything they ever said to me are so much a part of me. I could no more not have them with me than not have my limbs or any other part of my body. They are a part of me and they go with me wherever I go; it is just that simple.
I know this is no great revelation but, just as I believe the dreams are gifts, I believe God continues to comfort me. I believe, no matter what age we are, we become different people when we lose a parent. Although we learn to live with it and accept it, I am not sure we ever really stop grieving the loss. And to deal with that in a healthy way, there has to be some comfort, some assurance.
And these dreams, as well as my good thoughts and memories, continue to comfort me and make me feel a very real presence. Wow.