My Visitor

So I'm having one of those dreams where at some point you become vaguely aware it's a dream without causing the ending credits to immediately roll. I think it's called lucid dreaming. It doesn't happen to me very often.

It's one of those restless nights where REM sleep just isn't in the cards. Every hour or so I awaken slightly dazed trying to piece together a dream conversation that is playing out in multiple acts. It's uncomfortably hot in the house and we've left the windows open in the hopes that a gentle midnight breeze will gift us with a bit of ocean-chilled air to cool and dry out the sweaty sheets. Neighborhood dogs that we normally would not be able to hear with the windows closed are shattering the silence with their sporadic warning barks -- probably intended for nearby patrolling coyotes.

The dream scene as I remember it is set in a cool dark room with two small chairs facing each other. There are no windows. For that matter, I don't remember there even being any walls which makes no sense if I'm calling it a room. Well, go with me on this.

I'm sitting in one of the chairs.

Across from me in the opposing chair is my mother who in real life passed away in 2010, after a nearly two-year battle with brain cancer. She has visited my dreams several times before but not so frequently that I take the visits for granted or brush them off lightly. I still ruminate for days afterwards hoping to tease out a bit of meaning from these fascinating and seemingly random subconscious intrusions.

Here are a few snippets that I can remember from our conversation:

 

Mom: Hi sweet doll.

Me: Hi mama. It's been a while since your last visit.

Mom: I know. I'm still not sure how this all works.

Me: That's okay. Are you doing well?

Mom: I think so.

~~~~~

Me: Have you figured out where you are?

Mom: No, I'm not sure. I think maybe I'm dreaming too?

~~~~~

Me: Can you see us at all during the day?

Mom: No, I can't seem to find anybody.

~~~~~

Mom: Can you tell me how everyone is doing?

Me: Yes, but first I have to ask you something.

Mom: Okay.

Me: Do you feel at peace?

<long pause>

Mom: I think so.

Me: Then I'm not sure I want to tell you too many details.

Mom: Oh boy. What does that mean?!

Me: Well, I don't want to ruin your situation. Maybe you should just enjoy it.

Mom: I don't know if 'enjoy' is exactly the right word.

~~~~~~

Me: Do you feel lonely?

Mom: No I'm not lonely. More like groggy.

~~~~~

Mom: It's almost like I only remember being here in this room with you.

Me: Mom, I think this is just a dream I'm having. I'm pretty sure this isn't real.

Mom: Oh that's really weird.

Me: I agree. It's not what I expected either.

<pause>

Mom: I think I must go to sleep or something when you wake up.

Me: Really?!

Mom: I don't remember what happens between these dreams.

Me: Maybe, you visit other people's dreams too.

Mom: Oh for Pete's sakes. Why am I doing that? That's crazy.

Me: Well, it's my dream so I think I'm bringing the crazy here.

~~~~~

Me: I miss you. I like talking to you, but it is confusing.

Mom: I miss you too lamb. I'm sorry I can't seem to snap out of this.

Me: It's okay Mom. Just rest.

Dream Mom

A few nights ago I dreamt about my mother for the first time (that I can remember) since she passed away last September. We were sitting in a quiet room and the conversation was brief. It reminded me of our last few months together when much of our time was spent just sitting quietly and maybe making a little bit of small talk. All the really big things had been said many times, so there was not much left to say. We were just waiting together. It was like taking someone to the train station a day early before they are scheduled to depart. You can only hug and say "I love you" and "goodbye" so many times and then you get quiet.

Anyway, here's the conversation I remember from the dream...

~~~~~~~

Me: Hi mom

Mom: Hi doll

<long silence while we just look at each other>

Me: How is it ... you know ... where you are?

<long pause>

Mom: Kind of weird

<silence>

Me: Are you ok?

<long pause while she looks out the window>

Mom: Yes

Me: I'm glad you're not in pain

<silence, then she looks at me and whispers>

Mom: Me too

~~~~~~

That's all I can remember. I thought maybe the dream would pick up from there the next night or a few nights later, but it didn't happen.

I have more questions for her if she reappears.

goodbye

Dear Mom,

I've been resistant to sitting down and writing this letter to you because I know there is no way I can possibly capture in written words how I truly feel about you. Also, because I think writing this means that I have to say goodbye for the last time.

I know that many times you wanted this to just be over for our sake, but speaking for Barb, it was a privilege and an honor to be able to care for you on the final leg of your journey these past 14 months. As Barb has said many times, we both knew that if the situation had been reversed you would have done the same for either of us -- without hesitation or complaint.

It would be hard to describe just how much you went through during the past year; the multiple surgeries, the radiation, the chemotherapy, the endless pills, the IVs, the physical therapy and the many months of being bedridden and too weak to do much more than turn your head and lift your arms. But, through it all you maintained your dignity, your sense of destiny and your unfailing sense of humor. I never once saw you cry or wallow in self-pity. Even when the doctors delivered the worst possible news a person can receive, you accepted the hand you had been dealt and played your cards the very best that you could. You always seemed mindful that you were being watched by so many who were practicing with you for the inevitable day when we each take our turn in your place.

And so today I say goodbye my sweet mama, my biggest fan and most faithful supporter. I would give everything to hear you say once again the most beautiful words you whispered to me every morning until you could no longer speak:

"Hi, sweet lamb."

We will always love you and carry you in our hearts.

All my love,

Mark

 

Note: My friend Dan read this for me at Mom's funeral.

Niece Macee (3 mo.) and great great gpa Leo (94)

Today, my grandfather Leo suffered one of the worst experiences any parent can have -- saying goodbye to one of your children who passes before you do. It was physically painful to watch him suffer with grief.

After my mother's memorial service, he and my nephew Josh's brand new baby girl (Leo's great great granddaughter) had a bonding session that was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. It was as if my mother's vibrant spirit temporarily inhabited infant Macee's tiny figure and in an ever so brief session of affection and tenderness, brought peace and comfort to his aching heart.

My mother passed before she was able to meet Macee (her great granddaughter) who was battling for her life in the NICU while at the same time my mother was fighting for hers in the hospital with pneumonia in June.

Fortunately, Jessica captured this perfect picture of them -- two precious souls on the opposite ends of life's timeline sharing an irreplaceable moment that almost certainly will not and cannot ever be repeated.