Last night I had my first dream about my mother since she passed away. I can’t remember anymore where the dream started but suddenly I remember I was sitting in my dad’s house and I was on my cell phone and I realized that the person I was talking to was Mom. I knew she was dead in my dream and so my excitement and shock over her being on the phone was huge. She was telling me about how she was confused about her schedule and she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to be — she thought Crista had told her something about some appointments she had and she knew she wasn’t going to be able to treat her cancer anymore but wasn’t she supposed to go to her oncologist or something? She sounded confused but her own sweet self and said she’d have to get it straightened out.
I remember sitting there and thinking, “She doesn’t realize yet that she’s died. Do I tell her? How do I ask her the things I need to ask her if I don’t tell her that she’s died?” I know I was concerned that she’d either get upset at the revelation or that she would not be able to talk to me on the phone anymore once she knew.
Finally, hesitantly, I explained somehow and asked her, of all the things I could have been asking, “And Mom, we have so many things of yours that need to go somewhere. What would you prefer to happen to them? Do you have anything special that you wanted done with it or any special person you wanted to have anything?” I waited for a response but there was only silence. “Mom? Mom?!” I got louder and a little bit frantic wondering if the connection was just bad or if I’d made her upset though I knew she was just gone.
My dad walked into the room as I called into the phone and a bit awkwardly I kept asking her if she was on the phone and then burst into tears telling him, “Dad she was on the phone!” He looked at me and winced a bit and nodded his head and then, weirdly, I put on a show of being really upset though in my mind in the dream, I knew I was making more of it than I really was feeling.
At that point, for whatever reason as happens in dreams, I was driving and it was dawning on me what a lifeline my mother had been to me. She was a lifeline of understanding. If I got offended by a person’s behavior she usually had an insight or context to offer that made my anger or offense seem less important. If I didn’t know someone at church she could tell me who they were and interesting things about them. There just really wasn’t much of anything I couldn’t ask my mom.
In considering all of these things, finally, I began to feel in my dream what I have been dreading in real life: desolation.
I remember, when I was young and terribly afraid of the dark, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night with a longing for my mom and dad that was so intense it made my body ache like flu. I would be terrified of the darkness between my room and theirs right down the hall and I would lie awake, too scared to call their names, until the terror of the dark night (usually I’d had a bad dream to exacerbate my constant fear of the dark) was the lesser of the two pains I felt and I would dare with my muscles clenched to swing my feet over the side of the bed and creep down the hall with my blanket to their room. My mother slept furthest from the door, with only the closet to her side and there was just enough room for me to make a bed for myself there. I didn’t even need to climb into bed with them. I just needed to hear the rythm of their breathing. I would make a bed for myself on the floor of their room and curl up there and listen to the two of them sleep and feel the ache and fear ease and slip away just because I had them near.
I remember, Mom would often wake up and find me there and she would pull me up into bed with them, cuddling me up between them in the middle of the bed and I would sleep there in the middle of the two of them — one big hug of parent all around me.
This is what my dream-like grief felt like: that aching longing for my parents mixed with the paralyzing fear that I would never get to them, that in the dark they were too far away, too unreachable. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything to ease it — in my dream all I could think was that I would never be able to see my mother again; all I could do was ache with it.
It was in the middle of this dream despair that Eamonn began to call for me. “Moooomm! MOM! HEY MOM!” came my two-year-old’s call. Ryan groaned and rolled to shut off the alarm. I let my eyes crack open, and my sleep soaked mind took a moment to reconcile my dream feelings with the reality of day.
My mom is gone. Just like in my dream, she really is dead. She has been dead a month. These are the things that are true. And I am sad this morning. But there is more that is true. As I’ve wept a bit this morning, stumbled around for coffee, glared with squinted eyes at my uncut and unbrushed hair in the mirror, and tried to figure out just exactly what Eamonn wants for breakfast when all he’ll do is repeat “THIS! THIS!” over and over again, other truths have begun to set in.
The ache of my dream reminded me of something else — no matter how scared I was back then, no matter how dark the room, no matter how much further away it seemed, my mom was just in the other room. She was just on the other side of the wall.
Here, the analogy breaks down as all analogies must when you begin to think about spiritual things, I think. It was the power of my own shaking little legs that brought me to my parents on those nights, but it was not my own power that comforted me this morning before I even got out of bed. What comforted me — and there WAS tremendous comfort — is simply the knowledge that I will see Mom again. She is gone but not forever. We are loved, cherished, held dear, protected and the children of the same God.
I know I keep arriving here, time and time again. Perhaps every post seems to head in the same direction these days. But this makes me think of Peter — dear, flawed, fallible Peter — an all-too-human follower of Jesus who replied to Christ’s query about whether he and the other disciples wished to stay with him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
And so during this time, where else can I possibly arrive? What other hope can I ask for? None. There is no other. Today I am sad, and I miss my mom, and she is just down the hall, and I have Hope.