Several years after my sister died, she came to me in a dream. I remember being so overwhelmed to see her that I was just sobbing and incredulous, repeating over and over something like “It’s you. You’re here.” She just smiled at me like it was any other day (and like I wasn’t hysterical) and said “I’m fine. Everything is okay.”
I woke up the next morning thinking, Wow. Maybe she is fine. Maybe everything is – finally – okay. This is good.
Since my Mom died, I’ve been waiting for her to come to me. She finally did the other night, but it wasn’t about me, it was more about my Dad. In my dream (nightmare?) he was dying. He was very peaceful, laying in bed, and I was sitting on the bed next to him on his left side. I was despondent. I looked to my right, and there she was. She was vibrant, bright, young. She was laying on the bed next to me with her feet near Dad’s, and she was propped up on her elbows. I looked at my Dad and said “He’s resting…I guess this is normal in the progression…”, and then I looked back at her. She was smiling expectantly, beyond happy, with tears in her eyes. She nodded her head and said “I know.” She couldn’t wait for him to come to her. She looked like a child on Christmas Eve who knew her most coveted gift was under the tree.
When I woke up, I couldn’t decide if I felt better, or doubly worse. And when I told the traveling husband about the dream later that day, I cried.
Lately, I fluctuate between a couple of realities. The first one is where I know on the surface that she died, and I can say it with a certain amount of detachment, take the kind comments that usually come afterwards, and move on.
Other times, it feels like I'm a little girl who's just been pushed off the high dive.
As I fall fast, my mind hits rewind and I see her in her hospice bed where she was a shred of her former self. I see her in hospital room after hospital room with tubes and monitors and I see the nurses and doctors who floated in and out over the course of eight months, alternately helping and pissing me off with their attitudes and answers (or lack thereof).
And then I see her as she was before, and this is the hardest to reconcile in my head. I saw the decline with my own two eyes and yet the questions remain. How can it be? How can vibrancy and resilience and strength disappear and take with it the will to fight and live? How could I have spent so much time hoping and praying and talking about her getting better, and so little time preparing for how I would feel when that didn’t happen?
Then I hit the water and sink to the bottom as the second reality hits which is that she hasn’t just died. She. Is. Dead. There is an odd difference. The first reality lives in my head. The second one lives in my heart.
Recently the traveling husband reminded someone who wasn’t being careful enough with me that “her mother died just four months ago.” It made me feel incredibly loved and cared for, and reminded me that he may be busy but he is first and foremost Papa Bear for this family. He stepped in front of me as a shield, and that not only protected me, but gave me a moment to let my own guard down. Which made me realize I’m playing it quite tough but really, am hanging by a thread.
I’ll be stoic one moment and crying the next – you know how that is right? When you lose something or someone you love (and friends have told me it hits just as hard whether it's been 10 weeks or 10 years) it's a cycle. You're on the pool deck, and it's okay. You go for a dip, and it's fine. You walk over to the diving board and tension rises. Then there you are, standing on the high dive contemplating everything, when PUSH and you're falling. You end up in the deep end, water up your nose and tears on your face, because the pressure is too much.
Eventually you swim back up, climb out, and warm yourself in the sun again (preferably with a stylish cover up and a strong, fruity cocktail). The clouds part and the day goes on and you realize that while you were devastated and drowning, life completely moved on for everyone else. When you came up gasping for air, kids were laughing, people were slathering on sunscreen, birds were chirping. It’s like that scene in Jerry Maguire where he gets fired at lunch, right? His head is pounding and his mind is racing. He looks at his water glass and sees the ice cube crack. He looks around the restaurant and watches people at other tables laughing and eating, all while step one of Jerry’s World Crumbling takes place.
It’s the merging of realities, and I know I’m blessed/lucky/grateful but it still kinda sucks.
My Mom was the Easter Bunny and the Birthday Fairy and the Best Kind Of Grandmother and Santa Claus all rolled into one, which makes weekends like this one that much harder. She made everything special and made everyone happy and always made everyone laugh (sometimes at her own expense).
Therefore, this week, I have been compelled to buy mass quantities of chocolate and plan for lovely side dishes and plant flowers, so our Easter weekend is as special as it can be. I will drink rosé and eat jellybeans and smile at Nine and Eleven, because those sweet girls still want to hunt for eggs and get a big basket of goodies. And I will fill those eggs and stuff those baskets and shop until I drop for everything we need because I learned from the best that it’s not shopping, it’s retail therapy, and I think we can all agree (maybe especially after crying through writing this post a little bit) I need therapy in whatever form it comes in.
And then Sunday night, when the house is clean and quiet, I will climb into bed next to the traveling husband. I will close my eyes, breathe deep, and hope she comes to me in my dreams. I hope she smiles at me and tells me how lovely she thought everything was. I hope she wishes me a happy Easter, and a good night’s rest.
And I hope I get the chance to throw my arms around her and breathe her in and wish her a good night’s rest, too.