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Monday, June 23, 2014

A Dream Within A Dream

I've been avoiding this. I recently experienced a loss that is too important not to mention, but I haven't been able to figure out how to put it into words. I've been too afraid to try. Writing has always been my closest friend. I can tell anything to a journal and have an immediate sensation of relief. But I haven't written anything since late April, when I realized that my father was never going to leave the hospital. The lung transplant had failed.

On May 14th, 2014, my dad died.

Since then, writing has felt like a dreaded chore. But I knew I couldn't possibly write about anything else until I addressed this. In my experience, the more I dread something, the more I need to bite the bullet and dig in. That anxiety has a purpose - it's telling me to do something and that after I do, I will feel like a weight has been lifted.



The problem is that I have so many things I could say about this loss, this grief. I could write about my father's steady decline with COPD despite quitting smoking over sixteen years ago (but by then, the damage had been done). I could describe the three months of stress and misery when he was in the hospital and we never knew if he was going to live or die. I could talk about the last time I saw him - I kissed him on the forehead as he was sleeping - and the agony of the four days between then and the day he died. I could describe what it was like to plan my father's funeral, or talk about the complicated relationship we had. I could write out all the messy family dynamics and talk about my parents' marriage and how I had always wished they could be happier somehow, even if it meant not being together. I could tell you how this grief has awaken emotions within that I never knew I had, and how I know nothing will ever be the same. I could talk about the ways this experience has rocked the foundation of my life and made me question everything.



I will write about all of those things when I'm ready. Maybe not here, but somewhere. Instead, I'm going to transcribe a dream I had just four days after he died. I've always believed in the power of dreams to reveal our most guarded subconscious feelings to ourselves. For now, I will let this speak for itself.

I'm with my mother in a strange place. It feels like a school. There are a lot of people around, but I fall asleep. And then I dream.

Dad is there, walking towards me. He looks like he could be on his way to work, wearing jeans and a button-up collared shirt over a white T-shirt, the quintessential Dad uniform. He is healthy. There is no oxygen or shortness of breath. He has color in his face and looks happy. I run up to him and jump into his arms like a child. He starts walking with me in his arms, carrying me somewhere. I put my face close to his and tell him into his ear that I don't want him to go, that I'm not ready. He calmly tells me that he needs me to be there for mom and that he's sorry he's leaving. He looks so happy and at peace, a look I haven't seen on him for years, that I hold back my protests. I stay in his arms and take in the smell of him - cologne and hairspray and leather - and feel his 5 o'clock shadow against my face. I told him close. He is still walking. When we get to a door on the right side of a long hallway, he sets me down. I suddenly realize that we are in a hospital, and mom comes out of his room. She doesn't see him standing next to me. She tells me calmly but with emotion in her face that it's over. He had died. I look next to me expecting to see him, and he's gone.

I wake up. I begin furiously writing down the dream in my journal, but mom is asking me to do something else. She doesn't know how important this is. I frantically write everything so I don't forget. I need to remember. I write it all down as fast as I can while my mother is talking. But I'm not sad as I write, and it feels odd to me. Somewhere inside, I know everything will be okay. It will be okay because dad said so.