Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Dreams They Come

Dreams are tricky things, especially after a loved one has died.

I have believed, for quite some time now, that those you've loved on Earth will visit you in your dreams.  This theory is somewhat common among psychics and mediums, spiritualists and quack-jobs, as well as those who just want to believe something, to hold onto the love that they shared with someone special who has moved beyond Earth.

Lately, I have been dreaming of Max.  Raf does nearly every night - I may have mentioned this before, that it sounds as though his dreamscape is something of a sports lounge for him, his dad and his brother - but it had been a while since I'd dreamed of my brother-in-law, though I think about him nearly every day.  In my dreams, he is generally just in the background somewhere, like in a train station or busy public place, hanging out, watching, not being overly conspicuous.  I just tend to notice him there and continue on in my dream.

The other day, I asked Emme if she ever thinks about Uncle Max.  "Yeah, sometimes," she said.  "But usually I'll just see him in my dreams.  They're never about him, but he's in them, in the background."

I was struck by how similar our dreams were, and that night I had another dream of Max, much more vivid than usual.  He and Raf were sitting side-by-side at a desk, talking low.  I couldn't hear them; so, knowing it was my dream, I moved closer so that I could hear them.  They looked a little perturbed and said something like, "We're talking business here," a phrase my father-in-law used to say to Emmeline when she was a baby.  I wanted to say, "But you're dead, Max, and any time I see you, even in dreams, I want to hear what you have to say, how you are, what your new existence is like!"  More or less, I relented and allowed them space, joyous simply for the chance to spend time with him - dreamworld or not.

I discussed this with Raf the next day on a hike with the dog, explaining that I'm glad I at least get to see Max in dreams.  

"I don't want to see him in dreams," Raf said sharply.  "I want to see him for real."

We walked on, gravel crunching under our shoes.  It is my tendency to try to soften the sharpness.  I would normally have said, "But we have to be grateful for what we get," but I held my tongue.  He's right.  Again and again, we are reminded: he's dead.

Over dinner, he said what I'd been thinking but reluctant to ponder aloud.  "What if we have been holding onto this belief that when we dream of Max and my dad, or your grandmas or whoever, that they are actually visiting us from the 'Great Beyond'... but it's not that at all?"

I'm sure I muddled through some sort of Pollyanna, cockamamie spin on the spiritual side of dreaming, but today I'm still mulling it over. What if, like everything else we dream, these "visits" with Max are merely the result of our subconscious mind mashing up important bits of our lives like an elaborate re-mix?  

There are no answers, and I feel adrift in a sea of questions like this.  The saddest thing is that I had been just as comforted by these dreams as if Max had walked through the door of our home, kissing the mezuzah as he entered, filling the room with his booming laugh.  I had felt that the grief of our regular life without him - the life in which Raf still has the reflex to text or call Max about little stuff every day, sports, business, Marlowe's lost teeth, where Max is no longer the Uncle Buck-like guardian of our children in our will, where we will now set a place for him, like Elijah, at our Passover table - was balanced by the loving presence of Max in our dreams.  

In that last dream, I had said to Max, "Emme says you visit in her dreams, too."

He answered, "Yeah, I don't like to make a big fuss.  I just check in, hang out a little."

In a world with no answers, I will have to accept that answer, even if it's only my own mind helping me cope with the emptiness, an elaborate game of talking to myself. 

1 comment:

  1. The night before my Grandmother (the one I wrote about) died, I had a dream about her and she walked me through all these places we went together and then I couldn't find her. I was in Philly at the time and she was in Rhode Island and I hadn't known she was dying so it was random and the next day when I found out, I knew she had been saying goodbye to me. I believe in a person's spirit. I think you feel it when a person is alive and also when their body dies.