This is going to be the most personal thing I've ever posted here. It's the only thing I've written since 2008 that I haven't shared with you guys immediately. In all honesty, I never really intended to. But the experience was important to me, and this space is where I put my important thoughts so I never lose them.
It's the place where I share my life with people, so I'm sharing this, too.
Two months to the day after Dad's funeral, I had a dream. But it wasn't really a dream at all. It was an experience I had never had before and am sure I'll never have again. As soon as I woke up, I wrote it all down in detail and sent it to all the members of my family.
I think I had the dream because Dad knew I would write it down. As my brother Steve said, "If I would have had the dream, I would have said 'Hey, I saw Dad. He's great.'" I, of course, went into extreme detail, so excuse the length... but it is as vivid now as it was then.
Ok. I'll just let you read it now. The only other thing I have to say is this: I really miss my Dad.
When I have dreams, they are very real, very detailed and very exhausting. They are full blown movies with beginnings and climaxes and resolutions. But they are also very much based in my reality.
Almost every dream I have consists of me being outside and gasping for air... trying to find a way back inside and searching for a place with an air purifier.
At some point in the dream, I am always searching for Riley. Either he has run away or been replaced with another dog or is injured and I am trying to help him. I am constantly trying to get around and do all these things, but never seem to have my crutches or walker with me. I am struggling to get about while finding things lying around and using them as makeshift ambulatory aids.
I never get to escape my circumstances. Not even in my dreams.
But last night was different. Last night wasn’t a normal dream. Most of the dream last night, I was driving in a car, talking with a gentleman I’ve never met. He was kind and was interviewing me. I was driving down back roads, passing fields and farm houses and lakes... seemingly knowing where I was going but not paying much attention to the destination. I was just enjoying the ride and telling my story.
I mostly talked about how we had lost something. In the dream, it seemed more like a financial loss... we had lost our home, our place to gather and be whole as a family. I told him that it had been really hard on all of us, but that we never really panicked. We all had faith enough to know that God had always seen us through every trial and that He would see us through any that were yet to come. We were sad and disappointed, but that Dad had found us a place and that’s where we were all going to meet up. Whatever it was, big or small, we would make it work. We were just going to be faithful on the journey.
I was driving, but it wasn’t like I had any directions... almost like the car was turning itself and knowing where to go. I pulled into this lane, not noticing anything around me, until I parked the car and got out. And there I was. Home. At the farm where we all grew up. The place I thought we had lost was where we were all gathering. And it was the same.
But it was very, very different.
It was better.
All the landmarks were there. Everything was where it was supposed to be, but it felt different. The grass was such a deep green and so thick... soft like a carpet... my feet sunk into it but sprung back up with each step, with no effort of my own. There were the usual line of hedges, but they were different, too. Lining the hedges were small, intricate crystal stakes... so out of place and yet it seemed they belonged.
The barns were there, but the feel of everything was different. They looked the same, but I felt like if I had reached out and grabbed a board off the wall I could have wrapped it around myself like a blanket. Everything felt safe. Soft. Warm. Comforting.
There was a warm yellow glow of autumn around everything... but it felt like a warm summer evening with a soft cool breeze. The orange glow of the sun... whether it was rising or setting, I don’t know... cast a protective blanket over the scene.
I looked at the man who was interviewing me and told him that this was my home. I didn’t understand because I thought we had lost it, that we were finding somewhere else to be, but we were back here in this place. This familiar, warm and welcoming place, only it was better than it was before. More beautiful. More warm. More complete.
And there were a few dogs milling about. Resting under the hedges. And jumping out of my car was my old dog, Mitzi. She ran around like she had been waiting to do that for ages. And when I turned back around I almost tripped over this big yellow lab... it was Jake, my friend Susie’s old dog. He didn’t seem the least bit out of place, and I laughed at both my clumsiness and his need for attention.
I walked around the yard, the familiar landscaping and rocks that were the same... but deeper in color, softer to the touch, gentler somehow. I saw Mom and a couple of my siblings talking to someone and could hear them all asking when the other had gotten there. It seemed as if everyone had just arrived.
And then he turned. And I saw him.
He threw his arms wide and exclaimed, “There you are!” And I ran and jumped into his arms like a kid even though I was grown, and threw my legs around his waist. I hugged him so tight as if I hadn’t seen him in ages, but felt like I had just talked to him yesterday. It had been forever and just a moment, all at the same time.
I saw the others, but I just kept hugging him so tightly. He kept saying that we could stay. That all was put back right again.
All was put back right again.
I woke up from the dream with my eyes still closed and I could still see myself hugging him. I could still feel his head pressed against me and I realized I was pushing my hands hard into my chest. Physically making the feeling that my chest had in my dream. I woke up, my eyes still closed, the picture still solidly perfect in my mind, thinking what a perfect dream I just had.
And it was then that reality hit me. That Dad was gone. That I just had him back for a moment. A simple, perfect moment.
It was just a dream. And I laid there with my eyes closed, trying to hold onto him. Onto the feeling. Onto the picture I could still see. Until it slowly evaporated and all I could see behind the lids of my eyes was the reality that he was still gone. And I was still here in this condo. And we weren’t back together on the farm.
It was the first morning I’ve woken up not realizing already that Dad is gone. It’s the first dream when I didn’t gasp for air. When I didn’t need my crutches or have to learn how to walk or search for something that was lost. It’s the first dream I’ve had when none of those things even crossed my mind.
I honestly feel like I just saw Dad’s version of heaven for a moment. And when I opened my eyes I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I wanted to call everyone and say, “You were there, and you were there. And you, too!”
There is no place like home, this is true. But I feel like my home got put back together while I was in Oz. I feel like Dad is there putting everything right again.
When I opened my eyes, and everything I dreamed stayed as vivid as it was during the night, and I felt the loss of Dad so strongly again that I grieved as hard as I ever had... the words that kept running through my head were the ones that Dad so often said:
We are just spiritual beings living out our human existence.
I think he was right. And I think someday, in our heaven, all will be put back right again.
I can’t wait.