I had a dream when I was up at my grandparents last weekend that I don’t want to lose, even though it tears me apart, puts me to shame, and brings regret bubbling to the surface to rear its ugly head moreso than almost anything I can recall. It’s not that it was a nightmare, at all. In fact, it was nearly the opposite.
I have been drawn to the stars lately, taking comfort in the knowledge that we are all stardust, that energy is neither created or destroyed in the Universe, that we are in the Universe and the Universe is in us… the knowledge of those facts truly helps me, and brings even more meaning to the ee cummings poem, “I carry your heart with me”.
In my dream, it was a star-filled night. I came into the it at the edge of the forest, having agreed to have my consciousness briefly altered. I wanted and needed (in dream and waking life, alike) guidance and a break from my grueling journey, to commune with my higher power in a tangible way. I wanted to see my son.
With mild trepidation, curiosity and excitement, I walked onto the sand. There were two people, silent and faceless friends, there to be with me while I went through my experience. I went out to where I could hear the ocean, laid on my back with my spirit-guide-friends on each side, and together, we began gazing at the sky.
There were more stars than I had ever seen. They were breathtaking, beautiful, magical. I felt safe with my companions, and warm in the night air and sand. I felt myself begin to open to the deep, infinite connectivity of it all, the stars, the sand, my atoms- and for a very brief moment, I was filled with nothing but peace, awe, and wonder.
And then the stars started shifting.
At first, I thought I saw some kind of like a shooting star… or fifty. I turned to my companions as if to say, “Whoa! Did you see that?!” (most of the time, I don’t speak in my dreams) but they just gazed calmly upward, seemingly seeing nothing out of the ordinary.
When I looked back up, the stars were moving back and forth in huge arcs across the sky, all towards and from a central location. I was aware of the fact that I had chosen to alter my consciousness, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be so visual and visceral. It was the most awake, conscious and valid I had ever felt- which made the fact that the heavens were convulsing particularly hard to process.
I felt like Chicken Little, “The sky is falling!”, but exponentially more… like the entire Universe was caving in, and I was the only one who was watching it happen. I was overwhelmed, terrified, mystified. I couldn’t look away. As I lay with my mind reeling, body pressed firmly into the sand, the stars moved toward, then away from their center one last time, then kept falling away, slowly, as if they were each pulling on invisible threads as a hole in the sky, in the Universe itself, began to open.
There, out of the center, held in enormous hands, was Patrick. He was sitting calmly with his blue sweatshirt and amber necklace on, as beautiful and healthy as I’d ever seen, as if he’d paused, mid-speed-crawl just to look back and make sure I was watching.
Saying it sounds obvious, but I absolutely could not believe my eyes. Here, in the midst of my glimpse into infinite reality, was my baby.
I immediately felt as if I’d been plunged under water, the same as when I hit triggers in my waking life. My breath stopped. My heart stopped. I couldn’t hear a thing, I couldn’t look away. It was as if the hands were holding him out, offering him to me like Rafiki with Simba, a faraway gesture, not meant to touch.
Seeing him caused an instantaneous and simultaneous lifting of my spirit, feeling again the free flowing of the love, the connection, the absolute beauty in the moment, paired with the sinking weight of the knowledge that I wasn’t going to hold him again, that what I was seeing was simply because it’s what I had asked for, and that he was still so far away and that I was still going to wake up alone, made me feel as if I was tearing in two from the soul outwards, pulled apart by the same force the stars.
I thought I had come do some gentle communing with nature on the beach, to meditate and come to some small epiphany to help me along the way, not have my soul ripped in half. I felt like I was being teased. I was frustrated, overwhelmed, I was mortally afraid at the gravity and gravidity of it all. I squeezed my eyes and the arm of the person to my right and thought, I don’t want to be here anymore.
And I woke up.
The drowning sensation was gone, but Patrick was gone, too. “No…” the singular reality resounded like a clanging bell in my head. “Nononononono…. No, bring me back. I didn’t mean it, I just got scared….”. I squeezed my eyes again and tried to relax back into dreamland. I scanned everything I could remember in order to reassemble what had happened and continue, but it didn’t work. I was awake.
I lay staring at the cottage cheese ceiling of my grandparents’ house instead of the stars and tried to comprehend what had happened. I saw him… I finally, finally dreamed about Patrick- and I fucking left. I bailed! I will never forgive myself, and I know I won’t forget.
I was too afraid, and it made me lose sight of him amidst the panic and the pain. The very moon and stars had realigned and the Universe had repositioned itself in the only way it can so that I could just see him again for a moment, literally the thing I ache for every. single. day... and I couldn’t stand the pain paired with the reality of it.
I’ve become like a poster child for soul-searing pain tolerance, dammit. I’ve even recent hit a point in my grief where I’ve been able to (occasionally) welcome the pain because I understand that it hurts because it matters, and insomuch as the hurt is there, so is my love for him… I try so, so hard to practice being vulnerable, being brave, of letting myself feel the pain, then let it go… and here I am, at the most subconscious level, failing miserably at the one thing I care about more than anything, the one thing that I am seeking to master with all of my heart.
My eyes, the tears pouring from them, my head, my chest, and my throat all burned hot, angry, and disappointed beyond despair. “My baby… he was there and I left. How can I forgive myself? How can I keep wanting that, when I know that I’m not even strong enough to withstand it? How could I see my son and want out? What kind of mother am I? I’m supposed to be grateful for any part of him that I have, any fleeting moment, and I just choose to leave? I hate myself. Unforgivable. Unforgettable. I don’t even deserve another dream. Why would he visit me if I don’t even stay for it?”
That cycle has repeated several times since then. I can’t help it. I was paralyzed by it for nearly an hour by it then, until it I heard other people starting to rise and I could get up and work- I was there to help my grandparents pack and move from their house in Humboldt County and there was -there still is- lots of work to be done.
It’s hard for me to come in for a landing when I hit triggers, but especially so when they are in my dreams. I’m also notoriously quiet in the mornings- it’s when I drink coffee and write, if I can help it- like now.
I was silently standing with my mind and heart far away when my grandma asked, “Are you okay?”, I realized that she hasn’t been around me or my mágoa at all since Patrick’s passing.
“I am. I’m okay, Grammy. It’s just….” Well, what do you even say? She’s an octogenarian. I don’t need to explain heartache to her- at that, her son died recently, too.
“So you’re just like this now?”, she asked tenderly. “You grieve every day?”
I nodded. “I do.”
It’s exhausting. I hate it… but waking from that dream made me realize that even though there’s deep, excruciating and overwhelming hurt involved in remembering Patrick, looking squarely at exactly how much I love and miss him and how unjust it is that he’s not here- I know that remembering is all I have, and is what I want more than anything.
Sometimes I get caught in the top layers of acknowledging my grief in my daily tasks at home, and in my writing, too. It becomes routine, especially during times that I am bracing myself for triggers, such as now, three days before the 4th, when he should be turning two… But I will not become numb because it’s the easy way out. I don’t want to wake up from the dream of this life with that same frantic feeling, “No… nonononono! Let me try again. I was just scared…”
Choosing to escape the pain meant choosing to escape the love right along with it, and as far as I can help it, I will never make that choice again.
I will choose to remember.
I will choose excruciating hurt.
I will choose love.