Monday, September 27, 2010

Dreaming my Dead

I awoke, quite suddenly, at 1:40 a.m. last night. I opened my eyes, slowly, disoriented by the chirping crickets that hadn't been part of my dream imagery moments earlier. I looked at the night sky through the window and reality smacked me on the still-foggy-head.

It was all just a dream.

I wanted to go back to sleep to re-enter the dream, but my emotions took over and I began to weep.

It's been 16 years and two months since Chey died. In all those nights I've laid my head to slumber, I've tried to will myself to dream of her countless times. So much, in fact, that I'd given up the ghost on that wish.

So in total, I've dreamed of her only three times in 194 months. Seems so odd to me. This person who has occupied so much of my heart and my soul and my body- this person who is such an integral part of my being in the world- to dream of her so rarely seems an injustice of my unconscious mind. To add to my quandary, the three dreams I had of her left me terribly distraught upon awakening. In the first, one week after her death in 1994, she was running through a field of white daisies. She wore a big white brimmed hat. She turned briefly to look at me, but I couldn't see her face, as she ran through the field. I pursued her, calling her name, begging her to come to me. But she just ran, and ran, and ran. The next two were similar dreams. Elusive and ephemeral. The most recent, about six months ago, I was in a big conference center. I heard someone call her name amongst the sea of people and I saw the top of her head in the crowd. I pushed and pushed to get to her, frantically calling her name. "Cheyenne, Cheyenne, please, please, wait," I cried to her desperately. The emotional urgency, even now, remains evocative.

One night, in 2006, I dreamed of my dead father. It was such a powerful dream that I awoke saying sternly in my own head, "You are seriously not going to try to convince yourself that was just a dream, Joanne."

I dreamed my father visited me. We both realized he was dead, and I kept saying, "Oh my gosh, Daddy, oh my gosh!" He said, "Joanne, I have something very important to tell you and I don't have much time. " But I kept interrupting him, "Daddy, daddy, oh my gosh" over and over and over in disbelief! Then, I said, "Daddy, are you with Chey? I have to know! Are you with her?" and his image began to fade in front of me. "Daddy, don't go, please don't go," I begged, sobbing out loud as I slept. He faded before either disclosure. I awoke crying and continued, intermittently, to weep all day. Again, frustratingly fleeting and intangible.

Freud believed that dreams were incited by nuggets of the unconscious mind: feelings, thoughts, images, beliefs, experiences. Jung believed similarly, and added that dreams make us whole, more integrated. More concrete researchers admit they don't really know why humans dream or what function they serve, other scientists believe dopamine (L-dopa) plays a role in dreaming. Across cultures, the spiritual or religious believe, often, that certain types of dreams may be God's way of communicating between worlds.

Last night, for some unknown reason and literally from out of nowhere, I had the mother of all dreams. I dreamed of all my dead. They were corporeal not conceptual, concrete not evasive, and indelibly present.

I saw Cheyenne. I touched her. I hugged her. I told her, repeatedly, how very sorry I was that I could not save her, that I had given her death instead of life. I wept. She wept. We held each other and she said, "Mom, I forgive you. It wasn't your fault." I wept more, and felt such overwhelming love between us that to try to speak of it here would be insufficient and vacuous.

The moment was too sacrosanct for language. I could feel her.

My father and my mother were there too. Elisabeth was there. My grandmother was there. All recognizably dead. But all integral in the dream, except my grandmother, a woman with whom I was never close, who appeared, briefly, back in my mother's room as a sort-of-disconnected-apparition who never made eye contact with me.

The night sky looked barely real this morning. I saw the bright stars against the darkness and the full moon lit the sky just enough that I could see dew glistening on the leaves. The crickets sang in full orchestra. For a few moments, I had trouble distinguishing the world of dreams from the world of reality.

I haven't accepted a particular theory of why we dream. This morning, it's inconsequential. I dreamed of her. Finally. After all this time, I dreamed of her and saw her face and touched her and held her and spoke the words I've waited so long to say. And for that, I am filled with tearful gratitude. Even if this dream never re-emerges, it has incited a looking-within my self today that I've never before experienced.

And I wonder if it was, in fact, just a dream, at all.

(Photo for M-bug)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

October is Infant and Child Death Awareness Month

We invite you to join the MISS Foundation in our 1st official

Barefoot Walkabout to Remember (tm)
as we walk for and with our children...

This is a profoundly meaningful practice of mindfulness-based grieving which I discovered a few years ago. It has since taught me more about my self in the world, and in relationship to my dead daughter, parents, and friends than I could have ever imagined.

Please, see here for more information and join us...

Special gratitude to Kara and Hawk Jones for the amazing artwork,
as we do, every day, walk for and with them...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wait, is that my heart spilled onto the ark's floor?

Like animals entering the ark, they gathered, two-by-two or three-by-three. Even four-by-four. But rarely one-by-one. They sought shelter, respite from the unsympathetic world.

And for three days, they found sanctuary, within the self and in the space between the self and other.

There were rituals all around, moments with tears and laughter and learning and growing and solitude and sharing and contemplation and confronting and love and compassion. And everywhere you turned, hearts were spilled onto the ground. Glasses brimmed with the tears of mourners. The recently acquainted held one another and weeped. The palisades of language, socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, and even age of child or cause of death were stripped away as we all stood naked in the midst of each other, clothed only with our suffering. On days like these, we realize what is truly important in our lives. On days like these, we bear no crimson masks. On days like these, we are reduced to our true, authentic selves, able now to recognize our own despair in the eyes of others. Magnificently painful and painfully magnificent.

On the final day, many hesitated to leave what we'd all come to recognize as a holy place. There were talks of the "painful re-entry" and the "envy of the normals." I believe one of the reasons people want to remain in this place is the sense of community we share... this communal milieu brings forth an aliveness in us that perhaps we've never before experienced. It's a sense of aliveness so palpable that it breathes into us.

Confronting death- and more importantly the carnage He left behind - seems to have given a renewed sense of life to hundreds of people this weekend at the MISS Foundation's 2010 gathering. It's not the old life of the normals. It's not the delicious naiveté in which we once existed. No. And it never will be again.

Many of us will remain indelibly changed by those extraordinarily raw moments in the ark. There, as our truth leaked out through fissures in the walls of our self, onto the floor, others tiptoed carefully around, so as not to disturb, recognizing something really big and really sacred is happening here.

And they stood with us, two-by-two or four-by-four, as witnesses to our spilling.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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