A few years ago a friend told me that after she experienced a significant loss, she didn’t dream anymore. The whole thing stopped, and her nights were simple. She closed her eyes, and slept and woke up and nothing had happened in between. This was sad and worrisome for her, she’d always loved and valued her dreams, and she was worried and frightened that they were gone forever, killed by her sadness. It wasn’t true, they flickered back into being as she came up from the depths of grief, but I remember thinking that it seemed sad and horrible and impossible. Dreams are… well, they’re part of who you are. How can that go away?
I didn’t realize until I started dreaming again a few weeks ago, that the same thing had happened to me. I woke remembering a dream, and was suddenly aware of the stunning absence of them until now, and realized that I’d been so busy treading water that I hadn’t even noticed that things were so weird. I’ve kept dreaming since that night, and mostly they aren’t awesome yet. Largely I’m having problem solving dreams – dreams of emergencies and things that need fixing… a fire threatens our home and everyone is here for dinner – and I only have one exit to get them safe. Zombies (more like wraiths, really) are coming and I need to get a door closed quickly with my family on the safe side… or a ship is sinking, and I have to find everyone I love and find life jackets of the right size and get them all to the lifeboats, despite barriers and difficulty. I know. I have a super subtle subconscious.
This last weekend I was in Ottawa trying to be my mother, and I’m glad she doesn’t know why, and that I’m not really good at it, and it’s not super important to the story, so let’s keep going. On the table next to the bed there was this white noise machine that had all these different settings, and I thought what the hell. I haven’t been sleeping really well anyway, so I cycled through the settings, and one of them was “ocean”. I thought of my Mum then for a minute, and how she always said that she slept so well when she could hear the sea, and that reminded me of our trips, and I picked it, and lay down. I wonder now if that’s what was responsible for what happened next, or if it was just random.
I was having a dream – because it was a dream I wasn’t really totally aware that it wasn’t real, and it was a dream of a party that I was having for a reason that turned out to be both funny and stupid, and I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes, and laughing and chatting with my mother. She was standing behind me, rocking Elliot, and jollying him along, and we talked about how stupid the party was, and how funny it was that I’d arranged it all, and I told her about a problem I was having, and she gave me advice, and it was completely ordinary. It was me and my Mum in the kitchen doing what we do, and she was her and I was me, and I could hear her voice, and it was her voice, and it was the way she moved, and what she would wear, and the way she smelled. It was her. I was with her.
She even gave me advice about a problem I’m having, and… let’s just pause here, and say that I know it wasn’t her. It was a memory of her, an idea of her, and I know that I wasn’t visited by my mother in ghost form, and it wasn’t her coming back to guide or help me, and I don’t believe in a great thereafter, and I know perfectly well that any advice she gave me was really just my subconscious trying to do a little problem solving (thanks to the great advice and help she gave me in real life) and I know. I know. I know it was just a dream. Irrelevant and fleeting and not real and a moment and oh… my.
It was amazing. It was everything I have been wanting. I miss her so badly, and I miss her walk, and her talk, and how she moved with that baby in her arms, and I know my mind made her, and that is a relief. It means I remember her enough to conjure her – to accurately bring back all that was her in a way that means I have her. I haven’t forgotten. I know this is dumb, and nobody forgets their mother, but I worry that she will fade from my mind, and I won’t know how to have back any little bit of her.
In that dream, we were easy with each other, the way we always were, and she told me that way things are, and what I had to do, and we laughed, and towards the end of this little visit, she spoke of the grief of my siblings… how they might feel right now… and something snapped. I realized she was talking plainly and easily about the impact of her own death on our lives, and I turned to face her, crying suddenly as I realized it all, and it was real again, and in a flash it ended.
I woke up crying, the sounds of ocean in the room, though I was far from the sea, and my Mum was still gone.
It was beautiful and terrible, and I am grateful and hurt, and so sad, and briefly happy, which is maybe where you are supposed to be one half year after your mother dies.
Six months today. I sure miss you Mum.