Dreams that drive away sleep

I awoke from my dream crying because I had heard my father’s voice.

As I lay there in the dark, not bothering to wipe away the hot trickles that I knew were dampening and cooling on my pillow, I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer.

        “He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds.  The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again.  But he unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”

In my dream I had been traveling abroad by myself and was playing with a ball near a garden while remembering words of comfort for travelers.  “If you find that you have nothing left and must set out on new roads, know that many have gone before you and paved the road ahead.  You are in good company.”  The ball bounced into the bushes and I went to retrieve it, only to pass two women, one very old and the other clearly her daughter.  Their familiar faces tugged at me and, taking my ball, I followed them, sensing family was suddenly near.  And there on a terrace, I was washed away by what felt like a memory; my father sitting with my sister and her husband with others gathered around and they were singing together.  I heard his voice lifted in happy song, not as an event but a memory so powerful that took me back to a moment—to the exclusion of every other sense.  I woke with his voice lingering in my ears.

It’s been a little less than year and a half since he passed.  And for the most part, the tears have dried up.  In part because life continues to flow. It builds and we are too small and too thin to hold back the river as it moves gently, inexorably forward.  My son has finished his first year of high school.  I’ve moved to yet another portion of the country.  I taught my boy to drive a car.  Once again I’ve stretched relationships taunt over distance; both time and miles.  Some snapped, some frayed but others held, resonating with different sounds in this new configuration.  Time, like the mighty Mississippi has continued to roll along taking us to new places with slow, steady progress.

Yet, in the middle of the night, I felt rent.  Like the morning light revealing the furrows cut clean through a yard as flash floods worked at night.  The efforts to repair my yard had been in vain and insignificant in the face of powers and forces much greater than I.

It was here that the words of the dream came back to me, that there have been many who have passed this way before me.  Many who have suffered sudden loss; to violence, to time, to a poor decision. Though grief feels like a road never seen before, it is well paved from the footsteps of thousands who have walked it first.

Dreams are funny things, and ask five person to interpret one and you will have  have six interpretations when you are done.  I don’t know what Freud or anyone else would say about dreams of balls, gardens, family and song, but I know this; I am wounded.   Like an old injury flared to life that I thought in my past, moving up river and into my history.

My loss cuts deeply, seemingly as fresh as year ago, so I set to the task of binding my wound.  Again.  Painfully aware in this moment, that I will most likely bind it again sometime in the future.  This wound (like all grief) is slow to heal and deceptive in its progress.  Like a injury to the leg that feels hale, whole and useful till moved just so and suddenly drops us to our knee, or lays us face first in the dust.  Again.

These words are for me.  They are my binding.  They are the effort and time I take for myself, to re-bind this wound.  You are free to make of them what you wish, but I use them to remind myself that I am not alone.  That contrary to the way it feels, grieving is a path we will all traverse and while we may not see our fellow travelers in that moment through watery vision, they are most certainly present around us.  I bind my wound today because I may be called upon to help another bind theirs on this journey.

This is not magic. To give and to serve another human being, to be ready to lend what aid I’m able, does not obliterate my own pain or fears or failings.  It most certainly does not make it ‘all better.’  If I am called to help it will be on the same wounded limb that I have just re-bandaged.  It will be through the pain of that wound.  It will be with shiny, wet cheeks.

Because I miss my dad.


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