Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I had this dream about my sister Laura over the weekend and I can't seem to stop thinking about it for a number of reasons and so I thought I'd just write about it and attempt to effect some kind of almost abreaction or something.

Some preliminaries:

I do not believe dreams are portents or harbingers or have any supernatural aspect to them whatsoever. To vastly oversimplify my take on dreams: They are nothing more than your unconscious mind trying to work its way through various issues of your life, often the most troubling aspects that are out of your control in your waking life. That's essentially it.

Laura was my older sister, the second of seven kids in my family, nine years older than I. She died back in 1998 as the result of a car accident she'd suffered in 1992 that had left her, basically, in a permanently vegetative state. There'd been some forlorn hope at the beginning that Laura might "still be in there", but, looking back now, I don't think she ever was — for her sake, I certainly hope not, because I cannot, for the life of me, think of any fate that could be worse than being locked alone inside a non-functioning shell of a body, unable to move, eat, communicate in any way; just waiting — six long years! — for death to take away the suffering and loneliness.

You would not wish that fate on your worst enemy.

In the dream, Laura was alive. She was 41 when she had the accident; 47 when she finally died. But in the dream she was a very young Laura, looking to me to be in her late twenties or early thirties, probably; but even though she was young, she had been through the accident, or been through something that had taken her life — or so we (me; the rest of my family) thought.

But after she had been declared dead, she had miraculously been found to be still alive, either in the morgue or on the gurney on the way down to the morgue .... It's unclear when or how, as is often the case with dreams, I guess; especially the parts of dreams that are, for lack of a better phrase, the dream's "back story", because none of this happened in the dream itself. It was just something the dream-me knew to be the case.

And not only had Laura miraculously come back to life, she was fully functionalreally alive, as though the accident (or whatever had killed her in this dream version of her life) had never happened.

And that was what the dream was about.

It being a dream, the timeline was nebulous, uncertain: I'm not sure how far back in the dream's past her recovery had occurred. I assume it had been some significant amount of time already because I was seemingly the only one still amazed by it, even though everyone else in the dream (I somehow knew) was also aware of what had happened to Laura and how she had miraculously, inexplicably been brought back to us; I was the only one who was still reacting as though it had just happened; it was as though I had entered someone else's dream at this point in the narrative, in medias res, and were just learning what everyone else in the dream already knew: that Laura was alive; she was well; she was a whole person again. But I alone had not yet had time to absorb these facts.

And I could not help but express my amazement, saying to her: "I can't believe you're back! This is wonderful — a miracle! I have to make sure you're real, not a dream — because this seems like the kind of thing that could only happen in a dream! I have to kiss you!"

So I gave her a chaste, brotherly kiss on the cheek to establish to my satisfaction her actual, true, non-dreaming, unhallucinated physical reality. Which it did — she was warm, her face had color, she was breathing: She was really alive.

And I wept at this; unashamedly, copiously, happily — sobbing uncontrollably, repeating things like "I can't believe it!" and "I am so happy!"; and I was vaguely aware that it was maybe kind of weird that no one else was reacting this way, but I also knew that they for some reason had known about Laura's recovery for much longer than I had.

Often, when you're dreaming, you are dimly aware that you are dreaming. At least that's how it is with me. Not always, but often: That bullet can't hurt me, because this is a dream ... I'm falling but I won't hit the ground and die because this is a dream. With me, thoughts such as these are often what wake me up — well ... them combined with the element of fear in the dream itself, because even when part of you is aware you're dreaming, another part believes in the reality of what is happening to you in the dream, no matter how implausible.

And even though my knowledge that everyone else in my dream (my, at the time, reality) knew about Laura's recovery long before I did should have clued me into the fact that I was in a dream, for some reason it did not. I glossed over that, maybe because I so wanted her to be still alive.

I believed that she was and that I would not wake from this belief — this knowledge — because I had established to my satisfaction that she was alive — really, actually, fully alive.

And then I woke up.

Ever since that dream, which was such bittersweet torment, I have not been able to get my Father and Mother off my mind.

Both of them were alive when Laura died (though now only dad is still alive); they had both suffered the loss of their eldest son, my brother Frank, years before Laura's death; my Dad has lived long enough to see yet another of his seven children die — my sister Virginia, who died of lung cancer three years ago.

I know how profoundly morose I have been feeling over the past few days after waking from this dream. I loved Laura, but she was (to put it extremely poorly, indeed) "only" my sister. I have a son, and I know how much more a child means to a parent.

And then I think again about my Dad and the three children of his that he has seen die.

And then I think I may have found a fate possibly even sadder, crueler than being locked inside a non-functioning shell of a body.

I am glad Dad endures. But I don't know how he does it.

He must wake from wishful dreams like this one all the time.

One Sweet Dream ...

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