Dreams, and my Mom

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My Mom passed a few days ago. There is much to be said about her, I loved her very much. But I am going to write about a dream I had. My Mom’s passing is the end of one story but the beginning of some others.

Last week, my Mom lie resting in an exceptionally loving hospice center in another state, where her care included live harp music. My sisters sent me videos, I listened to her breathe and saw her face, different than it used to be, but still deeply familiar. I listened for text notifications as I taught my art classes. At home, my son helped me make an altar including the quilt she had made for Susanna, still resting on her bed, and candles, in hopes she could see the light on her way.

The last morning, before her death, I woke from a painful dream. It went like this: I was trying to type in a request for a substitute teacher on the “Subcentral” website, which had to be sent 90 minutes before school started at eight. I missed the deadline and was frustrated in my hectic morning household. This could have been a real- life situation. However, in this dream world there were four people present and Susanna had never died. That was certainly not the painful part.

In the dream, I went to get my French Bulldog, Zorro, who had been sleeping in his bed. He was alive, but he was obviously ill and covered with a disturbing orange bodily fluid of unknown origin. I scooped him up and ran with him to a set of spiral stairs, knowing I needed to descend the stairs and try to save him. I wanted my mother to help me, and screamed for her, but I knew that she was dead. This fact struck me painfully, I woke up with it. I did make the Subcentral deadline, but was left with this dream of Zorro, with the orange liquid, and myself screaming for my mother who was never to be there again.

This dream, I knew, was really about Susanna. Forgive me the graphic nature of this, but in waking life, Susanna was covered with orange liquid when we found that her heart had stopped, after the rupture of the aneurysm. I never have known the medical reason for this. There was more liquid as her father and our neighbor resuscitated her with CPR, and I fumbled to call the ambulance and run screaming for help into the street. After I helplessly watched my daughter die in the hospital the next day, I wanted to return home and scrub that liquid from my floor, to be rid of it. I did that. I also looked at her dirty clothes in the hamper and wondered aloud what I was to do with them. I washed them, folded them, and put them away in her drawers. What else could I do?

 

I have been grateful for the opportunity to raise a puppy the last few months. Zorro has thrived. The dream illuminated in me some of my deepest fears. Inside, I have felt inadequate and undeserving. What type of mother cannot save her little girl from death? How could the universe trust me to care for even a dog? How could the universe trust me to mother my son?

I called out, in my dream state, for my mother. No mother can save anyone from imminent death. Mothers do save their children, from illness or accidents, often. But when a person needs to leave, love of any kind does not stop this. I could not save Susanna.  I could not save my mother as she spent the last years of her long life descending into dementia. That was not fair. These are the things we experience; these are the things that humans bear.

Six times now, I have crossed through Susanna’s birthday without her. I miss her terribly every day and have accepted a certain level of terminal sadness. What a gift though, to learn so much about healing. Dream language comes from the deep places, the ones that connect to the divine. The earth, the past, the dreams of everyone the earth has welcomed home before us.

Yesterday, it was hard to hold a close view of a casket draped in flowers again, from the front row of a church and a cemetery. But once again there was the presence of family and friends from long ago. Some of us commented on how we should get together more often, not just for a funeral. We stood in small circles, and in the spaces between us, I am sure stood all the loved ones passed on. Their shoulders secretly touched ours and they silently nursed us through the day. There were ancestors there, perhaps even angels. This may be my personal interpretation and different than someone else’s, but the point is that we are not alone. We are not born alone, we do not die alone, and this is far from all there is.

Last night I had another dream. I was baking a chocolate cake. I had been given instructions by an employer who wanted to try a new recipe, one that was supposed to be simple but delicious. There were special notes handwritten in a script that resembled my mother’s. Again, I struggled with a deadline, but I woke to the dark sweetness of life. My daughter and my mother are somewhere else today, but I am still here. I will talk to them, certain they will hear me.

 

 

 

Susanna and Mii

(Reposting from February 21, 2015)

 

Yesterday I had been driven inside by the cold and resorted to Wii Fit U, Free Run, in lieu of my walk in the park. The simulated run was icy in appearance, snow falling in seasonal nature graphics. Somehow it was dark in my running world though it was only 3 PM, but I did not mind following the full yellow moon and the huge lighthouse.

I bought our first gaming console last winter as a battle tool, having gained a bit of weight. My biggest complaint about the fitness program has been the way I am judged by a four star system after each activity, which I see as part of an achievement driven and heartless culture. Susanna used to run up to the television and pound a couple of extra stars on for me with her hand if I acted disappointed by my score (my sweet angel). At some point glittery star stickers began to appear around the sides of the screen.

Since the day of Susanna’s aneurysm and sudden death, nothing of the physical universe has the same weight or feel. I cannot say I am living apart from reality because it feels like the opposite. All that used to seem solid (though I never knew it seemed solid) has been set adrift and I am hovering, sort of on a magic carpet ride which will never end. I am not alone, nor delusional. We are all here in a physical state for a limited span of time. To live as if your life and body and your set of intellectual understandings are everything will only take you so far. We all know this but we all struggle with remembering.

During the first days, before the calling hours and the completion of the autopsy, my son and I turned on our Wii and saw ourselves in the Miiverse (a universe populated by avatars, some created by my kids) with our Susanna. She was and is still there, wearing the same bun in her hair with tendrils as I am, the same pink dress and heavy blue eye shadow of her choosing. I can tell the two of us apart from a distance by size. We watched ourselves huddle a bit in the center of the “plaza” and suddenly he said, “Look! Susanna’s dead!” Her Mii character was lying down, but promptly got up. In some planes we do not need to be without her forever.

So yesterday I set out on my run to look for her as I always do. I passed the Mii people we made to represent so many friends and family members, and she showed up in front of me. My own avatar was shadowy, like a ghost, but Susanna was solid and her feet pounded on and on with great strength. I ran to keep up but not pass her, I did not want her to see me and get scared or go away. My heart and lungs pumped in good health, I am alive. I thought about my son and how sometimes lately I love to watch him run ahead of me. When I am able to believe he is on his own eternal path apart from me, I can let go, a little. Run on, Susanna. I need to keep going and only you are ahead to lead the way. At one point she dropped off to the side but came back and passed me, flashing me a crinkly eyed smile. I followed her near to the end of my run, short by four minutes and she veered off. I yelled good bye to her and crossed the virtual finish line. For now.

Dolorous (A Thanksgiving Story)

Yesterday, I looked up antonyms for “grateful”. I thought I must be feeling the exact opposite. “Ungrateful” was the first entry, somehow not fitting. I went down the list and found “dolorous”. Marked by excessive grief and distress. A word which sounds like the traditional name “Dolores” from the Latin, a name meaning “sorrow” which is given to girls in honor of the Virgin Mary. This is perhaps the opposite of being given the name “Joy” or “Felicity”.

I woke up having just dreamt about Susanna. She was with her father, on a bench, sitting up on a hill where I could see her as I approached. I called them on my phone, to let them know I was almost there. I eagerly said hello to her, knowing I had not seen her for a while because she had been sleeping. She heard me and then I had to wake up.

I survive days full of pain by knowing they will pass. There are actions which may help, but some pains need to hang around to be exposed before they dissipate. I found myself in a deep- seated hatred, beyond anger. I hated and resented every person alive in the world for not being Susanna. This was not viable and made no sense, but I wanted to be with her so badly that l felt this. I wanted to speak to a human being in a body who was my daughter. There is no solution for this. I had to do my best to forgive the world, for this transgression of not being able to bring Susanna back, along with all of its other shortcomings. Not easy lately given current events, but necessary as far as making it through the day.

Eventually I found solace in an unexpected place. A book. Books saved many days for me in the past, days which were too murky to be infiltrated by other humans. I am not ready to mention which book and why but it is related to the world of spirit, and the reasons I have to fight for wholeness as I remain here and fulfill my mission. When the world here marks itself unlivable, there is more. There is even a barrage of angelic assistance, especially on the days when all hope seems lost. We do not need to do anything alone.

I went to sleep last night relieved that the day was over. Perhaps next year I might better enjoy Thanksgiving, a complicated feast laced with national grief at its essence anyway. Celebrating the harvest with loved ones is one framework. The annihilation of indigenous people and their culture (ongoing at Standing Rock) is another. A “pilgrim” is a word meaning “traveler”, in a spiritual as well as geographical sense. It reminds me of the Yeats poem, “When You are Old”. One man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face. (This is even more beautiful now that I am becoming old). Yet I am baffled at what the Puritans considered “freedom”, and what became a way to obtain it.

When the grief of not having Susanna here overcomes me, the only outlet will always be to look beyond earth existence. I have been busy lately, studying Braille for my coursework, and less frequently able to go out and walk. The holiday schedule has given me a little more time and space. As I look to the sidewalks and footpaths, littered with random Brooklyn confetti and the natural spoils of late autumn, I see many more “S” formations even than usual. This last time, I first saw a braille symbol arranged in dried gum dots. Dots 234. This is the letter “S”. There was even a dot 6 ahead of it, the capital indicator. Susanna is an energetic arm’s length away. I am not even alone while doing my homework.

Somewhere around the hours where the veil is thinner, three-ish (I did not look at the clock), I woke from a dream with a spirit voice in my ear. A voice asking me, emphatically, for “peace”. It was a boisterous male voice, I could feel the warmth of its breath in my ear. I did not remember the details about what was going on, and am not sure who it was, but I knew it was a call for me. I asked Archangel Michael and all of the benevolent universal forces to send peace throughout my home and life and self. I think that those who love and care for me, both in this realm and in the others, do not want me to hang on to so much pain. Grief and pain appear as they need to and are real, but there is more. I need to see past the pain because there is work to be done here. I went back to sleep and woke up with a clean slate for this day. Peace.

Vivir la Vida

This morning I read this quote by Helen Keller: “Death is no more than a passing from one room to another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in the other room I shall be able to see.” I read it the wrong way at first, having woken up with a muddy mind. I thought Helen was imagining she would already see like a spirit does, without a body, because of her blindness and the strength of her other senses. I pictured a dark and stumbly afterlife, with Susanna being taught to feel her way around. It was a sleepy and anxious thought, unnerving to me. When I get there I will know what is on the other side, but by most accounts things get broader rather than more limited.

It makes more sense to imagine Helen looking forward to physical sight in the afterlife. I hope she arrived and saw all of the people she loved, here and there, and all of the things she imagined looking at with functional eyes. When my son and I were at the movies today we used a musical candy machine which spurted colorful visuals and, in turn, bright candies which you could watch travel a conveyor belt and jump into a plastic cup for you. I hope Helen Keller crossed over and got to see many spectacles like that.

I have been stumbling around as if my senses are impaired lately. I feel a crushing weight on my heart which is searching for an exit. “Seeing” is on my mind. I am hoping to see my way through. One night last summer I was walking with my boy and sadness descended upon me. I pictured my heart chakra as an intricate Mexican tin candelabra. There were pains being gently burned away, as I had watched happen during an energy healing session a few days earlier. The thought I had was this: “It is okay to be sad. We can all do the work we came here to do, no need to judge our sadness. Loss hurts, and we all feel that.” Still true. Still hard not to judge. Still hard to let go of all the pieces of myself which gently hiss and evaporate as I try to allow healing and living.

There is a song I keep playing for my students lately, in video form, while we clean up after art class. It is Marc Anthony’s “Vivir la Vida”. I have been needing to hear it at home lately as well. I translated the lyrics and was not surprised by the simple and beautiful optimism in their meaning and how it matches the song. (Live life, laugh and dance. Rain comes sometimes and cleans wounds. Why not stop suffering, because life is like that.) This is a way I want to feel again but can only hope for, almost as distantly as I hope to see my daughter again, with the full vision of my eyes, laughing and dancing. I do what I need to do and invest part of myself in both of these hopes every day.

Since this is Halloween, I have been watching a lot of R.L. Stine horror adaptations with my son. They feature many red-headed children (I don’t know why the red hair) finding themselves hunted by unlikely creatures. Sometimes I interject some “I’m not scared of that” type of comments. They jump out of my mouth as a maternal protection against nightmares, maybe. My evolved child has starting saying, “You shouldn’t judge. If you were there and you saw that you would be scared, right? So you shouldn’t judge”. He is so correct. Scared, sad, angry, boisterous, whatever. No need to judge. Just vivir la vida, mi gente.

Tilt

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In light of my recent dizziness issues I took a “tilt table test” last week. My fears about it had grown enormous, but it was not that bad.

The tilt table is reminiscent of the strap-laden plank in Frankenstein, the old film, which held the new monster as he was lifted and electrified into life. That one was replicated in the episode of The Munsters during which Herman Munster was restrained for self-control purposes while dieting. I digress.

I was attached to an IV (“just in case of emergency”), Velcro- strapped to the table and tilted to a standing position at a seventy degree angle for about twenty minutes. The same angle as the Tower of Pisa. There was even a print of the Tower of Pisa on the wall, which I found hysterically funny.

The reason I am telling you this is because it has to do with healing. My test was positive, which means that at the twenty minute point my blood pressure dropped very low. This made me feel like I was dying. My lips were sweating, my whole body (rather than just my stomach) was deeply nauseous and I fell into a huge panic and all out pain which made me scream to be put back down. Really, this part was bad, but it lasted only a few seconds. The recovery my body made instantly when lying flat was glorious. My headache was gone, I was breathing well and I felt a beautiful sense of safety and relief. I wondered if something painful had been shaken loose and released. I cannot explain this, but this is what happened.

The headache I mentioned had developed on my way to the city for the test. Lack of coffee and food, fear of the unknown, fear that I was on the brink of a fatal heart attack, fear that I would faint somewhere on the Manhattan concrete stairs or sidewalks I was navigating. My head pounded and I felt deprived of oxygen. I felt barely present. While I was in the waiting room getting permission to take ibuprofen a man walked in who looked, dressed and moved like my father. My father passed nearly a decade ago after years of heart disease. Briefly, I saw Dad in my mind and heard him say, “Don’t worry, you will be okay. This is not your time.” This was the point where I was ushered through the experience with kindness, from both human nurses and forces from beyond.

I am choosing to make this a summer of healing. My heart has been deemed healthy and the low blood pressure issue can be treated with basic self-care. I am seeing various healers. Some are medical doctors and some are healers who can talk to me about spirit and soul. I am drinking much more water (key for the vasovagal issue) and cooking healthy food. I am drawing on everything that has ever helped before. Clearing and cleansing my house, my mind. Asking my heart to open and let down the shields which have protected me for this past year. Soaking up the love that follows me, talking out loud to the bubble of love which engulfs this house I share with my two beautiful, favorite men. They love me from earth and Susanna loves me from that glorious bubble.

As I was falling asleep last night Susanna was with me for my first dream. The four of us, my family, were sitting down to claim our table and chairs on a cruise ship. I woke up a bit startled. On edge, sorting out some of the fears I live with. I needed to establish that we were all there and okay. I miss her every second, but I knew she was there. We had time, before I woke up, to get comfortable for our journey to somewhere. Every part of the course, every tilt and wave, we will be together and never alone.

Springing Eternal

Easter has been my favorite holiday for a long time. I am not a Christian, I glean wisdom and love from a few different religions but practice none in particular. For me it is the nature holiday of the equinox and the return of life from under the ice, resurrection. Besides matters of weather and new life sprouting, I love colored eggs and blobs of candy dusted in colored sugar, baskets of shiny faux grass, dipping eggs in cups of vinegar scented water with magic paint tablets. Spring is the very beginning of the fair days and everything good to come.

This year I have entered spring with a lot of fear and anxiety. I can recall every last detail of last Easter, the days leading up to when Susanna left us. Every event, article of clothing, words said. I am far from healed and these days are always with me. I try to make sense of what happened and understand her death as our destiny, because I know it is. At this point I sort things through by allowing the pain rather than denying it. It hurts. Not just on April 22, my life hurts. This is not a problem to solve but a situation which is not as strong as my spirit and my love, even on a day when it feels like it is.

I entertained the idea of not doing anything I did last year. Not hanging the egg wreath on the door, or putting decals on the windows, hiding eggs for my son or baking cupcakes for Susanna’s friends at daycare. Quickly I can hear her voice in my ears saying “But Mommy, it’s EASTER!”I refuse to close out life even if I want to. Blank days and numbed states are what they sound like, but joy and beauty will stay along with brave choices to participate amidst pain. Whatever may happen from here cannot take my love away.

My daughter’s life lasted only into the springtime of how long the many of us live. I have not so far spent much time thinking about what she would do if she had stayed. It is not like that awful insurance ad people talked about after the Super Bowl, with the boy lamenting everything his life would have been had he not died. Instead I am always hungry to know what she is doing on the other side. I get glimpses when I am able to be quiet enough to see and hear. From my mind only I can remember what her crying or struggling sounded like while she was here, but my heart only picks up soothing encouragement and a slew of divine giggles. Grieving parents will be able to tell you that they live in two worlds. I no longer feel comforted when people say things like “everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.” This only reminds me of more innocent times when I did not have to live this earth life without one of my children. But taken a step further into cosmic eternal time, I know that I can look forward to seeing how there was a plan and everyone survived. I will feel like I do when I dream Susanna is with me. A feeling of together which does not end upon awakening, but just springs eternal.

Susanna on Easter, 2013
Susanna on Easter, 2013

Life Isn’t Fair

Children have a strong sense of justice. Pretty much if a child says something is not fair, it is not. I am not a perfect mother but I never have and never would answer with “Life isn’t fair.” Life is not fair, but this is not an excuse to treat someone of any age unfairly or dismiss their feelings. Also, this is a rather bleak way to exist, to have such a phrase on the tip of your tongue. Life is not fair but in my home fairness shall be highly valued.

What would not be fair is for my son to go through life with anything other than a family where the parents are free to love and support him, and hopefully show enough enthusiasm to teach him that life is something to be enjoyed rather than suffered. As much as I am adrift, I have known all along that there are things I must not do. I will not avoid pain with substances. I will not act angrily toward others because of my loss. I will not hide my tears from my child or spouse, or really anyone unless I am at work or maybe trying to make some kind of business transaction (and I said maybe). When people ask how my family is doing I have trouble answering because I do not know. The question makes me think I have to evaluate us like a social worker with a clipboard. I do know that we do all we can to make sure that we do not hurt each other in our grief.

I read a story shortly after Susanna died about a mother who lost her young child in an accident some time ago. Her hair turned white, and she needed her husband to build a new house to live in immediately. This makes sense to me. No ways to cope really work, but you latch on to whatever one can get you through the day or the year or the decade. Obviously, I am a reader and I read a lot about grief. In contemporary medicine and psychology there is a condition called “Complicated Grief”. The symptoms include pining and longing for someone, not accepting their death or “moving on” after some specified normal amount of time, I think six months. This is all nonsensical to me, and I wonder who finds my grief “complicated”. Complicated for whom?

Like many people I spend a lot of time working and managing schedules and money. This is the part of the world of questions which have answers, problems which have solutions. Sometimes there is comfort there, routine can be beautiful music. Mostly though I am much more in tune with chaos and the world of no answers necessary. Although I look forward to a time likely to be less painful, I do not try to force it and I try not to wait for it. Last summer I wrote this passage, with inspiration from my wise and beautiful daughter.

 

During the New Age “Harmonic Convergence” event, foretold by the Mayans, I am in Cape Cod, buying and reading countless books about various enlightenments. I teach myself to meditate and open my chakras. As life goes on I am back and forth with such things but when meditating always return to the string of multicolor lights within my core. I see them eyes closed and breathe them, tasting and smelling them like a stack of Life Savers. At a later time I take many yoga classes in beautiful Park Slope locales, hardwood floors or soft mauve carpeting, chanting, spiced teas and peace. This is the point where I spontaneously do not need coffee anymore and my crown buzzes. It begins buzzing and goes on for days, warm and tingly. Once I have begun my terrifying new job, lived with Papi and had children, I am sure the buzz has left me but it still returns whenever I sit quietly and see the chakras. On this day when I have come by Sunshine’s benches I sit for a while and meditate. I allow the buzz and it spreads into the bridge of my nose. All open like a funnel, a humming tingling cone swirling into me from above my head. I wonder how to know when to leave such a state. I ask you, Sunshine, to help me and tell me an answer to my problem this week: How can I go on? How can I go on? The answer surprises me: You don’t go on. You just are. And at this time I know the new Sunshine is not only where I am but with me. We will help each other keep learning and being, and I do not have to wait until later.