Dreams, and my Mom

feet original

 

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.

Herbs

Maybe in heaven there are fragrances. If I have a choice, I want to be able to smell the cilantro my Significant Other chops while I am falling asleep sometimes. A lover of toppings and condiments, he likes to eat late at night and meticulously cleans and separates the leaves, then gently taps the knife against the bamboo board as he chops before ladling the chicken soup I have left on the stove for him. I turn back to sleep consoled by his presence. I would miss that about earth.

This summer I planted my first herb garden (in containers, my tiny yard is cramped and paved with cement). I bought some plants and set them on Susanna’s bench. The bench was decrepit like driftwood last summer when I spray painted it pink and white. It sits beneath the window where I hang some of her angels on suction hooks. Bees have perhaps nested beneath the ground beside it. Since we have set up the Angel Tree each Christmas, the same corner of the house seems to attract flying creatures. I believe they feel the angels, the other winged beings.

The cilantro died. Firstly, we ate it down to the stems and roots. There was a driving rain one night, right after I did the initial planting, which flooded the boxes. I tipped the long window box backward to drain it and the plants tumbled out. I repaired the damage, but after that the cilantro never came back.

My prior gardening exploits were limited to mostly houseplants. I mastered the knowledge that plants will sometimes wither and sometimes thrive. This summer I experienced watching my herbs live in the elements. I started each day by looking at them and touching them. This grounded me a bit throughout a long, strange trip of a season. The chives and parsley stayed rooted as if made of bronze. The basil proliferated and made me proud. The oregano, which seemed to be going the way of the cilantro, remained green in tiny spots long enough to grow back again. I absorbed this concept of nature: things will heal and root when given time. We live and die, like they do, and given time we can grow back.

Two years ago, last April or May. Susanna has just left us and we are, all three, sleeping on the sectional sofa in the living room. We are afraid to sleep upstairs. We have little trust in this world which has robbed us. I fall asleep briefly, and I wake up choking and coughing. I change positions. I know that I am choking with fear and grief.

This feeling comes back in gradient forms.A year or so ago, I went through weeks of feeling faint and breathless which resulted in ruling out heart problems. My heart is broken, but functional. Now, as I begin to drift off at night or for a nap, there is an initial gasp for air. I never truly relax.

I believe I will always miss my daughter, all day long. Just as having children changes you forever, losing a child changes you forever again. But rather than changing you into someone who further understands life, loss changes you into someone who further understands death. My head is whirling, I experienced both in a short span of years.

Summer is over, and I will miss the solitude. I will walk further steps into the things I must attend to, and I will tend to things which help me to heal. I am healing. I believe that the loving powers of the universe want better for me than choking breathlessness. I take in enough air, enough love to know I am alive. There is more.

 

Birth, Death, Menopause and Things Like That

So, today I discussed menopause with my doctor. I discuss menopause frequently lately, whilst dripping with sweat and forgetting the names of people I know. There was something simpler and better about speaking directly to a doctor about it rather than repeating what I have learned by swimming alone or online upon a sea of mythology. Menopause is real, but by this point in life I have been through harder and achier and worse.

I left feeling quite sad. I have changed so much. I was aware of this as I meandered the winding little streets of Downtown Manhattan. It is as if I were looking for something from my past there, just to rule out the fact that the past is over. This is the neighborhood where I went to graduate school. There was the five- week cram of pre-teacher training, part of a recruiting program, followed by a couple of years of night classes. This was before motherhood, but by the time I was almost finished I was big and round with my firstborn and waddling in, putting my swollen feet upon a chair during class. Across the street was the hospital where my kids were born and where I frequented that OBGYN office. I left feeling sad but my heart is full of gratitude for this body, this life which provided the finest two things I have ever done.

I remember so many of my dozens of trips here, and the exciting and frightening things they entailed. The drinking of the sweet glucose drink to check my blood sugar. The blood pressure cuff, the urine tests, the ultrasounds. I remember what seems like every detail of both births. I could write volumes, yet still it seems like a flash. The crux of it, the two children emerging. My son by surgery, the kind anesthesiologist holding my hand while the drugs made me feel like I was drifting away from the earth. The primal scream that finally sprung from my psyche to push Susanna out. No matter what tragedies or indignities life has and can ever again send my way, I would accept this mission a million times over to be here and give birth to them.

I am not usually prone to drifting into “what if”, but I did. I imagined sitting with the doctor in front of an ultrasound machine, one which could have shown the brain aneurysm. What if there were such a thing, and a surgeon could reach right in and repair it, erase it, rather than leaving it to slowly bleed. She might have been at camp with her brother today, instead of in the other realm, reaching for me with her ghostly hand.

I remembered having the IUD inserted, a few months after Susanna was born, on the suggested second day of my first post-Susanna menstrual cycle. And I remembered, two summers ago, crying with my doctor and her assistant when I told them what had happened. I spoke and then my sorrow became our sorrow. I spoke of how I wished I could still have another baby, and heard the tiny plunk when they removed the IUD and dropped it into a bowl.

I wished, today, when leaving, that instead of menopause we could have talked about Susanna. Maybe I wanted to hug the doctor and cry again, maybe I wanted thank her for being there for the best events of my life. What I really wanted was to be there to talk about a life first starting, not the beginning of an ending. I dreamed of a cheerful greeting from behind the curtain, a matchstick with two red lines. Apparently, this is never to be again. I wanted to be free to move through time, maybe. I can taste the eternal continuum and sometimes I feel frozen, limited by the directions in which  I can move. Yet I made it quickly home to see my two guys, who do not say much, but who I know understand this line I straddle, living in two worlds.

Holding Space

cottage

My son was sitting on the bench with me at the playground, like Susanna used to do. He did not see anyone suitable to play with. Then, the little girl arrived, followed by the rest of her family. Curly dark hair in a ponytail, fluffy tutu with flats, spring in her step, about five or six. She entered in a cloud of Susannaness.
My Significant Other arrived to play with our grateful son. He struck up a conversation in Spanish with the father and tried to illicit a soccer game with the girl, who declined for more girly pursuits. But we did catch her name. It was not Susanna, did not start with S, or sound alike. This disappointed me. I wanted more illusion. I wanted to be another step closer to what used to be, even though it would not be that.
The life of the bereaved is full of paradox. My child is so clearly with me, whispering in my ear, yet her absence is deafening. My life has become a stopover for a broader journey, yet I am stuck here with years of longing ahead. Nothing is the same, but my precious son is still growing and thriving under my care. The sunny green and blue of May still fill my eyes and heart, yet part of me cowers from the magnitude of sadness which will always be there. Like life, death a mystery bigger than I can understand.
I can try to understand, and day by day I understand some things more. I think I understand the concept of “holding space”, which I never thought much about until yesterday. It is something like “saving a seat” for someone by putting your coat over a chair, but you do it while they are sitting with you. You acknowledge the space they need by covering them with acceptance and tolerance and deference to what they need to go through. This is the greatest gift to give another. This is real love, and it spans beyond time and dimension.
In my mind and heart, I build small palaces for Susanna and myself. We arrange cut flowers and spread golden tapestries and pastries stuffed with sweet pink cream. We set up lounge chairs where we will bask in eternal sunshine. The world I live in is real, but so is the goddess temple of my dreams. There is a kinder place, to hold some space. Save a spot for me, Susanna, and I will always set a place for you wherever I go.

Schoolhouse Earth

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Coinciding with the last weekend before school is over and I will be untethered for two months. My body, mind and soul feel heavy with anticipation and backwash. I apologize if that does not make sense, but I am clogged and ripe for regurgitation. I have chewed up this last ten months of my life and need to release things so I can allow what will be new. I also have an “anything goes” attitude which has returned from elementary school. I am ready to rip up my notebooks and toss them with confetti and streamers on the school bus. (We actually did that in the seventies.) This may be the influence of the second grader I live with. For me “introvert” is a verb. I will be introverting soon and aspire to grip the earth with my feet in a steadier way. For lack of a better term I am in limbo.

Today is not a sunny day, even with the solstice coming, and not a day shining hope into my eyes either. The celebration of Father’s Day is causing me to dwell on one thought, and it is this: I want desperately to do something for the man I love and spend my life with, to help him, and there is nothing I can do. I can say that to many ears and hear the suggestions offered. I have had ideas. Yet nothing short of a time machine can change the fact that Susanna died. There is no solution because losing a child is not a problem to be solved, only a situation to live with, as best you can. This grief is both a solitary journey and one he and I are on together. We know each other’s pain but cannot take it away.

My mind drifts back to a day when my kids were very small. It was probably summer, and they were sleeping. Significant Other and I were in our former bedroom on the first floor of our house, before we restored the upstairs to livable condition. We were talking about UFO’s, ghosts and the afterlife and such. We are both Pisces and soulmates in the way we accept being adrift in eternity. He mentioned a dream he had dreamt as a young person in which he saw a very tall woman who he knew well. Perhaps I was dreaming the same dream that night, on another continent. I mentioned how unlikely it was to have found each other, and how very much the souls of our two children wanted to be born. It was a conversation which transcended time and place. It was a conversation about the truth, the real truth.

Since Susanna passed, my ideas and feelings about all that exists beyond this life have changed. I have never completely doubted that there is more, but now fleeting ideas have cemented and grown roots. We are spirits joined temporarily in bodies. As sure as matter and molecules, other worlds are here with us. This is as true a fact as the chair I am sitting in.

Adrift and limbo are fine, but I am certain there are master plans as well. I believe that in some way I have entered a contract to be here and learn what I need to know. To my human self life can seem cruel. What purpose can there be? Why did the universe bring the two of us together from different places in the world, so late in our lives, to make a beautiful little family, then cause us to live with such a death? While we are at it, why must our bodies get sick and die? Why can’t we just leave and disappear, without the corpse, and without hurting our loved ones? I hold fast to a vision of “schoolhouse earth”. With a song and cartoon like “Schoolhouse Rock” if you are a child of the seventies. Just add endless miles of fresh soil and sparkling oceans. With a dream team of other people to connect with, need and love. Emotions rock us like waves. There is no life in a pure, painless vacuum. Nature is chaos. Whatever it is I am supposed to learn, I hope I will learn it and become strong.

Someday, S.O., Susanna and I will be sitting in a heavenly garden of some type, having a tea party on a mosaic table and smelling all of the world’s flowers. Perhaps we will discuss the reasons I cannot understand for what has happened. Maybe we will know these things, or maybe at that point we will not need to. Maybe we will be happy to just sip some heavenly tea. I could tell you about it if I had that time machine. Peace.

One, Two, Three, Right Now

I searched for a file in my memory, an MTV music file. The song is “Right Now” by Van Halen. With Sammy Hagar, after David Lee Roth had left. The video is full of thought provoking bits of text and I have always remembered this line: “Right now it’s cold where someone you love is”. The imagery is of a cemetery, perhaps suggesting that “cold” means gone and buried in the ground, but I do not think so. I have retained the line for all of these years because I think it means that all people have their share of days where they feel no proverbial sunshine. Just something to be aware of, while you go through your life as a conscious human with loved ones.

This weekend is difficult for me. Easter was later than April 5 last year, and was two days before Susanna died. The year has come almost full circle, with or without me. I am still holding out for the return of joy and peace. In all honesty, I feel about a millimeter closer to peace, though I can see it approaching every day. In its own time. I can only speak for myself but I believe my small family is proud of having put one foot in front of the other every day, be it with great trepidation most of the time. We are still here, even though it is still cold where we are.

On “Good Friday” last year, Susanna and I went shopping together in the mall for spring clothes. I remember feeling a dull and achy anxiety and dissatisfaction that day, and for all of spring break. I had a feeling that time was running out in some way. It was. In contrast, Susanna had such a beautiful and peaceful day. She chose four dresses, two of which she never wore. She ate two large slices of pizza and brought home two bags of pink and blue cotton candy, which sat in the cabinet for weeks until they evaporated into hard piles of sugar. What she really wanted to do was ride the escalators. I taught her that day to count as it was time to step off, one, two, three, now! I wanted to help her know how to keep from stumbling. She loved it so much as a game that we did it over and over. When I ride escalators now, I try to remember to count as I get off, and to feel her hand. It is hard to have a quiet enough mind to remember, right now, but sometimes I do.