In Memoriam ~ when the dead speak to us

In Memoriam ~ when the dead speak to us

Today is the Autumn Equinox and I woke crying. I woke crying because I dreamed about a friend who is dead.

Debbie was one of those extraordinary people who just brim with talent and ability; she was doing a doctorate in Zoology at the same time as I was doing my B.A in English and Latin. She had a gentle and gracious nature and we almost shared a birthday, so on a couple of occasions we shared celebrations. Not only was she intellectually gifted, she was spiritually gifted too, and was called to the priesthood, training a year or two ahead of my husband.

The first Christmas after we moved to darkest Norfolk for my husband’s first incumbency, I sent Debbie a gift and when a week or so later a card came from her, I was unprepared for the letter that came with it.

Brace yourselves; I’ve got leukaemia!”

A bright and breezy letter detailing her death sentence followed. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I assumed that she would be one of those people who survived. I assumed that the fact that she’d fought some pretty serious difficulties in her life so far meant she’d survive this.

I was wrong. She died. She was only in her mid thirties.

This morning, I dreamed of her. I’ll be honest, I’ve thought of her at times over the years but we weren’t very close and her passing had saddened but not devastated me. So it was a very strange dream, to be driving up to a house I knew to be hers and going round to the back door. The door was ajar, into a cosy old fashioned kitchen complete with Rayburn and snoozing dogs, and I shouted, “Are you in? We’re here!”. Debbie appeared, older, and with white streaks in her hair, and her face lit up at the sight of me. She held me at arms’ length before hugging me tight and then holding me out again to look at me. Then I woke.

When the dead speak to us in dreams, it is surely a sign that something is shifting in our lives, but what? Why did I dream of a friend, dead now thirteen years, whose life ended prematurely and with work incomplete?

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14 thoughts on “In Memoriam ~ when the dead speak to us

  1. It sounds like a forgiveness dream to me and probably has little or nothing to do with this particular friend. Have you been worrying about letting a friend or friends down, or not keeping in touch, recently?

  2. How precious the people we encounter are to us, not least because they reflect back our beliefs about ourselves in the world. You write about your friend with affection, and you highlight your many similarities; but what also comes across is the disparity in the way you view your different positions, and the admiration in which you hold her. She is further down the academic path, PhD to your BA; she has a gentle and gracious nature; she is ‘spiritually gifted’, as well as having survived many difficulties in her life.

    As I understand it, for the most part, the characters in our dreams represent aspects of ourselves, sometimes in archetypal or symbolic form (the headmaster as authority figure, the house as ‘home of all the selves’, the car as the vehicle of the self, water as an excess of emotions, a ‘black’ person as a sense of in-held guilt) but also as people we know, who represent a certain quality that we value. So when we encounter our dream cast list, it’s worth checking out who and what these folk mean to us and what aspect they might be illustrating.

    Your dream stage is essentially benign, a cosy welcoming kitchen, in which you feel at home – your own inner setting. And your dear friend, who has so many qualities that you admire (and what strikes me in particular is that giveaway ‘spiritually gifted’ – for who is to judge the spiritual attributes of each individual?) We all have spiritual gifts, but it sounds as if you felt that yours were of a lower status than someone who was called to the priesthood.

    So to me, your dream friend represents those parts of you that you observed, valued and maybe sought after in your real-life friend, and guess what – she’s come home. Older and wiser, she is helping you acknowledge that you too are academic, gracious, gentle, have survived much of what life has thrown at you, but above all, you are feeling more secure in your own spiritual gifts. Although it brought tears, I think this dream is a gift of recognition that your friend is able to give you, by providing a mirror in which you can see yourself more clearly.
    What a blessing.

  3. I couldn’t even pretend to have something to offer to you on a personal level for you here. My grandfather died about a year ago, we weren’t ‘that’ close, no one in my family is sad to say, but his death, the thought that he simply doesn’t exist any more, all he did, all he said, all he felt, all gone. We all will die, its the one thing we all truly have in common, and we all deal with it in different ways. As you know I have no kind of spiritual belief in life beyond death – death is death – the end of a process that is life. And so, for me, it is a bitter thing in many ways, but also it makes this brief moment of living so very wonderful and precious.

  4. Viv,

    Strange that you write of this. Of late, the last few days or so, I’ve wondered whether dreams are a bridge between the living and the dead.

    Maybe it’s because I keep thinking of the vision Sis dreamed of Daddy when — while on our way to visit his only sister last month — she woke up at the B&B where we were staying, sensing Daddy’s presence beside her on the bed. She said he looked good. Still too thin. But happy. She interpreted his visit (was it a dream or was it real?) as his way of expressing happiness at our road trip adventure, and also, to tell us he would be joining us — and that even while we would be blind to his presence, he would be there in the midst of our reunion.

    As I write, my dear mother-in-law lies in hospital, close to death, but how close, no one can say. Will death come tomorrow? today? Or perhaps ten days from now? Not even her doctor can say for sure — only that it’s close and that she may not leave the hospital. This is one of two “unmentionables” is my life which I do not write of publicly — solely out of love for my my in-laws who prefer to not speak of it, to not acknowledge death’s nearness — I suppose their way of sheltering us “kids” from the harsher realities of life. So here, away from my own blog, I break silence. And close by saying that my prayer for her these last two days has been that she might dream a comforting glimpse of heaven through a visit with loves ones who have preceded her in death.

    Janell

    • My dear friend, I am sad for you in this difficult time. Waiting while people make ready to go is a moving and troubling time.
      When my grandfather was dying he told the nurses they were to send away the man who was waiting for him(there was no one there) so I do wonder who came to him before he was quite ready to go.
      I do believe that at times the dead are permitted to visit with us a little, and dreams is one way of doing so. The Samhain rituals we have woven into Hallow E’en are another way.
      Thinking of you.
      xx

  5. I’ve had weird dreams like this, and always wonder what they mean too… so, I loved the comments on this…

    it’s been a long time since I’ve visited… too long. Glad to catch up a little here, and congrats on the book. that is awesome. =)

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