Have you ever noticed how many condolence cards talk about looking back on memories made…be thankful for the memories…hold on to the memories… Those cards don’t jive with me. There’s too much of a finality to the sentiment. He’s dead. I’m sorry. Happy memorializing. Period. Sign, stamp, send.
Yes, I have memories of dad. And guess what? The memories didn’t end with his life.
Five years ago my dad died unexpectedly in a car crash. Head-on collision. Instant death. Shortly after, dad started visiting me in my dreams. He kept showing up – at my childhood home, on our family vacations. Night after night. He wouldn’t quit. I cried in my dreams at the sight of him, because it felt like a mean trick. It hurt to the point that I asked him to stop. He backed off for quite a while, but then showed up again, two weeks after my September wedding, to give me a wedding gift.
In this dream, I was at a friend’s house, practicing ballet in her kitchen. I looked up and saw my dad sitting in a chair. He was waiting for me to finish my dance lesson, as he had done for so many years in the waiting room of my childhood dance studio. We stepped outside surrounded by the cool, fall evening air. His white cotton t-shirt was tucked into his carpenter jeans – his classic work apparel. He apologized for the delay. He had been working on the other side and traveled a long way to get back to me. In his hand was a perfectly wrapped box; a wedding gift for me…
I was thumbing through my journal a few weeks ago and came across that wedding-gift story written down because it was too real to be just a dream. A few page turns later I found another dad anecdote: My husband and I were at a Valentine’s dinner seated at a table that was positioned just next to the dance floor. White linens. Candlelight. Background music. A song caught my attention. “I see trees of green, red roses too…” That’s the song dad and I were going to dance to at my wedding reception. There I was, sitting just a few feet from the very spot where we would have danced together.
Fast forward to a journal entry from this past June. I’m standing center stage. The curtains open. Cue spotlights. The music begins. Turning to face the audience, I see light reflecting off of my dad’s glasses. He’s seated in the middle of the crowd. Deep down I know it isn’t him, yet I know it IS him watching my performance. After all, he never missed a show. Instant peace. Instant calm. “Thanks dad,” I whisper on the inside as I flow through the next steps of choreography…
Last night I was lying in bed thinking about how dad rarely visits me in my dreams anymore, certain that it’s because I had asked him to stop. Like I said, I used to think it was mean when he came back to visit. Now I know that it was him trying to reassure me that he wasn’t really gone. If he stopped visiting me in my dreams because I asked him to stop, then maybe he’ll revisit if I ask. I whisper from my heart, “Okay dad. Visit me again, please.”
In the early hours this morning, he showed up in my dream. I was holding my 17-month-old son who nearly leapt out of my arms from excitement at the sight of his grandpa. They reached for each other, smiles wide, happiness palpable. My son kissed my dad on the cheek, and the kiss was returned. They knew each other even though they never met physically… I have another journal entry to write.
Some people find pennies, others associate their loved ones with dragonflies or butterflies. There’s no right or wrong to it, and there might be multiple ways your loved one checks in on you. When you get the feeling that your loved one is with you? Believe it, because they are. Tune in. Listen. Those moments are when new memories are made, even after their death.
Death is not the end of a story; it’s a pause before the next chapter.
Death is not a period; it’s a semicolon with more to follow.
I know you hurt, and I am sorry for you loss. From it you have much to gain.
Signed, stamped, and sealed with love,