While I was in Sanibel last May, I received a nudge. Not sure what else to call it. I’d taken along an old journal, and in re-reading what I’d written in mid-April of the prior year (2018), I found this: I’d recorded a short, vivid dream, in which I learned that my mom had purchased $1000 worth of “pool privileges” for our neighborhood swim club, in order to spend “a lot of time there” with my dad. Soon after, (this is still the dream) a coupon book – for monthly payments to the pool – was tossed on our front sidewalk, for me to hand to my mom. I then saw my folks getting all set up at the pool; my mom had even brought a mini-fridge, stocked with snacks and various beverages (this is so her!). But….my parents live an hour away and are vigorously independent, determined to age-in-place, so this didn’t fit reality. What did it mean? In the dream, I had felt rather conflicted, very protective of “my” pool, feeling it as sanctuary…not sure I wanted to share. When I woke up, I wrote it all down, as I’ve learned to do (otherwise PFFFT: gone) but wasn’t sure if that was just mental cleaning-out, a little pile of nonsense.
As I sat in Sanibel in 2019 and read about that dream from 2018, I suddenly made the connection between the dream and what had happened in real life in the interim.
Early in 2019 we got word that my nephew would be married in Tampa in early May. I had been mulling the idea of inviting my immediate family to Sanibel and this made it a relatively easy choice because we would all be at the wedding and Tampa is just 2.5 hours north of Sanibel. I pondered some more over the latter part of January and into February. I decided that while I do feel very strongly about my need to protect a time of solitude and sacredness for myself, I could hold that boundary, staying extra days after
I’d shoved everyone out the door everyone had left, and still share a truly special experience and place.
My subsequent proposal was met with delight, and the search for a condo began. I wanted to make it my treat, but it became clear that the larger (3 BR, vs my normal studio) condo would cost dearly, especially if it had a view of the gulf. So my mom (who, TBH, really wanted that view!) generously gave me $1000 to help pay for the (larger-and-arguably-better gulf-front) condo…at “my pool,” my sanctuary, my Sanibel.
So. That was an easy-to-hear telling of a larger truth that I’m starting to wake up (ha) to: that God (you may have another name for God) is communicating with us. That dreams, at least some of them, have import, and sometimes there are other signs or evidences of connection in everyday experiences. In this case, I was granted a glimpse in a dream in 2018 of something that would be true in 2019, including my thought processes around the event.
While I have learned that dreams are mostly you talking to you from your deep subconscious (which is why, I think, symbols and metaphors are so common in dreams — like the pool is symbolic of Sanibel/ocean in my dream — because the subconscious has its own language), it’s not always just you chatting to yourself…sometimes Someone Else gets a word in edgewise.
I’m going to share a bunch of other stories now for my own sake (because: amnesia) but also to prompt you to think about your own life and ways you may have heard the whispers, too. Maybe thinking about these kind of things will help you remember you are not alone in those times when it doesn’t feel that way.
Honestly, sometimes there were “wake-up” calls I didn’t want, and it’s not always via a dream:
- Like the dream I had when I was in college, where the boy I was involved with at the time — SO deliciously sexy and handsome, but truly bad for me in every way — handed me a heavy signet ring, and as I reached out to accept the ring I instantly began to sink in quicksand. I’d love to tell you I broke up with him immediately, but that is not the truth (he dumped me, thank goodness).
- Like the day I was at the front of the church, facing the people, and the service had begun when a couple I did not know made their way up the center aisle (vs. sneaking into the balcony, like most of us do when we are late!), to pews near the front. As they sat down, I had this random, terrible thought flit through my brain: what if their intent is not good? They appear to be deliberately choosing to sit just behind all the children gathered in the front pews…! I breathed so much easier after the children left the sanctuary for student worship, a few minutes later. I never knew who the couple were and they did not return after that day. Just visiting, I guess. But still: I was so shaken, and it seemed so out of proportion. On that same morning, about an hour later, a man walked into a small Baptist church in TX and shot everyone.
- Like the brief, intense nightmare I had when the children were very small — maybe 2 and 4. In the dream, I was holding the handle of a metal grocery cart, looking at the sweet, slumbering curl of a baby maybe 12 months old, lying in the basket of the cart…when I realized it was one of my children and the child had died. I woke up sobbing, my pillow already soaked. There are so many things that could have happened next or because of that dream, but at the time, I just couldn’t handle it. I decided it was just a bad dream and tucked it away in the far back corner of my brain. Until it became all too relevant. Now, even if I don’t “like” any dream, I do try to pay attention.
Or the whole “turtles thing,” as I’ve come to call it. I went on a women’s retreat in the late 90’s and one afternoon, we were asked to take our journals and go outside and “be with God.” Typical me-at-the-time (oy, I wish I could say I was more changed now) sat still for about .5 seconds, then jumped up and went for a power walk and muttered and complained about how I could never hear God, was a terrible prayer/meditator, and “it’s Your fault because YOU made me this wa—” — I pulled up short. The most beautiful box turtle was sitting beside the dirt road I was furiously striding down. I stopped, sat, and drew…and relaxed, just a bit. Still true now — nature does that. For many, many years after that, I saw – or was shown – a lot of turtles, and it always felt like a gentle reminder to just slow down. I didn’t listen very well. And I don’t know that the message was “about” Mark’s short time here, specifically, or life in general being so short and sweet as to beg a meander vs. a dash through it. I do know that the turtles changed to sea turtle images, just before he died.
Last summer (and the picture at the top of this post is attached to this story): I/we experienced a lovely little miracle.
For Mark’s 23rd birthday, we did movie night again. About 10-14 days in advance, we pick a showtime at a theater that has reserve-able, reclining seats, and folks then buy up the seats in advance until we mostly fill the theater up at showtime (so so delightful). This time, we’d originally planned on seeing one movie, but switched to “Toy Story 4” after reading terrible reviews about the other.
Anyhow: several days after that decision to change the movie selection, but before his birthday and that event, I was hunting for a home movie from Sarah & Mark’s childhood to soothe my aching heart and share on Facebook. I was also wondering if Mark “approved” of our plans for his birthday. Steve had digitized all those little tapes from our old video camera and stored them in a special hard drive on his computer, but all the labels and file extensions were not familiar to me, so I randomly chose one titled “1999 MAS & Co” because I figured from the title that at least Mark (MAS are his initials) was in it. And it opened with a Christmas morning scene of Sarah and Mark – at 5 and 3 years – playing with their new TOY STORY figurines. This is not a mere coincidence. How could it be?
I still find coins. Quite a few other people who love Mark do, too. It almost always catches them by surprise, it’s almost always a dime, and often (but not always) the surprise occurs when they are struggling, suffering for or with someone they love. This little jolt of discovery makes them think about Mark, heaven and God; this seeming assurance of Presence brings a wild, strange and beautiful comfort in the midst of all that chaos. Last September, I was leaving a funeral reception in a neighborhood near Colonial Williamsburg, VA. As I walked to my car I was reflecting on how much I love the friend I’d just been with (it was her mother’s funeral…and I haven’t physically seen my friend in years, but our mutual affection transcends all time). A few steps from my front tires I saw a coin lying on the damp pavement. A nickel? Nope. It was a $5 silver coin from Jamaica. My jaw was on the ground. You see: just the previous weekend, one of Mark’s best friends from college had written to invite Steve & me to her upcoming wedding…in Jamaica. I guess we are going.
My thesaurus might help me find better words than “wonderful,” “crazy,” “weird” and “beautiful” (perhaps sometimes “sobering” and “hard”), these times when Something Different happens. I love hearing other’s dreams and whoa-experiences, too, even as they can be hard to figure out, hard to wrap our hands, hearts and minds around. Because we are human, we often wrestle with the illogical; we work to figure out how to apply this exception, how to incorporate Strange Stuff that happens (and sometimes scares us).
And maybe – because it’s so hard for us to remove the qualifiers (of what’s “good” or “bad” news), because it’s so hard for us (maybe just me) to be simple, to simply accept the gifts (Beth P calls it manna from a loving God) – that is where we humans get all tied up in knots. Maybe it’s our own filters of guilt and shame that have warped our vision, thinking God is about doling out punishment vs. love. Maybe this is why I sometimes think the lot of us humans are like those blind men in a room with an elephant, each feeling around and discerning a different part of the whole, but only able to describe that which they touch. I like to think the elephant is quietly smiling.