“I hope you don’t think your mother’s crazy.”
Flowing tears, palpable across the miles, alerted me to lean in to the receiver, listen.
“Your father thinks I’m crazy,” she laughed. “Maybe I am.”
She let out a sigh, blew her nose.
“What happened?” I asked.
“When I was in the hospital I woke up in the middle of the night thinking someone had turned on the overhead light. It was so bright I couldn’t see at first. But then I realized the light was in the hall. When my eyes were able to focus. . .” Her voice broke. She gasped and wailed. “I saw Steve.”
Now my own tears were falling. Steve, my youngest brother, who had lived as a quadriplegic for twenty three years before his death in 1997, had left some unanswered questions. For two years my mother had mourned inconsolably, “I’ll never see my boy again. My greatest desire has always been to see all my children with me in Heaven. I’ll never see Steve again.”
“He was walking towards me,” she continued, still mystified by the encounter.
So accustomed was I to seeing Steve in his wheelchair I could hardly remember his 6’4” frame standing upright, much less walking. But, my imagination produced the image.
“He kept saying, ‘Mom, I’m okay. I’m okay.’” The floodgates burst and she wept. “’I’m okay.’”
We wept together in silence, holding the numinous vision.
In the Light.
“Do you think your mother’s crazy?” she repeated the question.
“Of course not,” I assured her. “Not crazy at all.” I had no logical explanation, no theological argument for what she had just told me. “Was it really Steve? Was it just a dream?” How could I doubt the power and truth of the experience? I had grown up in a religious tradition that spoke of visions and dreams but seemed to think they only happened to the ancients. Dr. Jung, a modern mystic, had a patient who told him she went to the moon, and he believed her, claiming that what happens in the psyche is real. That worked for me. “Steve loved you so much, he came back,” I said.
That satisfied her.
Now, when Steve’s name is mentioned, she closes her eyes and smiles.
In Dreaming Beyond Death: A Guide to Pre-Death Dreams and Visions Bulkley and Bulkeley, Hospice spiritual counselor and dream researcher, respectively, report the power and frequency of visitation dreams. A visitation dream is an emotionally intense dream in which the dreamer is visited by someone deceased who returns to provide guidance, reassurance, or warning. These dreams, the authors say, “provide experiential evidence of human connections that extend beyond mortal life.”
The authors disagree that “all religious traditions lead to the same realization of pure consciousness, peak experience, absolute unitary being, or any other monolithic, one-size-fits-all state of mind. At least in the realm of dreaming, the revelatory experience is so deeply rooted in the individual’s personal life history and cultural context that it makes no sense to try and extract a universal core from it.”
In Mom’s visitation dream, I was instantly struck by Steve’s choice of words. He didn’t say, ‘I’m in Heaven’ which I assumed she wanted to hear. His words were ambiguous, and true to who he was. “I’m okay.” Don’t the root metaphors of walking, light, and liberation all point to the mystery? Wasn’t this evidence of Steve’s soul print, his humor and diplomacy? When the religious dogma and political arguments sparked at our house and his support was solicited, he refused to take sides. He wheeled his chair around with a grin on his face and said, “I feel strongly both ways.”