Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post #321: Which Contains Shopping, Television and a few Tears, But Mostly Lots of Love

Ever wondered what unemployed Army wives without children do all day?  It's not exactly a thrilling schedule.  There are a lot of trips to the Commissary, the PX, the mall downtown.  There are lunches and babysitting with other wives.  Many hours are logged gathering the ten thousand pieces of my husband's Army issued gear into one place (only to have it pulled out again later in the week).  Occasionally something exciting happens and I actually do my mountain of dishes.  But mostly I watch a lot of television series via the internet.

Recently I've been watching One Tree Hill.  The first few episodes weren't anything special, but I waited it out until I got a little further in, and now I'm hooked.  There is one scene in particular that I can't get out of my head.  At one point, a character says that when you dream of someone that has died, it's like the spirit's version of email -- a loved one's way of letting you know they still care.  I have a strong desire to believe this is true.

Last summer, while I was four thousand miles from home fighting to get married, my great-grandmother was in a hospital bed fighting for her life.  Her health had been failing for a long time and when she passed away it wasn't exactly unexpected.  What was unexpected was that I would still be tied up in red tape when it happened.  I packed for a two week trip and fast elopement, not the four month hassle that ensued.  I never thought I wouldn't have a chance to say goodbye, but in fact, I wasn't even able to attend the funeral.

my great-grandparents:
Della &Thomas

When it happened, when I found out that she died, I didn't know how to feel, let alone how to write about those feelings.  The reality of the situation didn't sink in until I finally came home.  Two days after my plane landed in Kentucky, I drove out to the cemetery.  The funeral flowers were long gone, but the grave was still a fresh rich brown covered in straw.  I sat in the grass between my great-grandparents' graves and I cried.  And I cried and I cried.  When there weren't any tears left, my guilt seeped down my cheeks as well.  After that was gone, all of my love for them worked its way out of my heart too.  And when there was nothing left to feel, nothing left to give, I stood up, wiped my eyes and drove back home. 

I honestly thought my grieving was over.  But the thing I've learned about grief is that it's permanent.  All the emotion it pumps out gets sucked right back into your heart.  The love and anger and guilt...it just builds up over time until there is so much emotion it has to spill out again.  Eventually the sadness is broken up by bigger gaps, but it doesn't stop altogether.  And it shouldn't, because we should never forget the people we love.

I went on being sad and healing and being sad again for months.  Truth be told I'm still caught in that cycle.  But one night last winter, after I came back to Kyle in Germany, something different happened.  I fell asleep and saw my great-grandmother.  True to dream nature, I didn't realize I was asleep.  We sat on a sofa and talked in a way we'd never quite managed when she was alive.  It wasn't uneasy.  There was no feeling that time was sliding away from us.  It was peaceful.  And then I realized that something was wrong.  Memory seeped into my peaceful dream and I knew that what I was seeing couldn't be real because my great-grandmother was gone from my world.

When I realized this, when I knew that I was dreaming, she saw it in my eyes and held me close.  More tears came spilling down my face and I said, "I don't want to lose you."  She said, "I know."  I don't remember anything else about our conversation -- just those two sentences and the way her arms felt around my shoulders.  She held me until I woke up, which felt quite a lot like falling asleep, and then it was over.

My practicality knows that this was only a dream.  My heart likes to think it was more than that.  My stubborn, relentless heart likes to think that maybe I got to say goodbye after all.

my great-grandmother Della, first pictured in her youth, and second as I knew her


  1. omg you look exactly like her. my uncertainty about which side of your family you look more like is now answered.

    also, i fully believe that people who die can visit you in your dreams and talk to you. practicality can be wrong sometimes.

  2. You look JUST LIKE HER. What a beautiful woman.
    I completely believe that. Sometimes you have to disregard what other people say and go with what you believe in.

  3. All the women in my family look a lot alike. If I lay down photos of my, my grandmother and my mother around age 5-7, you can hardly tell us apart.

    I was at the grocery store in my hometown one day and a random stranger said, "You have to be Elaine's granddaughter. You look too much like her." I get comments like that a lot.

    I'll have to dig up some more old photos when we go on leave this summer. :)

  4. Yep I saw the resemblance right away.

    I am older now and trying to deal with the deaths of loved ones and acquaintances and my own impending death at some point in the future. (When you get older it's on your mind more than ever) I do a lot of dreaming and I just figured that when I dreamed about a loved one who has moved on that they had been on my mind and that was why I dreamed about them. I like your analogy taken from the character. It makes me feel better.

    It's funny that you posted this. I dreamed this morning about my best friend, who has been gone 2 years now, that he wasn't gone - that my ex-husband had just died and I was on my way to my friend's house (who was his friend) to tell him about it. Then the alarm woke me up. I have been discombobulated since waking up...remembering the dream. I feel better now. Thanks.

  5. Oh I've had four dreams like that about my grandpa who died when I was 19 and I KNOW that it was really him. It happens the same way every time.... I'll be dreaming a normal dream and then all of a sudden we're sitting on the low concrete fence in the side yard at my grandparent's house, watering the yard with the hose, and talking like we used to do when he was alive. Sometimes I remember what we talked about and other times I don't but my senses are heightened when it's really him and in the dream I can smell cigarette smoke and his eyes are a piercing and shocking deep color... they really stand out. I can feel his hug....

    I'm glad she came to see you.....

  6. I have dreams about my mom that seem really real. Soon after her death I dreamed I was in her house and my family was in the diningroom. I came out of the bedroom in the morning and could smell cigarette smoke and knew my mom was there and then she was and I hugged her and knew it was really her because of the cigarette smell.

    When I was an unemployed army wife my days consisted of waking up at noon, maybe seeing friends or running errands, but mostly watching TV and playing on the computer or reading and then staying up to about 3 am :)

  7. I'm sorry that you couldn't be there or go to the funeral. Maybe thinking about it has caused the dreams.

  8. I'm inclined to think that you did get to say goodbye.

  9. Thanks to all my commenters!

    I'm surprised how readily most of you agree with the idea of "spirits." It's a good surprise though! I half expected some people to say I was completely crazy. ;)

    JMO -- It's very possible. I was devestated that I didn't get to attend the funeral at the time, but now I'm actually a little grateful: All the memories I have of my great-grandmother are of when she alive and surrounded by family.


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