|Photo Credit Matt Brown|
He has come to me sometimes. At night. In my dreams. We talk.
Well, I talk and he looks at me. Bewildered.
In my dreams we are in the middle of a family gathering. I can hear my parents and siblings talking and laughing in the kitchen. Ice rattles against cold plastic in the freezer then chinks into glasses. Cabinets open and shut as a meal is prepared.
In these dreams, I'm in the living room with my three children and their cousins. Everyone is years younger. My nephew-now-father-of-his-own is in these dreams, sprouting chin hairs with skin shiny from the surge of teenager hormones. My niece is placing my now eighteen-year-old daughter on her lap to build a tower of blocks. Everyone is there, in that place so many years ago where nothing could touch us.
He's there too. Always standing off a little to the side. Laughing at something said. He's barely a teen. His wild, unruly hair is busy doing its wild and unruly thing. He's whole. Happy. He says something, tries to enter the conversation, but no one hears him.
No one sees him.
Everyone is years away from colleges to be decided upon or from the knowledge that marriages will fall apart or or that a car accident will take one of them weeks before a twenty-seventh birthday.
"You're gone now. I'm sorry, but you're not supposed to be here." I tell him this because I can see he doesn't know.
In each dream I say the same thing to him. In each dream, he looks at me. Bewildered.
The first few dreams like this I awoke, sobbing with grief made fresh. He was so confused. He wasn't ready to be not heard or seen. "You're gone now. They can't see you." Then, I mustered all the strength I could from the love I have for him and said, "You're dead."
I know a part of me needed to say those words so I could believe it, too.
Last night, in the middle of a living room strewn with plastic toys, shredded gift wrap, kids, and dogs, I stood with him in the hallway and said those words again.
This time, something flickered behind his too-young eyes.
He was beginning to understand.
I was beginning to question.
Is there life after death? When someone so alive, so vital, and filled with all of the good things life has to offer and then is gone in a split second, what happens next?
I don't know, but I don't feel as if these were mere dreams, some random firing of my brain cells at night.