Letter to the Dead

I was searmailboxching through my stack of notebooks today, looking for some information I needed, when I came across the last letter I wrote to Jeff, my deceased life mate/soul mate. I used to write him as a way of feeling connected to him, but I haven’t done so in a over a year. The letter, dated October 13, 2013, was written three years and seven months after his death. I don’t remember the dream, don’t even remember writing the letter, but here it is:

Dear Jeff,

I dreamt about you last night. You came into my room, stood at the foot of the bed and touched my blanket-covered feet, then climbed onto the bed, on top of the covers, and cuddled up to me. You were in your underwear, and in the dream, I knew you’d come from where you were sleeping, though I had the impression you’d been with someone, as if you had another life. You said, “I miss you.”

I woke and teared up a bit, but no emotional storm, just an acknowledgment that I missed you too.

Was that really you? Some people would say so, but I still don’t know the truth of (or have any belief in) what comes after. I’ll know soon enough, I suppose. As long as my remaining years seem, I know the truth — they are but a wisp of time. For a long time, I was afraid of growing old alone and dying alone. I know we all die alone; I guess the fear was of being feeble alone, but I’ve chosen to believe that if my end years were going to be difficult, you wouldn’t have left me.

I’m trying to embrace life in a way I never did before — to see it as the gift everyone says it is. I was angry at you recently for leaving me here stuck between my father and my brother as I’d always been when I was young, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ve found a new love (dancing) and I’m walking with a group when I can, which is helping me stay centered. I could leave here, of course, and run away from the men who are bedeviling me, but I’d also be leaving these activities and my new friends, which adds an element of irony to the situation.

What about you? What are you doing? How are you doing? I wish we could talk, catch up, tell our current truths, but maybe someday . . .

Will you still like me? Will you be waiting for me?

Adios, compadre. I love you.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Do the Dead Miss Us?

I had an odd dream last night. The setting wasn’t very detailed — just a simple bed in the middle of an empty white room that my waking self doesn’t recognize. I was lying in the bed, the white sheet pulled up to my chest. My deceased life mate/soul mate walked into the room wearing only white underwear. I got the impression he was coming from somewhere else or someone else, and that we weren’t still together. He stopped by my feet, gave them an affectionate rub, then came around to the empty side of the bed. He bedlay on the bed on top of the sheet, cuddled up close to me, and said softly, “I miss you.”

I woke, and tears came to my eyes. I’ve been keeping myself busy lately, and haven’t been thinking about him much, and the dream reminded me how much I missed him. I lay in bed waiting for a full-blown grief upsurge, but after a minute or two, I simply went back to sleep.

This is the closest I’ve ever had to what I would consider a “visitation” dream, and it’s left wondering if it was some sort of real encounter.

In various updates about grief on this blog, I mention that I talk to him, and I always make a facetious remark about his silence, such as this comment in a letter to him I posted a few days ago: so far you’ve been mum about your situation. Just one more thing to hate—the silence of the grave. (Well, the silence of the funerary urn.)

Could the dream have been an attempt to contact me? I don’t really believe it, but still, this is the first of the handful of dreams I’ve had about him in the past three and a half years that ever mentioned how he might be feeling. Could it be that the dead miss us as much as we miss them? Could they be feeling as amputated as we do?

Whatever the truth of the dream, it adds one more facet to this strange and incomprehensible state we call grief.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Few Moments in an Unsettling Dream

I woke too early this morning and a hard time getting back to sleep. When I finally dozed off, I dreamt of my deceased life mate/soul mate. The events in the dream must have taken place at the end of his life when he was so often disoriented, because he was trying to cook something, and he continued pouring whatever it was into the pan after the pan was filled, getting the food all over the stove, him, the floor, even me. I tried to catch his attention so he’d stop, and when I couldn’t, I slapped him to bring him back to reality.

I don’t know where that dream came from. I seldom dream of him, and never once did I slap him in real life, especially not at the end when it took all he had just to get through another hour — or even minute — of life. I never even considered slapping him. I hate women who slap men. If it’s not okay for men to raise a hand to women, it’s just as not okay for women to raise a hand to men, no matter what the provocation.

During those last weeks of his life, I was so eaten up with sorrow for him and for me, so focused on him and his well being, or rather his as-well-as-possible being, that I found infinite patience. (It was the year before that, when I didn’t know what was happening to him, when he became a stranger I didn’t even particularly like, that too often I found myself impatient. But even then I never raised a hand to him, though I did sometimes bristle and clench my fists in frustration.)

Still, whatever the origin of the dream, it’s left me feeling teary and even ashamed as if I really had slapped him. Although I always miss him and never forget him, I sometimes forget that once I lived a different life — a life with him — and the dream reminded me of that life. I do know that if he had continued to live, life would have been pure torture for both of us, and the dream reminded me of that particular reality. But oh, it was so good to see him, if only for a few brief moments in an unsettling dream.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Saying Good-bye

100_0876bDuring the past three years, I’ve met way too many people who have lost their mates. (Until I became one of them, I had no idea the vast numbers of people living with such grief). Some, like me, lost their mates through a long dying. Others lost them instantly. I’ve never been able to figure out which is worse for survivors to deal with. The quick deaths bring such shock and disbelief that it seems impossible to survive, but we who have plenty of time to get used to the idea have to deal with the memories of our lack of generosity toward our long-dying mates. The trouble is that when someone dies slowly, as the months and maybe even years pass, we get used to their dying. The dying itself becomes a way of life, so that a flash of irritation here or a lack of empathy there means little in the fullness of the days. It’s only when they are gone that these things loom large, and we wonder why we couldn’t have held to our equanimity just a couple of months longer.

But of course, we did not know how short a time we had to be with him. It felt like a new low is all, and at the end, death came in an instant, as all deaths do, bringing shock and disbelief.

In the world of grief, I am one of the lucky ones — I got to say good-bye. That is the thing that haunts so many bereft — their inability bid farewell to the person who meant more to them than any other. It’s not just those whose spouses died suddenly in an accident or from an unnexpected heart attack who never got a chance to say good-bye. I’ve heard sad stories of hospital personnel cleaning out the emergency room too quickly so that the person left behind never even got a chance to see their beloved one last time. I’ve heard of nurses who demanded the bereft to be quiet in their weeping or quick in saying those few final precious words. I’ve heard of doctors who insisted the ill one would get better, giving the couple no reason to believe they would need to say good-bye.

One woman, whose husband died in a vehicle accident, was particularly sick with regret. After she’d been notified of the tragedy, she’d gone to the hospital to find him already on the way to the morgue, leaving her  with no way to say good-bye. She too, is one of the lucky ones. He came to her in a dream, and told her it was okay, that he’d already been gone from his body, and that he loved her. And in a way, he had already said good-bye. Shortly before his accident, he had called family and friends he hadn’t talked to in a while and chatted with them for no real particular reason, and then a day or two later he unexpectedly invited her to a special lunch. Two hours after that lunch, he was dead.

Such pre-good-byes are fairly common, as if something in us knows the time of our death and prepares for it, but many bereft are left without even such a farewell to bring them comfort. Since parting words seem so important to the grief process, the unfarewelled bereft have to find other ways to say good-bye such as writing letters to the one who is gone, talking to him, or taking a memorial trip to a place that had special meaning. Actually, these are good ideas even for those of us who did get to say good-bye. I’ve written him and talked to him. Maybe one day I’ll take a memorial trip to a place with special meaning, though to be honest, everyplace we ever went — even the grocery store — was special because we were together.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+