This morning, I dreamed of Levi.
The amazing thing is that he wasn't on a hospital gurney, or drowning, or being thrown under the wheels of a vehicle. He wasn't being withheld from me by some sinister force that had evil intentions. He wasn't a spectre that I could never quite see. It wasn't his funeral.
He was home, and he was him.
In the dream, Jude was excitedly showing me a giant drift of snow that had been deposited in front of our house. (Dreaming of piles of snow in September--that part might be considered to be a nightmare!) It was early in the morning, and a winter sun had just risen, bathing the entire scene in a golden glow.
As Jude and I were standing on the deck, the screen door slammed and Levi came clomping out the door in his boots, excited about the snow. He ran down the stairs and jumped into a big drift.
Of course, he had no jacket on, so I had to go pick my way carefully through the crusty snow in my flats to scoop him up and carry him inside.
I could feel him, the warmth and weight of his body, the prickle of his course hair as I kissed the back of his head. I could hear his husky little voice yelling in laughter and excitement as he jumped and wrestled with his brothers and dad and excitedly ran all over the house.
I knew it was a dream. I was making breakfast, and I kept checking on him every few seconds to make sure he hadn't disappeared yet. I smiled as I watched him play with the family, scooped him up again as he headed for some minor mischief, set him down to run in a different direction because he was too busy and energetic to cuddle. Just like he was. But I knew it was a dream.
When the snooze alarm went off, he was gone. And I woke up crying.
Is this progress? I don't know. I've been holding this dream close all day, like a gift. Unlike the many I have had where he is just absent, like he was meant to be there but isn't, he was here, like a relived, tangible memory.
Those other, nightmarish dreams leave me feeling hollow and empty and shrivelling inside when they come.
This one has left me feeling sad, and my heart has ached unbelievably all day. But I am still glad that I got to "see" him, just for a few minutes. It was like a window in time peeking back at a morning before this whole horrible summer happened.
About a week ago, God gave me a final piece of inspiration for a story that started tying together several other ideas I had put on the back burner for months. That was a turning point in my week, and my grief. The first two days of the week--alone without Levi--had been beyond horrible. But the story that fell into my heart was like a gift--it was something to be excited about, and work on, and do. The heavy weight on my heart lifted a little.
It was also a story that wouldn't require me to research an entire culture to write, which is a huge bonus.
My main character has had a pretty rough life, though, and the experiences she had aren't ones I have had to deal with. So some research is required.
As I have been diving into self-help books and survivor stories of people who have gone through what my Sarah is going through, what I am reading has been speaking to me. It might seem easier to read self-help books on someone else's issues, but the process of grief is similar in so many ways, regardless of the loss, that there have still been some "growing moments."
For instance, one of the common things that happens while you grieve is an intense longing to return to how things were before the loss occurred.
Natural? Of course. But can you really move on while you are camping in that place?
I don't know.
Can we look backward and move forward at the same time?
One line from one book said, "Know that now that you have survived _____, you can survive anything."
People and books have said the same thing to me about losing a child. In the last week, the truth of that statement has started to become real to me.
I don't really want to move forward. I long intensely for my child, for the dream I had this morning to be an everyday reality, not a ten-minute glimpse between snooze alarms.
But I also don't want to be stuck here. And I know that I'm moving forward whether I want to or not.
Once you have done anything difficult once, you realize that you are capable of more than you ever thought. Surviving the Holocaust may have created strong people like Corrie Ten Boom--but I'm sure she wasn't hoping she could someday go through a trial equally as horrific.
So, I don't know if I could say it's empowering to know that you can survive some of the worst things that could happen to you. Most days, I wish I didn't have to "survive" it--a piece of my heart has already gone home, and it's pulling the rest of my heart to come after it. But there is a certain amount of ... resolve? resignation? determination? I don't know how to describe it ... that comes from knowing that there isn't much that life could hand you that would be worse, and that if you can keep walking through this, you could walk through any of it. The uncertainty of life loses some of its power.
Maybe that's the strength. Having survived something so horrible, and having found that you could continue to breathe and move and function, you realize that you are no longer so afraid of the "what ifs" in life.
When you go through horrible loss, you realize just how powerless you are--there are no magical talismans that will protect you and those you love in every situation. No one is immune to hurt, loss, and grief. God doesn't shield his children from it. Chances are it will find you at some point. The only thing you can control about the whole thing is what you do about it. Give up? Or go on?
And when you know, down in the depths of your soul, that you could choose to go on in every circumstance, that your faith has been tested and not burned like chaff, that the core of you didn't evaporate in the middle of the fiery furnace--that is strength.
Remember the sunflowers and the bonsai trees, that only grow strong and beautiful when they are exposed and even pruned. Loss prunes us. If we trust the Gardener to continue to work and walk with us, he will make us into something beautiful.
If we reject the healing process of grief, though, where will the beauty be found? The good that could have come from the loss will never happen.
When you think of your life and the losses you have experienced, do you think you would have become the person you are today without those losses?
When you think of the people you have helped because you lost, would you trade the impact you have made to go back to the way things were before?
Sometimes, I wish I could see the architect's drawing for my life--to see what the plan is, where he is going with this. Would I think it worth the losses if I could look at the projected end result? If I could see the people whose lives will be changed because of the renovations he made to me?
I just want to hold my baby.