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Thursday July 14, 2016

I have a recurring dream. Each time, its setting is different, but the ending is always the same. I am drifting through an event — usually a nameless black tie affair. The large crowd of attendees is in good spirits as they dine and chat. At first I’m alarmed that I don’t recognize anyone, but then I see a familiar face: my grandfather. Judging from his smile, he is as thrilled to see me as I am to see him. He and I talk for a few minutes about the weather, our daily routines, people we’ve recently seen — things that some people might call small talk, but he and I don’t care. We are just so grateful to see other that even the “little things” in life seem important and worth discussing. But then, as suddenly as he arrived, my grandfather says he must go. He gives no reason. Yet I suspect he and I may not see each other again for a long time. With that, my grandfather turns and walks off into a crowd of strangers. I stand by myself, knowing that there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop his leaving. Nothing I can say. No action I can take. I am sucker-punched by grief, overwhelmed by the thought of a life without my grandfather. I do not believe I can cope without him.

Then I wake up in real life. And I remember that he’s been gone for four years.

As the moon glows through the window blinds, I look at my surroundings, reflecting on my dream. I’m bereaved, yet also inexplicably, strangely comforted: I have just experienced the sinking feeling that my life could not move forward without my grandfather to, a split-second later, seeing that it somehow did.

That’s not to say I’m over the loss. Four years and counting, I still miss him every day. I don’t think we ever move on from the loss; I think time forces the loss to move from us. Meanwhile, we find ways to carry our loved one with us, at least as much as possible. Those fragments — the parts we know about our loved one’s personality and mindset — give us an idea of how our loved one would guide us when needed. Sometimes those fragments seep into our subconscious and imagination, giving our dreams a bittersweet, albeit temporary, reunion — a sneak preview of what’s to come.

I have heard many individuals talk of seeing loved ones in dreams. But are these blissful reunions a divine gift or merely the product of a stage of sleep? I’ll leave that answer to individuals more intelligent than I.

All I know is this: in four years’ worth of ups and downs, I’ve often thought of my grandfather, wondering what he would say to me. Sometimes I get to hear him say those words in a dream. But then I wake up — life intervenes, just as death once did, to take him away again. If that sounds depressing, it shouldn’t; I’m grateful for those few extra minutes with him. Those moments may not be real, but until I see him again, they’re real enough.

—Josh Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief of The Next Step

Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).

Tags: Grief Support