Dreaming of the Dead

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.

I’m nervous. My parents, my dad especially, are 80-ish and not in good health, and this morning, I woke from the “death dream.”

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I’m not sure how far back it goes on my mother’s side of the family, but I know I’ve had them since I was a little girl. Dreaming of the Dead. I was told as a child that you couldn’t dream of the Dead and you couldn’t  dream in color. I did both. And usually when the Dead appeared at a  gathering of some sort, someone in the family would die within 3 days. I don’t remember a time—ever—when this  did  not  occur,  except  when  I  pulled  Granddaddy from an open grave, woke up, and called my mom, who was able to reach him in time.

This isn’t the same as visitations. There’s a different feel to those “dreams.” Ones where messages are delivered, warnings are offered, or  comfort  is given in moments of grief.

The “death  dream”  isn’t like that. It’s less personal and  one-on-one with the Dead. The Dead make an appearance,  often,  but  it’s  more like  they’re  just  present than the focus of the encounter, as they are in a visitation where something personal is shown to me.

For me,  as  well  as  those  in  my  family  who’ve  de- scribed their versions of it, there are common features to the “death  dream.” Sometimes  we are at a funeral and someone’s  missing. I usually realize what’s going on and start trying to figure out who’s not there because  that’s always—since I was  14, the person  who dies  within 3 days.

Often, we’re at some kind of family reunion or celebration.  There  are introductions,  greetings,  remember- when stories. Other times, they’re all sitting with the family in church, occasionally  talking among themselves  but usually quiet. Almost like they’re at a funeral service and waiting for the pastor to start eulogizing.

It’s been  a while  since  I’ve  had this  dream—a  few years ago—and when I did, the uncle in the dream died within 3 days.

My dream last night featured my whole family on my dad’s side. None of my mom’s folks that I remember. It was  at  a  family  reunion pavilion  near  the  Kolomoki Mound in Blakely, GA. But I was there with my girls and my  brothers  and  their  families,  my  parents,  and dad’s various dead siblings and cousins and nephews and plenty of  people  I barely  remember,  both  living  and  passed. And…my dad’s mother who is in her late 90’s.

Ooooookaaaaaaaay. I haven’t dreamed of that hateful, domineering, manipulative  bitch  in  years,  possibly  not since I was 18 and swore I’d never have anything to do with her ever again after a  particular incident that made me decide I would never expose any child of mine to her poison. In the years since, I’ve learned exactly what the old hypocrite’s  secrets  are,  and  I  have  never  regretted keeping my children away from her.

So for her to show up in a “death dream,” well, this is major. Largely because someone at this family gathering, possibly my dad, was introducing her to my kids and telling her she’d never met my girls and they were standing with me, away from her, and not moving to show her any more affection than she ever showed me as a child. My kids were by  my side. They know about her. And they know why about her, too.

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But the focus was on her and my dad. They were both at the head of the table, which is kind of funny that she’d share the spotlight with her firstborn. I’ve had the feeling for years that the two of  them share such strong karma that they’ll pass close together. My mom, of course, was shoved to the side of the table and ignored.

The last time I saw Daddy was Mother’s Day. Because of the custody situation,  I haven’t been able to get back up there for a Father’s Day since my divorce. I had that feeling back in May, like the Angel of Death is hovering over him. I had serious doubts then that he’d make it until Father’s Day of next year, and I’ve found myself creating more of a distance than usual from him. Not that we were ever really close at all and I have my own father is- sues I’ve been working  through for years.  But I know what happened 6 years ago when he was in ICU and I connected empathically with him without knowing what I was doing and I  felt his body dying when he was in the tunnel, before he turned around. I cannot do that again.

Like I said, it’s been a while since I had one of these “death dreams.” I’d forgotten that I do this. Having this dream scares me because I’m not ready for any more loss, as if I ever could be. For now I watch and wonder who it’ll be and when I’ll hear.

Meanwhile, my mom emails me to tell me she woke today with a dream of the Dead as well.


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