Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dreams and Gifts

While most night dreams are undigested odds n’ ends of the day, some dreams seem to have a different quality.

I think of these dreams as gifts, though I dare not name the giver.

I’ve had a few amazing dreams that let me resolve, emotionally, some earthly issues. I’ll tell you about the first. It helped me relate to my mother when she was declining. My mother had progressive dementia for seven years before she passed away.

Thirty years before, her mother, my grandmother, had an almost identical decline. When I was in ninth grade my mother flew to Florida to arrange a better nursing home for her mother. When I graduated from high school I came to the United States. After a coast to coast voyage with a friend, I joined my mother who was already in Florida.

I was shocked at the nursing home- it was an all right one, but I’d never been to one before. The state of the residents was heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe G-d could allow people to get to this stage and just linger on for years. I was eighteen, and knew of people who had died of cancer, were killed by war, or died of a heart attack. I knew of the Holocaust. But I had never seen corridors and gardens full of ‘the living dead.’

We visited my grandmother every day for the month we were there, and these visits did not get easier. Although I did not tear up uncontrollably like the first time, my head throbbed and my throat constricted on every visit.
My grandmother did not recognize us, but kept staring at me. “I could look at her all day,” she’d say. The other residents stared at me also. I was the only visitor younger than middle age.

I was haunted by the notion that her body was there, but where was she?


About two years after her death I had one of those gift-dreams. In it, I came to a great mansion, sort of like the gracious white-pillars and wrap-around porches one might have seen in the old south. In a flower filled lobby, kind-faced people told me my grandmother was ‘upstairs.’

Grandma Sarah came down, looking radiant. She was wearing one of those whole-garden-on-my-hat sort of hat. She told me she was fine and happy. She asked that I let my mother know she was in a very good place.

I told my grandmother I had been worrying about this for a long time, and when I saw her last, wondered if she was even aware.

My grandmother said, “I was always in there, I just lost the ability to let you know.”

I woke up from this dream feeling different.

Whenever I see someone whose awareness seems diminished, I remind myself that they are still there.

Wistful thoughts on this national memorial day. Like Scarlet, I’ll think of something funny tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this poignant and moving experience, dearest Mirka. I'm glad God blessed you with that reassuring dream, that special message from your grandmother. Having loved ones with dementia is not easy, as we both know so well. Hugs, Ev

  2. What a lovely post. And what a wonderful message from your grandmother. This will linger with me.

  3. When I was a nursing student, we had a tour of the geriatric unit it broke my heart at what I saw. I would rather be dead than live like that. No one deserves to live like that (except for criminals and even they get more respect).

  4. My grandmother said, “I was always in there, I just lost the ability to let you know.”

    YES -- the above is what I believe. I keep hoping that the purpose of our lives when we get like that (which any of us could) is to speak to others about empathy, blessings, and the preciouness of life. Lovely post.

    I have trouble commenting on certain blogger blogs lately, so this is going to post as anonymous. But I am Marcia (Marcia Hoehne). :)

  5. I had a similar dream after my mother passed away. No dementia in her case, but we were very close. Thank you for sharing this.

    I spent quite a few months visiting a nursing home when my aunt and uncle were there--and I know the feeling you've mentioned here. But I came to absolutely love the residents and the little touches of humanity I'd see each time I visited.

  6. You might want to weave this into a story for young adults or adults, it has a very comforting message to all of us who struggle with aging relatives. Hava

  7. Great story!I remembered my grandmother too! i miss her so much!!!:(