If you know me well, you will know that I am an atheist. Have been my whole life despite countless efforts to broaden my spirituality. I've gained wisdom but have yet to find the spirit.
This morning, something happened that shook me to the core and could be called nothing other than spiritual.
That whole night I had been having awful night terrors. These are not like your usual bad dream and they always have something to do with trauma that has happened in your life.
My dreams like to play around, maybe focus around something that happened when I was 15, but add in a splash of that one time when I was 12 and that other time I was 23.
This makes for some pretty confusing but mostly hurtful dreams.
These dreams always seem real. They feel as though they are happening in real time even though one dream can span a few days.
This particular dream was awful. A couple of days of pure humiliation and abuse. I remember waking at 7:40am, completely drenched in sweat, fighting my hardest to stay awake, but I fell right back into the same spot in the same dream.
Like I said, these dreams seem REAL. Every emotion, every hurt, is really happening in your body as your nervous system is reminded of the trauma. Fight or flight will turn on while you are asleep.
Near the end of this dream I just couldn't take it anymore. I had nowhere to go and was out of options. I felt like I could not continue the task that was set before me that I was suppose to complete. I decided to end it.
In the dream, while I was suppose to be packing and moving all of my things (all of which seemed to be huge and nearly physically impossible for one person) I decided to gather the right combination of pills in order to commit suicide. Several people were outside, waiting for me to bring my items out and to keep an eye on me, so I knew I didn't have much time before one came to check on me.
I grabbed my pills and headed upstairs and locked myself behind a bedroom door. Crying my eyes out while I stared at the pills, I looked up at the door. And there, standing tall with a big smile on his face, was my foster Grandpa. My jaw dropped as I stared at him and asked "You're not dead?" (In real life he had passed away 2 years before.) Grandpa just let out a big laugh and said "Not today!"
He knelt down beside me and brushed the pills from my hand. I realized I wasn't worried about anyone breaking in anymore because it felt like time had stopped. He pulled me to my feet and wrapped me in a hug. He told me I was safe and that everything was okay. He told me not to be sad because this was just a dream; but that it was time to wake up.
I nodded my head, not questioning anything he said. He took a step back, two hands on my shoulders, still smiling. He shook his head with a little laugh and said "You need to wake up now, and Nicole, you need to quit smoking too."
I don't even have time to react to that before I'm awake.
I sit up in my bed soaked in sweat, cold, and confused.
The horrible things that had happened in the dream were still with me. I was surprised to even be in my apartment in my bed. Shaking my head to try and clear my thoughts I tell myself over and over that it was just a dream.
There's something I just can't shake though, and something that even though I don't want to confront it or admit it, Grandpa was NOT just a dream.
At 16 years old my best friend's family took me in to live with them. I was embraced by not only her but her wonderful and kind mother. The added bonus was her grandfather who was funny, charming, but also smart. Extremely smart. He was also compassionate, worked with children most of his life, and had four of his own. While I lived with them for only one year, that one year of love and understanding from that whole family made up for a lot.
I knew how important my friend and her mother were to me. The one person that I did not realize was expertly and subtly helping me was Grandpa.
Most of the time when it was just Grandpa and I there wasn't much talking. We were happy just to have each other's silent company. But other times he would tell me stories. Stories that a lot of times would hit home for me and relate to something from my own past, or even the way I was feeling at that exact moment.
I didn't have to say a word to Grandpa, he just knew.
Other times, something would happen and I would be able to talk to my friend and her mother about it, but I would fret over the thought of talking to grandpa about it. I knew he would be disappointed. I was ashamed. And yet, he never brought those times up. I'm not sure if he was waiting for me to bring up the subject, or if he just knew that the experience itself was more the lesson than talking about it.
I was going through a lot at the time, and sometimes I just needed to cry. I didn't want to be alone but I also didn't want to be bothered. I would go downstairs where Grandpa would be sitting at the kitchen table. I would sit in a chair next to him, put my head in my arms on the table, and cry. And after I had had a good cry I would stand up, look at him, and tell him thank you. He would look up at me from his seat, smile softly, and just say "You're welcome."
He was a wonderful, good heart-ed, fun loving person.
Would he want me to sit in my bed all day alone and sad all because of a dream? No.
So I get up to make my coffee and as I do, I can hear Grandpa singing Danny Boy, just as he did for his own son named Daniel, and then later for my son with the same name.
I don't turn to look. I don't have to. I just smile and close my eyes and listen.