Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dear Dad,

Three years ago today I was still awake as dawn swept in and as I looked out at the soft pink sky and the fog rising from the lake, I knew it was the day that you'd get on the road again. For good.

And so I cleaned your room, and washed your hands, and googled what part of the Bible people read in times like this, and honestly, as I read it out loud to you twice, I felt those words were lacking and wondered if everyone faked comfort from them or if my soul had died before yours had left.

I'd spent a week at that point bargaining with God and everyone who has left before us, and was fed up with the lot of them by then. I was actually no longer on speaking terms with God at all, we were co-workers wrapping up a final project before going our separate ways; I resented him for not pulling his weight and my stuff was already packed.

And as Ralph Stanley's, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot played, my mom and I watching the news and chatting around your bed, there was a shift in the room and I realized you were getting ready to go.

You left to one of my songs and not yours, and it was My God is Real by Krishna Das. A parting gift and solid reminder.

But the real parting gift was one more year.

I didn't tell anyone because I tried once or twice and got knocked down with, "Yeah, subconscious is weird," and realized it wasn't a shareable experience. I also didn't want anyone else to mourn that it wasn't happening to them -- I am either intuitive or highly imaginative. I knew my childhood best friend was going to have a baby before she did, because her father told me so in a dream. I have had an extra conversation or experience with every person I know who has passed.

But you came to me in a series of dreams. I once woke to you sitting serenely next to my bed while I slept, like I had for you.

I had an incredible experience walking through rolling green hills dotted with tiny charming houses full of everyone I had ever loved as boughs of pink flowers swayed overhead and rained down from the sky all around me, and as I wondered how on earth I could be experiencing such vivid beauty, there you were and we walked together.

And I even got the goodbye you couldn't give me in life.

On the eve before a one year memorial for you, I ran into you in my dream while I was out having lunch. I could see every pore on your nose and stray hair from your mustache and you looked like the old you, not the cancer you. I had forgotten what that looked like. I was freezing cold and you offered me a shirt and we walked to a truck that had two little boys waiting inside, in white t-shirts and cuffed blue jeans. They looked like you as a child, and I think they were your brothers who were lost in infancy. It was your dad's truck.

I begged you to stay, to stop by any time. I explained how if you couldn't find my house you could go to the yoga studio and they would call me. I asked you to come back for your shirt. I told you that my kids would love to see you. I outlined my daily schedule.

And you shook your head sadly, glancing away with wet eyes, and said, "I don't reckon I'll be back around this way again."

I realized then what was happening and that I wasn't awake, and asked for a hug. It felt empty and I knew you were slipping away, and I told you goodbye and that I was so glad to have seen you again.

And that was it. The last dream and my parting gift. And my proof that God is real.

I miss you, but the loss of you helped make a new me -- one with faith and perspective and the good kind of grit. You made me twice in a way.

And you brought me back to believing in Something Else, and I can't wait to see you there.

Love,
Ashley


Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway 
We're the best of friends 
Insisting that the world keep turning our way 
And our way 
Is on the road again

8 comments:

Jamie McGinnis said...

I'm so happy you got to see your dad a few more times - what a great gift <3

big mamabird said...

Such lovely experiences. I would never question the special gifts we are sometimes blessed with for what do i know of all the mysteries that are...

TH said...

Beautiful.

Lisa said...

Washing your dad's hands in his last hours struck me. I can picture you doing it, and the love and grief that must have passed between you. I felt so helpless in my dad's last days. He had come to such a primal place. Unable to move or see or speak, maybe not even hear. All that was left was to comfort him physically. I massaged his scalp, put balm on his lips, lotioned his hands and arms, moistened his mouth, moved pillows and blankets to cradle him. Told him it was okay to go because we would take care of each other. I don't know which makes me sadder, the last memory of him alive or the first sight of him gone. I miss him so much, but I don't know if I could handle seeing him in a dream just yet. I'm so glad you have the comfort of his visits. I hope they stay vivid in your mind until you see him again. Hugs to you during these hard days.

Anonymous said...

This is what is called Tender Mercies. Your father will be back and you can always rest assured that he is with you when you need him. Here is my story. When I was nineteen, I had a baby boy that I put up for adoption, fast forward to February 2016, I had an urge to search the obituary page of the newspaper from my home town. I've lived in another state for last 13 years. Scrolling down I was pretty much just looking for anyone I new, old classmates, perhaps a long ago coworker, when staring out from the page was a picture of someone who looked just like the father of that baby boy. I stopped immediate and then realized he had the same birthdate. I was dumbfounded. So that this story is too long, I sent a letter to the family asking if by chance he was adopted and the answer was yes and low and behold he was my child. When they sent me the presentation from his funeral I could see the resemblance of me! Imagine, he looked like me! I had no comparison since I never had any other children. He was the only one. I used to feel good, knowing there was a piece of me somewhere in the world, but now that is gone. Now, I know that he is with me and knows me. He only lived to be 32 years old. There was so much more life he should have lived.

Judy Soltis said...

Ashley, you received a true gift from Heaven in seeing your father again. And I'm so glad to hear that you believe in God and His gift to you. Oh how I miss my Daddy. It's been over three years and I'm still so sad. I am a Christian and I know I will see him again one day, but I miss him so much in the "everyday" life that sometimes it's hard to catch my breath. Thank you for your beautiful words because they gave me good memories of my Daddy.

I've been thinking about you so much and hope you are moving through your days the best way you know how. I wish South Carolina wasn't so far from Florida (in more ways than one!). Sending love and hugs.

Judy

E said...

Ashley, thank you so much for sharing this. Not everyone will understand, but I do. Wait for 'the nudge' before you share IRL (I suspect you know what I mean). Love, a fellow traveller.

Furiously Curious said...

It is so true that stuff like this isn't shareable because I too had something happen to me (no dreams but a series of very similar events) that even super-skeptical me had to admit YES, this is a sign, and when I tried to share them, I got lackluster responses. It was like no one could grasp the earth-shattering thing that I was telling them and I wanted to shake them for being so dismissive. Thank you for sharing. This was beautiful!