I know that it is said that everybody dreams, but I use to be able to sleep through the night with no realization of visiting this so called "dream land." This past year, it has not necessarily been the case. (I chalk it up to be one more thing that goes downhill when you enter into your thirties.) My past year has been filled with bizarre tales, waking up in complete hysteria, and days where I have to remind myself that I am not really upset with Jane Doe that it was only in my dreams. But last night, there were no nightmares, no laughter, no strange saga to tell of, just a visit from a loved one. I really don't remember any details that overtook my mind as I slept, I just remember seeing her and waking up to my audible call of "Alice."
I remember when Alice passed away, I was 20, and it was the first time in my life that witness someone fight the battle of cancer and the first time in my life that I lost somebody that I had a close relationship with. I remember being there that weekend to visit with her, we all knew she wouldn't be with us much longer, so whatever chance we got, we made the time to gather around her bed. I remember heading home Saturday evening and getting the call the next morning from my mom. I remember her telling me that as Alice took her last few breaths in the wee hours of Sunday morning that the family that remained in town, gathered around her in prayer. I remember feeling relieved that she wasn't in pain anymore, but mourning the hole in our lives that she would leave.
I remember at the funeral and the days surrounding her death telling myself, not to forget. Not to forget the details. Not to forget her. And for quite some time I didn't. I remembered her smell. I could hear her voice. I could see her smile. I could feel her hand in mine.
I can't tell you when, but looking back, at some point along the way, the sound of her voice faded. The aroma of her perfume disappeared. The touch of her hand vanished. And her smile, barely visible.
Alice left such a massive hole in our lives, and even though at the time, we didn't want to move forward without her being a part---life does what it does best, continues to move on.
We've grown up. We have all moved forward, some have moved from under the wing of parents. There have been high school graduations. There has been college, and jobs and careers. There have been weddings, and breakups and babies and babies and more babies, and new relationships. There have been tragedies, and illnesses and funerals. There have been family gathering and birthdays and holidays. There has been laughter and wrapping paper fights and beach vacations. There have been photo albums pulled down and home videos played. There have been new comers entering the houses who will never know the beauty this woman exuded. And despite the fact that life has carried us all forward and in different directions, and even though some of the details and memories have long been gone . . . she is not forgotten.
There could be a book written of what this woman meant to so many. But for me, she will always be a reminder of strength and compassion. I remember sitting by her bed one day, and will never forget her words: "Honey, don't quickly over look the hard things of this life. Because without the downs you can never appreciate the ups." Count it all joy (James 1:2) and in all things give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18) were scriptures I witness in action as Alice fought this battle. I remember over hearing her tell my dad, that she didn't fear leaving this earth--she knew exactly where she was going, but that she was worried about us when it was time for her to go. She faced death head on, and as she did so, she made it a point to let everyone who knelt beside her bed, know that they were loved and very special. She had a knack that was like no other for that. It was impossible to be around this woman and not feel completely loved. (And just in case you didn't know, that present under the Christmas tree, the one with the tag "From somebody who loves you." Yep, that was her!!)
There are so many stories to be shared, to be remembered . . . perhaps another time.
I don't know why we dream about these visits from loved ones who have passed on, but I couldn't be more thankful for her "visit" last night, for the memories this morning and for the reminder of her strength and love. She found strength in the last few moments of her life and never stopped showing love. There have been some tough moments for us all, and finding the strength to fight with the same gusto as she had, sometimes has been a job in itself, but I know she's up there looking down on us---proud that we kept moving forward, that we have kept on loving.
[And Alice, if you can hear me, thank you for having a hand in making me a better woman. Maybe I didn't get it all by the time I was twenty, but I have never forgotten your example, the words of wisdom you shared with me as I laid in your bed, and where you pointed to as the source of your strength and love. I miss you and love you. P.S. And if you aren't tied up this Friday evening, I could use you in my cheering section.]