Monday, May 09, 2005

The wall of fire

Kay died three years ago, on a Saturday night before Mother’s Day a few minutes before midnight. We had been married 24 years. And we had been together much longer than that.

Two days ago, Saturday night before Mother’s Day, my daughter had this dream:
The first part of the dream I can remember was at a mansion or castle with a large gathering of people …I became aware that some terrible natural disaster was on its way—a wall of fire that swept down with astonishing speed, wiping out all life for thousands of miles in its fury. I knew that even now, a great distance away, this was beginning.
I told everyone in the group to get out of here—but I was already desperately looking for Mom [… spots Kay, runs to her] As soon as I reached Mom I told her we had to go, we had so little time. I wasn’t even sure that, if we left that very moment, we would make it out of the spreading ring of fire in time…
[crowds of people begin leaving, but without urgency]…I grabbed mom’s arm and told her we had to hurry.
Mom believed me… I just wanted to save Mom, if I could. I was walking holding Mom’s hand. She was so close and so vividly real: I could feel her skin…I felt so close to her. I knew we could die. I said to her, “Mommy, I love you so much.” I wanted to cry with the closeness I felt then. I wanted it to stay. We kept walking. I think we walked about ten days—it passed in a dream instant. We were getting near the outlying edge of the would-be disaster area. …I turned to look back over the ground we had covered, and there it was: the wall of fire was racing towards us—trees and people reduced to instant ash in its path. I looked at Mom, and hugged her and said that, “whatever happens, I’m so glad I had this time with you—I love you so very much!” I don’t put down what Mom says back because I can’t remember it well, but I know it felt right…
And then the force of the blast slammed into us. I grabbed onto Mom, trying to hug her tight as we fell to the floor…The room tilted and we all slid, crashing against each other. I just kept holding onto Mom, hoping I could protect her. The heat was suffocating; I couldn’t breath. The moment seemed to last forever: chaos, suffocation and unbearable heat—and then it was over…
And Mom was dying. I held Mom as she died and I was suffocating all over again. I couldn’t breath. I was crying out to her not to die, not to leave me. I was crying and screaming and then I woke up.

The dream is, actually, pretty much the way it was. Kay died of leukemia, and the end moved toward us like the fire in the dream. At first we thought there might be a way out through the long, hard march of repeated chemo, and then at the end there was some hope of a bone marrow transplant, but time was of the essence. And time ran out. And my daughter’s dream was how it felt—certainly that’s true for me anyway.

No. Don’t go. Come back. All of us held on to her as she died.

She tried to make it out to be with us, but she couldn’t. That’s what was hardest for her, I think, that she had to leave her daughters—not that she wanted to leave any of us--she loved me, and her friends, and life.

But I think she felt like her daughters still needed her, and she wanted to be with them in their newly grown-up years, so they would know her and have an ongoing relationship with her as grown women. It’s hard to explain why that was so important to her, unless you are yourself a parent, in which case I probably don’t need to try to explain. Eve, who had the dream, was 19 when Kay died. Anna was 12 years older. I think it was equally hard for both of them. Kay was a terrific mother. That’s part of the problem, if you die too soon.

I have thought a lot about death since then. Kay’s death was not so hard for me as for Eve and Anna. That’s not because I loved her less than they did, but because I was 61 and did not need her the way they did. Age does make a difference. Yet I miss her every day, many times a day.

No comments: