As snuggly-fitted into the seat of a Kayak might be, it enveloped every side of me with a dense wood so polished and pristine I couldn’t stop admiring whoever kept it that way. Clearly someone did. I could turn in any direction and reach everything I needed. Investigating its hidden cubby holes was like a kid settling into their first hideaway of a homemade tent blanket.
I’d arrived exhausted from an anxious run through thick green woods … running from ‘what’ even I wasn’t sure. I only knew I had to outrun what was behind me with the fury of life or death. Having come across a tiny cabin nestled in a patch of sunlight, suddenly everything felt safe again.
Against my nature but with unspoken permission I’d set to making myself at home. It was my time to be there, as a motel room readied for its next guest. The next thing I knew I was in that seat surrounded by all of its wooden splendor and intrigue.
This is the story of a dream during a time of real life’s seemingly eminent death. It was profound like none other, before it or since …
I pleasured pulling open newly-discovered drawers and hidden crannies in the finely sheened wood. I came across children’s things neatly tucked inside, for a moment silently questioning whether I was imposing too soon. Setting those aside for safe keeping I reassured myself surely someone would come back for them.
An unseen stranger seemed to come daily to polish the wood, it never lost its brilliant glow or gathered dust. As I had made the tiny cabin space my own, learning its kitchen as a woman would and caring not to mar the well-kept wood from day to day, an old tattered truck pulled up outside with a small child standing in the seat. I was apprehensive in greeting the young couple – were they here before me and did they want the cabin back? They made small talk and showed no interest in the child’s things, soon being on their way. I was confused why they’d stopped at all.
Almost immediately the angst of meeting with a superior overcame me, much like anticipating uncertain reprimand from a boss. It was uncomfortable, unsettling, especially because I wasn’t sure why or what I must’ve done. A man assured me he would speak on my behalf and instructed me to remain quiet. Relief flowed over me in realizing I wouldn’t have to defend myself alone. He was competent and confident so I followed him into the room. It was nothing I expected or like any I’d ever seen.
I struggled to comprehend my surroundings. Edges of an otherwise unimpressive room faded softly into a nothingness as if its shadows engulfed an infinite darkness. A candelabra was perched in the middle of its just-as-endless table shedding barely enough light for our seating. Heavy dark drapes lined the walls as if covering windows, one after another falling from ceiling to floor. My advocate and now two men who sat on the other side of the table were dressed in long, dark robes. I strained to find faces inside shadows of the other men’s hoods but none could be seen. The room was so quiet it had an audible calm of peace.
Nothing about this room fit life as I knew it but I was there and it was real and I knew better than to speak. Obediently I took a seat to the right of my advocate who sat slightly askew across from the other two. That left me on the far edge of darkness, as if I didn’t belong at all … but I knew I did.
Straining to hear their voices as they took turns speaking of me, I could hear only the steady hum of low murmurings. They were soft and busy, uninterrupted. My ears were useless in discerning words. I knew whatever they were saying determined my outcomes but the humming was gentle and calming, any apprehension I had melted away. As they concluded I was asked a direct question and, whatever my response, it was as if not speaking at all then the gathering was done. My response seemed so insignificant I silently questioned why they’d called on me to speak.
In the blink of an eye I found myself in a nondescript metropolis of bland concrete buildings and streets bustling with people, searching anxiously for loved ones who’d been separated from me. It was unspoken but I knew I couldn’t let passers-by see me, that was a mandate I was obliged to meet. I secreted behind buildings, darting from one to the next with intense frustration at being in such unfamiliar surroundings, unable to ask questions and having no sense of direction or purpose where my loved ones could possibly be.
A particular building caught my eye and relief replaced torturous frustration when I found it empty and all of my loved ones gathered at the end of a narrow, outstretched corridor. It was as if they were planted there, me running to them and they not moving out of place. The joy in seeing one another again was overwhelming, as this had felt like such an impossible feat for someone like me to accomplish.
After several moments of hugging and crying in the joy of finding each other I was faced with the necessary decision to leave. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew I had to do it and the time had come to do it, whether they understood or not. Their inability to understand was a most piercing heartache, as there were no words to ease their confusion when they pleaded and begged for me to stay.
A settled inner strength and peaceful resilience came over me, knowing the decision was necessary, as I pulled gently from each of their grasps. I was surprised by my calm conviction and confidence in holding back tears, knowing this was what had to be. Among all of their familiar voices and touches embracing me, a strange child’s hands clung to my legs. Its distraction was annoying, but I respected the child’s innocent, tender need, whatever that was.
As I freed myself, it was again as if they couldn’t move from their assigned space, unable to follow. Walking some distance away I looked back to see a huddled group of flailing arms reaching out for me and crying my name. I was far enough away by then they couldn’t see me cry.
When I woke up I was sobbing on a pillow drenched in tears.
I didn’t cry much in real life nor did I remember dreams let alone cry in those. What few dreams I’ve had were jumbled hodge podges of frustration that I could easily dismiss and could never recount in any sensible detail. This dream did not resemble any others of my life – none of them. But for its dramatic scene changes, it was as living real events. So much so that it’s ten years later and I still remember it with vivid recall.
This was during a particularly punishing stage of chemotherapy followed by ongoing tests that indicated eminent death from cancer. In that context I suppose I should’ve more quickly made sense of it, but that took quite some time. The pristine wood stood out most and after considerable time of trying to identify that one day it finally dawned on me, which caused most of the rest to fall into place:
The polished wood and its confined space is exactly what you’d see if seated in/surrounded by a finely mastered coffin. My advocate was the Holy Spirit. Our meeting was my day of reckoning before God and our Savior, His son Jesus Christ. The final goodbyes were my acceptance of God’s will and the unknowing reprieve He’d granted me, the love I was to take from it for years of struggle ahead. The running was postponing what I (and doctors) believed was certain death, to find His peace of heart – which I did.
I never did understand all of the small child references. Maybe that will come.
There are poignant turns of real life events in the years since that unveil what only the passing of real life can. I hope the day comes when I can bring myself to put those complicated – devastating – emotions in writing, for they are indeed the critical importance of having had this dream in the first place.
This post was inspired by Daddy Blitz‘s blog, “Calibrating the Mind.” I am grateful for it. I love remembering the realness, the profound peace and meaning of this dream and, until his blog, I had almost forgotten about it.