Immediately after my dad died, I remember the only thing to help me fall asleep was the knowledge that one day, he would visit me in my dreams. This took weeks to happen. But, when it finally did, I was not prepared for the way that they would come - them becoming progressively more unsettling.
They usually involve him coming back to be with me in an important event of my life - the first one being him arriving to see me in a stage production on Broadway. In these dreams, I always end by asking him why I had to see him die.
It has finally hit the boiling point. Last night’s dream, the two of us were sitting on the couch together - him telling me that he came back to help his kids combat the ongoing issues that we are currently having with my mom and another member of our family. He wasn’t happy with the way things were playing out, and needed to be here to “protect us”.
(Okay, you Freudian student….have your go on dissecting the obvious in that one.)
He continued, explaining to me that he had been dead for 12 hours before coming back - me asking him how it felt to die. To my horror, he told me that it was a very unpleasant experience - saying, there was nothing more that he wanted than to just be back on earth with us.
I broke down hearing this and asked him if he even knew that I was in the room with him in the last moments.
I heard the worst thing that I could - he had no idea that I was there, asking me to explain the events. This is where I lost my ever-loving shit and sobbed. Again, feeling more alone and like the events that I had seen were all for nothing. In that dream, there was no father being ushered anywhere, except to fear - I, seeing no obvious reason for ever being in that room.
I am now awake, and everything feels terrible. I can barely set my feet on the ground. This is not how these dreams were supposed to feel. In my days, my dad walks with me - alive and happy, in every beautiful sense. Why am I getting this other version of my father when I close my eyes?
I realize, it is me. It’s been this week’s inability to leave my house or even put on anything but pajamas. I see that nothing but a fear that has set in, and I have been struggling to even find the deep meaning in the things that I read for spiritual betterment.
I have been flopping around, waiting.
Waiting for what?
For some miracle to drop from the sky and suddenly make all of this better?
There is no making this better.
What has been done is done.
And I am infuriated as I had planned to stay in the peace I felt when he left.
“Planned” - the first broken expectation in this entire scenario.
Oh, my expectations. They have led me down so many terrible paths. One day, I am walking in the spirit of each moment, asking my dad to show me what he wants me to see. The next, I am barely able to keep myself from chucking spatulas at walls because my falafels won’t flip right - just to be pissed that my dad isn’t here to eat his favorite meal that I am cooking, and even more angry that this month he was supposed to be visiting me. Then, downright furious at the fact that I have tahini in my fridge that he won’t be able to eat with me - the tahini he always struggled to find in the States.
I could have sent him some.
But no, he died.
….and that is exactly how the deep sadness has crept into my world.
My world - the one I so fiercely protect.
Unfortunately, this week’s “should have been” list has been overarching, as it all could have ended differently.
And yet, it was never supposed to.
For those who know the progression of the relationship I had with my dad, you will understand how much we needed to separate topics from each other so that I could learn to walk in my own truth. And in my conversations with family in his passing, all I could speak about was how I was supposed to be a child that stepped away - gaining peace that I needed and coming back into my dad’s life with a different outlook. Thus, continuing to live in spreading the most beautiful parts of him.
That was going to be my job.
As I write, I realize just how much I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater - “going” to be my job?
That is my job.
I have had a bad week.
Am I just going to toss away my post-Brian mission because it got a little difficult?
And that, right there...that is the crux of my existence.
I want the simple things in life, right now and brought easy. I want fitness to be something I love - if I don’t, fuck it. I want certain foods to not affect my body - oh, you found something else that you can’t eat? Do you feel like crap? Let’s eat an entire loaf of bread….you already feel like crap.
That is me.
But, what I don’t understand is why I haven’t been able to just throw this situation, with my father, in my career mold - bound and determined to ever more pour myself into something and see it through, regardless of what odds are against me...knowing I will always prevail.
God, if I could have one ounce of that strength in me again for this healing.
I’ve almost forgotten that was my life, after he passed.
Now, I am up. I’ve drawn on a strength that I once had, and I continue forward.
There isn’t even a choice any longer.
Most of all, I need to stop lying to myself in saying that healing will be worse than what I’ve already done. For it is my husband that reminded me yesterday, “You have probably just seen the most terrifying thing that you could ever possibly see, in your life. You will never forget that moment, and will think about it every day, for as long as you live.”
And as terrible as that sounds, there was a peace in those words that he knew I needed to hear.
So, please Candice...let’s hear again about how impossible it was for you to put your feet on the ground, today?
You’ve already done it all.
You’ve seen it all.
And please, change your mental situation and welcome your father back into your dreams - you are creating the nightly horrors yourself.
…in the meantime, get up and live.
I am a United States military wife, photographer, & writer - raised on Whidbey Island, Washington.
I recently lost my father to cancer & have endured the truths of watching my mother lose her mind to methamphetamine. (…continue reading)