Caution: If you don’t believe in twilight zone experiences, and communication from the dead, don’t read this post. I’ve debated with myself for four days whether to share this or not; finally I’ve decided that I will.
The recent road-trip I took with Sue’s cousin Bruce, interim-minister Bruce, was a powerful time of healing and reflection. Bruce was a good sounding board, skilled at listening and asking the right questions, giving meaningful feedback, and also interested in the subject matter of many of our conversations, i.e. his late close cousin and my late wife, Sue.
The trip to Yosemite was Bruce’s idea. He’d been there 20 years ago and was awed, and he wanted to go there again. It turned out to be a good idea.
We who live in Fresno, California, live practically in the morning shadow of three national parks: Kings Canyon National Park; Sequoia National Park; and Yosemite National Park. They’re all worth seeing, of course, but Yosemite is the crown jewel. Over a thirty year time period Sue and I had been to Yosemite dozens of times. We went there often, in part because every out-of-state guest we ever hosted wanted to go there, in part because we just liked going there, and in recent years in part because we’d discovered and were exploring the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada’s, over near Mammoth Mountain, and in the summer traversing Tioga Pass is the best way to pass between the western and the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains (that is, if you go by car). Tioga Pass is part of Yosemite National Park, and it is as scenic as any road on Earth.
My emotions were raw the two days Bruce and I spent in Yosemite. I was internally processing questions about moving on. Questions like, can I get rid of some of Sue’s things without feeling guilty? She hated it when I would even move her stuff; God save me if I ever got rid of any of it. Some of the questions were more difficult, especially for a monogamous widower. Thirty years of marital fidelity takes a certain kind of emotional and spiritual discipline and a lot of commitment and hard work. That kind of life training isn’t easily undone. How could I ever move on to another relationship without feeling guilty? How long should I wear my ring? Stuff like that.
Bruce and I spent Thursday hiking to several spots in and around Yosemite Valley, talking intermittently about various subjects of interest, among them Sue. After we checked in to our room we hiked from the Ahwahnee along the canyon rim trail to the lower Yosemite Falls observation area and back. We had six-o-clock dinner reservations (the only other option was nine, but Bruce was still operating on east coast time and that wasn’t a good option).
The dining room at the Ahwahnee is a cavernous lodge of heavy timber and granite and glass, elegantly appointed, as all the Ahwahnee is, with art and architecture evoking Native American designs. We were seated at a small table next to a south-facing window. The window was wider than our table and easily 20 feet high, and we had a wonderful evening view of the south rim of Yosemite Valley. An accomplished pianist was playing familiar but oddly syncopated tunes on one of the Ahwahnee’s three Steinway pianos. Bruce ordered Sea Bass, which seemed like a curious choice to me in that mountain environment. I ordered Moroccan lamb. I spent the better part of a month in Morocco as part of a six-month travel adventure the year before I proposed to Sue. I like Moroccan food, but I ordered lamb because I recalled reading that John Muir hated the sheep he used to tend in Yosemite, and that he believed they were destroying that sacred place. So it seemed appropriate to eat some lamb.
After we ordered, Bruce excused himself to call Beverly, and I was left alone for a few moments with my thoughts. I had the compelling thought that I should be sharing this experience with Sue. And I sipped my cabernet, looked out at the canyon, and stiffled a great sorrow tinged with guilt.
The dinner was excellent. We went whole hog with salad, main course, dessert and coffee. We’d intended to kill some time and then go to a movie at the visitor center, but we were both tired and changed our mind. We stayed in the room and retired early.
We’d left the curtains open on our huge picture window. It was a moonless night with the kind of night sky only seen in the mountains or places like Montana. We had a nice view of lower Yosemite Falls, and I could see the gleaming white stream of water cascading over the cliffs even in the starlight. I slept about four hours from around 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and then awoke and couldn’t sleep. I was awake until almost 4 a.m., thinking and watching the night sky and the waterfall. Then I fell back to sleep, and had two vivid dreams.
All healthy people dream. I do dream, and occasionally I can recall my dreams. But I’ve never had two back-to-back vivid dreams that I could recall so clearly as this.
In the first dream I was at a resort or hotel of some kind in the middle of the day, and I was standing outside a room with a screen door. The inside door was not closed, and the screen door was not locked. It wasn’t my room, but I was curious to go inside and look around. I opened the screen door and walked into the room. It was a large but unremarkable room with two twin beds on the wall to the right of the room. Both beds were made up, with light yellow bedspreads, but the bed on the right had a slightly lumpy appearance. I walked over to check it out, and when I tried to smooth the lumps out a body in the bed started to stir. I had a moment of panic when I realized someone was in there, and decided I’d better get the heck out of there as quickly as I could, but before I could move the person pulled the bedspread down and sat up and looked at me. It was Sue in a full night gown but her face had an alabaster and bluish appearance, and it was clear to me that she was dead. But she looked right at me and in a calm but insistent voice she said “What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here. Go away.” And she laid back down and pulled the bedspread back up over her head.
In the second dream I was in the driveway of a house in an ordinary neighborhood that wasn’t my neighborhood, and I didn’t know who lived in the house. But there was an old van in the driveway that somehow I knew other people had been putting old junk into, and I was putting stuff I wanted to get rid of into the van. It was in the middle of the day, but I was feeling guilty about putting my stuff into someone else’s van. I had this sense that what I was doing was wrong and and I wanted to finish up and get out of there before someone who lived in the neighborhood and who knew I wasn’t supposed to be there came along and saw me. As I was almost finished putting my discards into the van a car pulled into the driveway on the other side of the street, and a woman got out. It was Sue. She waved and acknowledged me, but it was like the wave and greeting you might give someone you don’t really know too well. She didn’t seem concerned about what I was doing, and she spoke to me (I did not write down what she said when I woke up and I can’t remember it exactly) saying words to the effect that it was o.k. for me to be there and to be doing what I was doing. Then she went into the house.
I woke up and pondered these shaman-like dreams. Was God sending me a message? Was Sue? Was my mind just working to resolve my own internal conflicts? Bruce woke up shortly afterward, at 5 a.m. (8 a.m. his usual time zone) and we discussed the dreams a bit. I have an idea what I think about them, but would be interested to hear what some of you think.