I’ve shared on my blog my sister’s battle with a brain tumor. She is still in a serious fight, one she’s not likely to ultimately win. The tumor is showing signs of growth. There is only one treatment option left and it is not without a number of risks. It is a hard, hard thing to see her in the grips of this illness. On Monday while visiting her in her home, she asked me and my sister-in-law to go through her closet to see if there are any clothes we think we might want. It felt strange to do this. Wrong, even. But she really wanted it to be done, so we did it.
I am a slow processor. My reactions to doing this were on a 24 hour delay. Last night grief moved in and I thought I just might smother under it. For about an hour I felt like I might just explode. I wouldn’t allow the tears, knowing that if I opened the gate they just might not stop. Finally, I slept. This morning I got up with the little ones, dropped them off at the sitter’s, then came back home and went back to bed. Again I slept. Then in those slow-waking moments, in that space between sleep and alertness, I remembered a recurring dream that I had when I was in my 20’s.
First the background. Robyn was a friend of mine from high school. She was tall, boisterous, always laughing, energetic. She played basketball and was our drum major in our senior year. She had a round Charlie Brown face, big laughing brown eyes, dark curls on her head, and always had a smile on her face. We went to college together our first two years and shared some precious memories from college choir trips and mission trips. After college she went on to seminary – a bold move for a Baptist woman attending a Baptist seminary. About halfway through her studies there, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During her illness I had several opportunities to visit with her, but I always chickened out. I was not ready to face her mortality, nor mine. I feel guilty to this day for not seeing her before she died. It was after her death that the dreams started. They weren’t all exactly the same, but they all went something like this:
I was in a crowded place (the commons area at the university, a mall, a basketball game) and spotted Robyn’s curly black hair – head and shoulders above the crowd – moving away from me. I was so happy to see her and ran to catch up with her. Then as I drew close, she would turn around where I could see her face and I realized that it wasn’t her. Then immediately I realized it couldn’t be her because she was dead. Every time I awoke crying, my chest so tight with grief that I thought I might die. Every single time.
Then one night I had the dream again. It was all the same as before, this time at the university. But this time the dream continued. I ran back to my dorm room crying. When I got to the room there was girl there, but I couldn’t see who it was because my eyes were so completely clouded by tears. “What’s wrong?” the girl asked. So I told her. “It’s okay,” she told me. I was immediately angry. “How dare you say it’s okay?” I replied. “It’s NOT okay! She’s gone! She’s dead! How can that possibly be okay?” The girl said to me, “Jan, it IS okay. I promise you. LOOK AT ME!” I wiped my eyes and looked at her. Then as I listened to her say the words again, very gently this time, “Jan, it really is okay,” my eyes cleared and I saw who was talking to me. It was Robin.
I never had the dream again.
But I heard her voice again this morning, in those moments I was waking. It is okay, or at least it will be. It doesn’t always feel okay, but it is.
It really is going to be okay.