Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Kind of Like Spaghetti

On January 31st, about 2 hours before my daughter died, I was lying in bed with my baby girl, who I assumed had an upset tummy, and during those moments of half sleep and half wakefulness, I dreamed of her funeral. Or, should I call it a nightmare? It was an aerial view of the church we attended. Straight down I could see the people arriving and taking their seats. My mind obviously not fully awake as I questioned the presence of some, "Would he take a day off of work to be there?" I saw myself in the front row, all dressed in black.
The oddity of it still astounds me to this day, the ability to begin to prepare for something that would be crashing into our lives in a matter of moments. Was this the Holy Spirit? Or, perhaps it was the presence of Angels in my bedroom, as they came to surround my sweet daughter, and I, so relaxed in my half-conscious state, could see what they saw? I know that for us time is linear and what has not yet happened cannot be seen, but in the spiritual realm, isn't it all happening at once? It has become a paradox in my life to try to understand what actually happened and what I dreamed and could they be the same when the actual had not yet occurred.
Living with a strong faith in the Lord, I've grown accustomed to a certain amount of paradoxes and I was reminded of them clearly this week while reading, No Man Is an Island, by Thomas Merton:
"We become ourselves by dying to ourselves. We gain only what we give up, and if we give up everything, we gain everything. We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others, yet at the same time before we can go out to others we must first find ourselves. We must forget ourselves in order to become truly conscious of who we are. The best way to love ourselves is to love others, yet we cannot love others unless we love ourselves since it is written, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'. But if we love ourselves in the wrong way, we become incapable of loving anybody else. And indeed when we love ourselves wrongly we hate ourselves; if we hate ourselves we cannot help hating others."
It's kind of like spaghetti. While it is in the box it is easy to see where each strand starts and where it comes to an end, but once you take it out and heat it up it becomes nearly impossible to see which strand is which, where one begins and the other ends. And so while we think we are living our lives walking on tightropes made of straight pasta, our spiritual life isn't that way. It's way more complex.
Over the years, the dream has been altered, with the actual event overpowering the nightmare in the details. I still see it from above. It's a flash and then gone, lasting only a second--not even two. It's obviously been an intentional choice to remember this dream, this brush with the supernatural. Or, perhaps, I couldn't forget it if I tried.