Significant dreams I had, concerning my Mom Sylvia
and my Grandmother, Nonna Lucia.
(Photos and drawings will be posted on this site soon)
These dreams span several years, but they are intricately woven into the actual circumstances of my mom's illness and subsequent death, my grandmother's death -- and beyond, as well.
Early 1986. I shared an apartment with my mother, Sylvia, who was going through a messy divorce from her second husband. One night, in the Spring of 1986, while saying our good nights and retiring to our separate rooms, Mom said to me - "I don't feel very well." I didn't think much of that, as she had been prone lately to ill health, but at 2 in the morning, I woke up fully, and -- wide awake -- heard myself say with great certainty (the voice seemed to come from my mind, as I did not vocalize this): "My mother is going to die." After that, I went back to sleep. Several weeks later, Mom was diagnosed with diabetes, soon to lose some of her eyesight and partial use of her legs.
Things became much worse for Mom, and one night in January 1988, 1 dreamed that I was VERY sad. In the dream, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, and I could not understand why I was so sad. Suddenly my grandmother, Nonna Lucia, who was such a wonderful and dear part of my childhood (she still lived in New York, and I loved her dearly), was sitting next to me. She held my hand, and all the sadness went away. The next morning I told my mother about the dream; we had no idea what the significance of that dream was. Two days later, Mom Sylvia collapsed suddenly, and went into a diabetic coma; she was rushed to intensive care where she spent seven days, after which she remained in the hospital for another month.
Mom remained very ill, and spent the rest of her life shuttling in and out of hospitals. I was very busy caring for her, time flew by, but things did not get any better for mom. Her sight had become worse, her heart was enlarged and she had high blood pressure and fluid in her lungs. The doctors, hospital staff, the visiting nurses and I did what we could, but with all the health problems Mom had, it was a losing battle. We didn't dare tell Nonna Lucia (who was now over 9O, and in failing health) about mom, because we were afraid the shock would kill her.
And so life went on, sad but slowly forward. I kept caring for mom, and at one point, spent time with Dad (who was remarried), who had suffered a heart attack and successfully went through quadruple bypass surgery.
One night, in the Fall of 1991, I had a very vivid dream. I dreamed I was a child once again, 5 years old, standing next to my sister in the Italian market in the Bronx --Arthur Avenue. There, standing on front of me, dressed in black with a pretty black hat set at a jaunty angle on her head, and a small black net veil, was my Nonna! Her back was to me, but I did not feel slighted. She was not "old", sick Nonna, but she was the same age she was when I was 5 years old -- it was as though we had traveled back in time to that specific place and time. I was ecstatic, because I knew she was buying me something. Then the dream ended.
When I woke up I knew beyond a doubt that Nonna was going to die.
That afternoon, I received a call from my Aunt in New York. That very morning, Nonna's artificial hip socket had suddenly become inflamed, and she was suffering from a raging infection. Nonna was rushed to the hospital, and was in intensive care, but she was going downhill fast.
The next day, my beloved Nonna died. I know the angels received her with jubilation and song, because ever since I was a tiny child, I have known that Nonna was a saint. She was laid to rest in October 1991, on a beautiful day in upstate New York.
Mom, of course, took the news with shock and sadness. After that, I think she lost the will to live. Her condition deteriorated further. She developed bladder cancer and kidney failure, and spent the last few months of her life in the hospital.
Mom passed away in the summer of 1992. She was wracked with illness -- heart trouble, fluid-filled lungs, diabetes, bladder cancer, failing eyes (she spent most of her last 3 years in the hospital), and the last ten days of her life she was in a coma. I would visit her after work, and sit next to her, talking to her (they say that sometimes people in a coma can still hear you). She looked like a shell of her former self, and everyone knew she was slipping away. It was just a matter of days. One night, when I visited her and talked to her as usual, it struck me that here was a woman who, although loved by all she met, was still the mother who in her worst moments, had caused my sister and myself some heartbreaking moments of abuse and brutality. Looking back now, I could say that perhaps Mom had two personalities. Although basically a loving and nurturing person, with whom Sis and I spent many happy moments and from whom we learned so much, Mom had a violent temper, and my childhood was filled with mixed emotions, mixed messages and lots of tears -- Sis and I had been beaten from the time were were babies, until we became teenagers.... My love for Mom (and yes, she was an unforgettable person, whose love and insight I will always be grateful for) was tempered with fear, and pain. Thankfully, with help, patience and loving friends, I have been able to deal with all that happened in the past. Enough of that, for now.....
I always visited Mom at the hospital after I left work. I came by bus; my car had been totaled several months before. In her last few weeks of life, Mom had deteriorated so badly that even dialysis could not help her anymore. She had been in a coma for 10 days (her last words to the nurse, before she slipped into the coma were: "Where's Azar? Am I going to die??"), but I would always talk softly to her, hoping that she could hear me and be reassured by my voice.
Looking at Mom, lying in her hospital bed surrounded by tubes, in dialysis for more than a month., a shell of her former boisterous vivacious self -- now with eyes closed, shallow breathing, gaunt frame, all physical systems shutting down -- I realized that she had many debts to pay -- not only to me, but to all who had crossed her path (she spared no one from the effects of her temper). I thought to myself -- "She has suffered much over these past years, and perhaps she has already atoned for what she did to others. But then again, perhaps she has a heavy burden to take with her to the next world. What can I do to lighten her burden?" It was getting late, the last bus was due to leave soon, and I had to go home. I said to Mom: "Mom. you know you are going to pass to the next world soon. I will miss you, and I love you. I want to give you a goodbye gift -- I release you from everything you may owe me." Just before I left the room, I told her as I always did, that I loved her dearly, and something made me stop and tell her: "Mom, if I don't see you anymore on this earth, I'll see you again in Heaven"
Taking the bus before it got too dark, I got home just before a raging thunderstorm. That night, exhausted and tired, I took some leftovers out of the fridge and ate a cold supper as I sat on the sofa. It was around 9:30 p.m. That whole week, there had been some violent weather -- raging thunderstorms, torrential rains, booming, heavy thunder. That night was not different -- a raging thunderstorm, high winds, violent rains and a major crescendo of thunder and lightning. This was the kind of weather Mom Sylvia loved, and it was only fitting that she chose to leave this earth with such accompaniment.
Sitting on the sofa, eating my cold supper, I suddenly knew that Mom was in the room. It was as if she, as a mother, had "just stepped into the room to check up on her kid". Although I could not see her, I knew she was there, so I made it a point to honor her visit by looking directly at where she seemed to be standing; by doing that I knew she would know I was aware of her presence. I could not understand why she was there, and was all the more confused because in my mind's eye (1) she was wearing chartreuse and orange (more about this, later), and (2) there seemed to be two of her, one more substantial than the other. No, I was not drinking.
A few minutes later, the doctor called from the hospital. I was not prepared when he told me "your mother passed away". Even though I had been told weeks before that she was dying, and had been somewhat prepared for her death, it seemed unreal. As I rushed back to the hospital (a Good Samaritan gave me a ride) and stood crying by Mom' s lifeless shell, I told the nurse about Mom' s appearance to me, which had actually happened around the time she died. The nurse told me "that happens sometimes; I've heard others tell me the same thing."
Mom was buried next to Nonna, on a most glorious, beautiful sun-swept day in July, with wispy clouds dancing in the dazzling blue skies, and a breezy temperature in the 70's -- most unusual for July. It had been only 9 months since Nonna left this world, and now Mom had joined her.
As I rode behind the hearse, seated between my aunt and uncle, the silence in the car was unbearable. I told my aunt, "With all due respect for Mom, I have to turn on the radio." As I did, the song that jumped out at me (which I never heard before and never heard again) had this haunting refrain : "You are the stars, I am the skies, we'll be together in Paradise".
After mom was laid to rest and we drove away, I cried and cried as I saw her sad and lonely little grave recede into the distance. I almost felt as though Mom would be confused, scared and lonely all by herself there, in that unfamiliar place, and I hated to leave her.....But on we went. As we drove through the cemetery, we immediately became involved in an unusual traffic jam. A truck towing a beautiful race car had taken a wrong turn and had entered the cemetery. Driving out behind him, I smiled through my tears, knowing of mom's love of auto racing. Even when she had lost most of the vision in her one good eye, she would still sit happily in front of the television to watch/hear the stock car, Indy and Formula One auto races. Rest in Peace, Mom!
A Visit from an Angel?
A month after Mom died, I took part in a Grieving Workshop sponsored by a local Hospice. It was a small gathering - the facilitator, plus myself, a man who had lost his partner of 25 years, and a frail, elderly woman who lost her husband of 50 years. I was not just dealing with Mom's passing, but first came the death of my Nonna, then five of my friends, and then my Mom. We sat, talked, and looked at some of the workshop's resources. When the little old woman talked, we all looked at her and marveled at how frail and how deeply burdened she seemed to be, with her beloved husband's passing. Our unspoken thought was that she would surely die from the grief, so our attention was focused, for the moment, on her frailty, and how very tired she looked, as she talked about her departed husband..
Then it was my turn to talk. As I spoke, I mentioned the hopelessness that I felt. Twice, I said "If I could just reach out and touch my Mom and say 'Are you alright Mom??'" And each time I said that, the frail little old lady jumped to her feet, eyes sparkling, looking not at us but into the distance, and -- fairly dancing with glee, she said "She's OK! She's OK!" All of us other attendees stared at her, incredulous! I think we all left that workshop with our spirits bouyed up considerably. I often wonder about that sweet frail old lady -- who has probably gone to her reward by now, to rest with her beloved husband. And I'm sure she and Mom have smiled and waved to each other "out there"! And I know they're both "OK!"
Mom Dream #1
I had no significant dreams at all until January 1993. In this dream, I was in my mom' s old bedroom, which was now my roommate's. Mom was hovering above the floor -- standing, but not touching the floor. She was dressed in her favorite ratty old bathrobe. Her face was filled out -- not at all gaunt as it was in her final weeks. Her white hair was nicely arranged, and she looked wonderful! I looked at her and said, "You look great! But I thought you were dead! What am I going to tell them at work??!" (My job situation was terrible, and only a few days after mom died, my supervisors had given me alot of grief). Still hovering above the floor, Mom looked at me, smiled and said softly " I'm alive!" Then I woke up.
Months before she died, Mom and I talked about her passing. I asked her if she would please try to help me in my (dire) financial and personal situations when she was gone. She said "If I could help you now, with what little money and resources I have, do you think I'll ever forget you when I'm gone??" She also said that if she ever came back and appeared to me, she would do it in a way that would not scare me. I told her that if I went before her, I would do the same for her. Now Mom was coming back to me in dreams.
Mom Dream #2
Several days after this first dream, I had another dream. In this one, my sister and I (all grown-up now) were with Mom, who looked very much as she had in my first dream. We were on the top floor of a humble dwelling, a square, bare room with clean and newly polished hardwood floors and a plain but large skylight on the ceiling, through which came a soft white light. It was as if Mom had just moved in, and we were inspecting the premises to see where the bed would go.
I left shortly thereafter and walked past the house, which was a humble, small but (seemingly) new, square white stucco building situated in the park across the street from the building where I had happily grown up in the Bronx in the 50's and early 60's, and where Mom and Nonna had lived in the 30's and 40's. In fact, in the dream this little stucco house was right next to the on-ramp to the Bronx River Parkway. As I passed the little white stucco house I said to myself "Go back! Mom might be in the window waving to you!" I retraced my steps and there was Mom at the top window, smiling and waving to me! I waved back, and started to go into an underground walkway. However, this being the Bronx (even though it was a dream), I decided to wait until someone else went into the tunnel, so it would be safer. Two people did, a man and a woman (I did not see their faces, only their backs) I stepped in behind the woman and then woke up.
Of course, there is NO stucco house there, nor was there ever. But the dream had such symbolism in it, that I woke up knowing that Mom was situated somwhere, in a peaceful state.
Mom Dream #3
Around March of 1994, I dreamed I was on a New York City bus. I was sitting right behind the driver, on the "long" seat. Sitting next to me was Mom! I looked out the window of the bus and I saw that we were on a huge overpass, with the river and the skyline of New York in the distance. It was an incredibly beautiful sunny day with a beautiful blue sky. There were many other people seated on the bus. There were two ladies sitting on the first seat that faced forward, on the right hand side of the bus. One was a heavy set dark haired lady -- the other was a frail white-haired elderly lady. They were deep in conversation, but I could hear nothing. I looked at them and I knew that even though she seemed very much alive, the dark haired lady was dead. I turned to Mom and said "Mom -- if you're dead, and she's dead -- am I dead?" Mom laughed a sweet laugh and said "no!". Then I said "The last time I was in New York,. the weather was just as beautiful!" Mom hung her head and turned away from me. I was mortified -- because I suddenly remembered that the last time I was in New York was for Mom's funeral....(and the weather WAS just as beautiful as it was in this dream). Mom and I talked a it more, but I don't remember what we said.
I hope you, dear reader, realize that waking up from one of these dreams was quite an experience by and of itself.
(Note: During the last week of June 1994 I went to NY and back, by bus. This was the first time I had been back to NY since Mom's funeral. As the bus was heading out of NY on my return trip, we passed over a HUGE overpass, with the bridge stanchions and the water and the skyline of New York EXACTLY as I had seen it in my dream! And the weather, too, was as beautiful and clear with a blue sky just as it was in my dream! I had never been on this overpass before. Where was I seated? On the right hand side of the bus, in the first seat. I mentally waved "hi!" to Mom, for I knew she was probably close by, chuckling. The date was June 29, just two days before the second anniversary of Mom's death.)
Mom Dream #4
Although Mom has sometimes appeared in my dreams after this particular dream, her appearances have been brief. Sometimes she looks young, sometimes, old (she was 71 when she died). But in the following dream, as in all the previous ones, she was old.
I dreamed I was in an office, or maybe at the front desk of a hospital. There was Mom -- very angry and as ill as she had been just before she died. I said - "OH NO!! -- she came back from the dead and now I have to go through all of this all over again!" (It was no picnic taking care of her when she was ill, as Mom never lost her abusive streak when she was alive, no matter how sick she was!).
But suddenly, there we were, Mom and myself, walking inside a stone building of cathedral proportions. It appeared to be a church, a university, and a hospital, all in one. To our immediate left was a huge stone staircase, topped with an equally huge "stained-glass" window of un-colored frosted glass. A warm powerful light radiated through these panes. On the stairs, which were carpeted with real grass, were young people carrying books, walking up the stairs silently and slowly, two by two, in an almost reverential manner. I also saw a nurse, in white uniform and starched cap. Mom turned to me, gave me a key and said "Take this key and break it -- break yours too. You don't need it anymore." But as I took the key from Mom, Nonna suddenly appeared to my right, much bigger than life-size, and in shadowy, but visible form. She was dressed exactly as she had been dressed when she came to me in the dream (1991) fortelling her death. So I said to Mom -- "But Nonna still needs me!" Mom said "OK, keep the key."
And with that, I awoke.
So what does this all mean? Has Mom "taken up residence" on another plane, or perhaps a parallel universe abiding on this earth? Has she gone through a learning process that heals, and imparts knowledge and peace?? Whatever the answer is, it is a humbling and uplifting experience to know that she shared it with me... Or was I there to help her, as I tried my best to do for her while she was on this earth?? (It wasn't easy sometimes, and I know I could have done better at times)
Is Nonna still by my side?
As an interesting sidelight, I am now going through acupuncture treatments -- and each time I have a treatment, (which makes me feel wonderful, by the way!), I have long dreams of Mom Sylvia again. But for the most part, she is in another room, and a glass partition separates us. There are no emotions in these dreams, just the acknowledgement that Mom is there, and we talk but I never remember what it is we have said to one another. *****
I still miss her -- and when I hear Copelia's rousing "Sylvia Ballet", I envision Mom flying through the air as a happy and sometimes wild spirit, being totally Mom, totally Sylvia.
God bless my Mom and my Nonna. Rest in peace dear ladies!!!
***** December 5, 2000 -- Well, I had another significant dream about Mom tonight!!
Life has been a series of physical ups and downs lately -- too much work (2 jobs), too much study (school after work), not enough rest, money or good food. Pushing myself way too hard, and feeling the results. But tonight, in my dream, there was Mom!! She looked SO beautiful!! Her hair was long, dark and curly. Her face was so beautiful -- she was in her early thirties, it seemed. Gee I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. And corny as it may seem -- she was in front of a backdrop of blue sky and fleecy clouds. Mom was facing me, wearing a white robe gathered over her left shoulder like a toga, and she was smiling at me. "I am always with you" she said. And then the dream ended.
Chartreuse and Orange?? Why WAS Mom dressed like that when she came to visit me right after she died??? Well, I guess her sense of humor stayed with her even after she left this world!! In 1960, Mom decided to re-paint Nonna's kitchen (we lived in Nonna Lucia's apartment in the Bronx). How did she repaint it?? Chartreuse and Orange! Every little square pane of glass on Nonna's dish closet was repainted, from all-white, to alternating squares of chartreuse and orange. Mom had some chartreuse paint left over, so she painted Nonna's little bakelite radio chartreuse. That bakelite radio from which saintly Italian operas would emanate every day, that bakelite radio that would broadcast Nonna's favorite radio announcer -- "Pasquale C.O.D." -- was now a screaming shade of chartreuse. It took Nonna months to settle down whenever she wanted to turn on the radio to listen to Pasquale's show. But NO -- it did not end there!! Mom made curtains for the kitchen windows -- alternating squares of chartreuse and orange. This prompted our saintly next-door neighbor, Rose, to come running out of her apartment to say -- "SYLVIA!! Did you know you have TWO DIFFERENT COLOR curtains one next to the other??!!" Mom just laughed and said "yes!" matter-of-factly. (Mom -- did you wear that Chartreuse and Orange outfit I saw you in, into the Pearly Gates?? If so, I'm sure the angels RAN to get their sunglasses!! LOL!!!!)