Saturday, November 27, 2010



Do you ever dream about the one you've lost? I do. This piece, written a couple of years ago, is about my favorite dream of Ralph.

Last Tuesday night, as I often do, I dreamed about my husband. The dreams are usually of his absence, the longing to have him with me, the breadth of the chasm that separates us.

But in this latest dream he appeared beside me, his face unlined, his body firm and his eyes alight with happiness and humor. He looked nothing like the gaunt, frail man with white wispy hair and hollow eyes who had lain unmoving in his hospital bed for so many months. This vibrant man looked thirty years younger than he had even in the days before leukemia took over his body and his life.

Amazed by his sudden presence, I blurted, “What are you doing here?”

“I came for a visit. I wanted to be with you for a little while.”

“Where have you been?” I asked.

“In the other world,” he replied.

A Jewish woman who was married to a man raised an evangelical Christian, I longed to know what Ralph’s heaven was like. A pure white world filled the sounds of angels’ harps? A green Elysium where the Good stroll among flowers, a misty place where souls dwell unbound from earthly cares? Whatever it was like, I knew we wouldn’t be together there. When we married, he abandoned Christianity and, although he didn’t convert, he became nominally Jewish. But as his condition worsened and death loomed, he returned to the religion of his boyhood and died a Christian once again.

“The other world is nice.” A typical Ralph response. He’d never been especially verbal, preferring to communicate with actions rather than words.

“What do you do there?”

“I drive a bus.”

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A bus? This wasn’t my vision of heaven, nor, I imagine, many other people’s either, regardless of their religion. I imagined Ralph at the wheel of a lumbering yellow school bus, but the idea didn’t make sense. In life, he was a computer specialist with his own business, and bus driving, as far as I know, was never one of his career goals. Perhaps in “the other world” you don’t get to pick.

“I enjoy driving,” he continued. “I like honking the horn. If you ever hear a bus honking, you’ll know it’s me.” He hugged me. “I won’t be visiting you again, but you can call me.”

“How?” I asked, but he had disappeared.

The next morning and every day since I thought about the dream and what it might mean. On Friday when Gabriella my nine-year-old granddaughter began talking about her beloved Popo, I told her about the dream.

Her brown eyes widened. “Popo is sending you a message.”

I don’t really believe in communication between the living and the dead, but I had been thinking the same thing.

“Nana,” Gabriella said, “every time a bus honks, we’ll know Popo is thinking of us.”

Remembering that dream--and every school bus I pass evokes that memory--makes me laugh and cry. If you have a dream you'd like to share, please leave it as a comment.

Sweet dreams,


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I loved this story. It made want to cry, but also it humbled me about the mystery of life...the knowable and the unknowable
Your always admiring cousin

womanNshadows said... [Reply to comment]

i used to dream of him, but i haven't in a long while. when i did, i was standing on our island looking back at the mainland. i would feel his hand on my shoulder and lean back into his embrace. we would wait to watch the moon rise together. we would feel the wind. there really wasn't much more to it. we would just be together on our island. i hated waking up. and now, i that i have not dreamed it in a while, i am bereft without it. but i keep looking at the moon trying to find him, trying to feel something other than misery.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Susan, I hope your dreams come back. I had an unpleasant dream about Ralph the other night, a surprise because they're usually nice. In this one, he wanted nothing to do with me and invited loads of people to live in our house. Our living room flooded and when I asked for his advice, he said to figure it out for myself. That dream gave me the creeps for several days.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]


I loved this. I loved your granddaughter's wisdom––and that Ralph was given the chance to say goodbye to her at the end. A school bus seems an appropriate bridge for a woman who gives so much of herself to children.

Your appreciative friend


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