“You ever have that?” Cowboy asked, looking up from his spot on the couch. I hadn’t been paying attention, so I had to ask him to explain himself. “Where you dream about meeting somebody or something happening and then you meet them or it happens?”
“All the time,” I replied. “You know that.”
“Oh, that’s right,” he said, rolling his eyes at himself. “You have that Second Sight thing. And I really think that you do have that.”
“Must be my Celtic roots,” I said flippantly.
What he means is probably a little different, when compared to what I sort of mean. His interpretation has a bit more of a Biblical slant, I think, or maybe it comes from the Louis L’amour books he reads about Welsh and Scottish settlers who have the gift of Sight. I just think I have always had a bit of a “witchy” sense. Driving on a dark road in the woods and knowing that a deer will step out into the road, seconds before it does. Looking at a building or a business and wondering how it is still going, days before it shuts down. Feeling a need to message somebody who is sitting at their phone, wanting to message me. It happened a lot when Cowboy was in hunting camp in Colorado and I was still in London. He only had phone service in one spot in the woods, reachable less than once a week, and I would open my phone to look at WhatsApp only to find he was online at that very moment.
I often experience deja vu, when certain scenes in dreams are unusually vivid and clear as they happen. I wake up with only that scene as part of my recollection of the dream, and it’s usually so mundane that I forget it completely for a while. Months later, the exact scene occurs in my life. I observe it unfolding, knowing what somebody will say, knowing that I have been here already.
The more unnerving experience is when the dreams include a visitor. After my maternal grandfather died, I had a dream the night before his funeral: we were attending a family wedding and Grandpa was there. Before the service started, he stood up at the front of the church and announced “I just want everybody to know that everything is alright.” I woke up and didn’t think anything of it. When I told my mother about it, she laughed, and cried.
When I moved to a new school when I was 16, one of the pupils had collapsed and died several months earlier while running to the boat club for rowing practice. I’d never met him, but everybody at the school was talking about him as they unveiled a new sundial in his memory. A few weeks into the term, I had a dream about a school event where everybody gathered in the school grounds for some kind of celebratory tea. In this dream, I looked over at where a boy was standing under a tree in the shade, watching everybody else at the party. I wandered over to say hello. He seemed familiar, though I didn’t know him.
“Hello,” he said, smiling. I remember how lazily content he seemed. I smiled back at him.
“Are you going to come and join in?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “I’m just here to watch. But I’m glad to see everybody enjoying themselves. That’s how it should be.”
I woke up with a violent certainty that this boy under the tree was the same one that my new friends were still mourning. I told one of my classmates about the dream, about what the boy had said.
“That does sound like him,” my friend said, puzzled.
Recently, I was browsing through Facebook in an idle afternoon. I came across a photo of a tenuous friend – a bright young man who had befriended me via FictionPress and Yahoo Messenger many years ago, who had been at a house party hosted by a friend of ours and had ended up hurling in the toilet while I fetched him water and towels, but we had drifted apart as he had stopped writing, the parties stopped, and I migrated to MSN Messenger. We had stayed Facebook friends. Out of respect for his family, who don’t know me at all, let’s call him Sam, not his real name.
In the picture that came up on my newsfeed, I stared at Sam in horror. He was so thin, so frail looking. I’d known for several years that he had been battling some kind of cancer, but I had thought that he had beaten it a few years ago and assumed he was back to life at its fullest. Evidently not. He was in a hospice now. He was pale, tired, but still smiling. His profile was full of links to issues that he cared about, and things that he wanted to see improve in the world, and smiles and love for his friends and family. Gratitude for his caregivers. I was humbled by the sight of him under his blanket. It wouldn’t be long for him, I knew.
Sure enough, about a week later, his Facebook page was filled with grief from his family as they said goodbye. I felt bad that I had not kept in touch with him better. I felt sad that we had just faded away from each other. I hoped that at least his life had ended peacefully and quietly.
A few days after his death, I had the dream. Suitably, it involved some sort of fantasy museum or role-playing showcase – the details were blurry, but it was a fitting situation, considering we had bonded over fantasy fiction and D&D games. As I studied a lovely statue in a sheltered garden nook, Sam came strolling over. I looked at him sideways. He was healthy and just as I remembered from years ago. He grinned, his hands in his pockets.
“Hi Sam,” I said. “How’s it going?”
“Good, yeah,” he said, nodding. “Really good.” He sighed, as if breathing was the most pleasurable thing in the world. “Really good, yeah.”
“It’s a good show, isn’t it?” I said, meaning the museum or whatever the heck we were at.
“Yep, really good.” He looked up at the architecture above us and smiled, closed his eyes, soaked in the sunshine.
I couldn’t help frowning at him. I wondered if he knew. “Sam,” I said slowly, “you do know you’re… you know you’re dead, don’t you? You know you died?”
He chuckled, and nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s ok. I just wanted to come and check in. Catch up. You know. Let everybody know it’s ok.” He smiled again, shrugging his shoulders. “It was really good, you know? Don’t worry.”
And he strolled off into the museum gardens, admiring everything he saw. He turned and looked back, gave me one more radiant smile, waved, and wandered off. I woke up. Oh, how I wanted to share the dream with his loved ones, but is the mad night visions of a stranger really what they need?
It turned out the dream had come the night before his funeral, too.
Is it just the way my brain makes sense of people passing on from this life? Do I just construct a lovely happy ending, a final message from them? I’m sure that’s what neuroscience and psychology would say. It’s all my subconscious.
But I do like to think, however absurd it is, that Sam really did pay me a visit.
In case you are a reader who knew him, he seemed so happy.