I woke too early this morning from a terrible dream that one of my daughters had died. Even though I knew it was just a dream, I couldn’t shake the sadness and despair. I got up, took some aspirin for the pounding headache I’d developed, and returned to bed. I told myself to think of happy things, but my mind kept returning to my sadness. What a terrible dream to have, I told myself, hoping to scold the parts of my brain responsible for nocturnal images and stories. Shake it. The daylight will come and I can call my daughter, just to say hello, hear her voice. Know that she’s safe. She’s okay now, I thought, but what if something does happen to her in the future? Should I ask her to carry a card in her wallet that says, “If anything bad happens to me, call my mother at this number right away?” She might do it, to humor me, but it seems a little controlling and paranoid to ask. Think of something else. Thanksgiving’s coming soon. She will be home.
I thought of my Thanksgiving table, of the people who will be there, and the people who won’t. My mother-in-law won’t be there. She’ll be visiting a son who is dying of cancer. Another son of hers has been absent from our table for years; dead at forty-five. The nightmare I had is the reality for so many mothers and fathers, not just in untimely tragedies, but also in epidemics of disease and famine. We humans are fragile; we leave this world at all ages.
These are the sort of thoughts that swirled in my head in that liminal world where the tug of the dark dream and my sleeping life forget what I know when I’m wide-awake. I have to think of something good, I told myself, and then a song, a jumble of two Taize chants, came into my head, “The Lord is my light. The Lord is my song. All my hope comes from God.” I played it over and over in my head, until the refrain pushed out my fear, with the conviction, that should the unthinkable happen, I will not be undone. I will survive it by my faith.
The sort of faith I have doesn’t keep me from pain. It doesn’t keep bad things at bay, or stop me from being angry, worried, scared. The faith I have accompanies me in all my human emotion, all my mistakes, all my panic and nightmares. It is that pinprick of light ever so slightly piercing the darkness that helps me to know there is so much more than I can see, and that whatever happens, I am not alone. I am not alone, and I am loved. I am loved by the light, by the creative force of the universe, by God.
It is that love that makes suffering bearable. How I long for those who find themselves in darkness to know the power of this light, to feel it at the very center of their souls, that they may reach for it and cling to it, trusting, as I have learned to do, that it is always there for them.