dad 03mom in millBoth of my parents have died this year: my mother in April, my father in October. Although I think of them every day and recognize so much of them in myself (they’re in my blood, of course)—still, they are gone. I have been changed by their absence. I am being transformed by the increasing awareness of what it really means to live a full lifetime, touch the lives of others, and eventually die. I guess I’m growing into my new place: the place that they left open for me.

Along with others of my generation, I find that bearing witness to the deaths of my parents means not only grieving, but opening up to a larger perspective. This perspective goes beyond Mom and Dad as parents, beyond Shirley and Phil as individuals, to include the open-ended questions that defined them, define me, define all of us as living (and dying) beings… In the words of Gauguin’s famous painting: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? [D’où Venons Nous/ Que Sommes Nous/ Où Allons Nous].

Exploring these questions is part of maturing, aging, and preparing for our own deaths. It can be well underway before the deaths of our parents, but the passing of the generation before us marks a turning point—and saying good-bye to those we love in the previous generation makes this universal, archetypal turning point intensely personal.

Dreams are at home on the muddy, shifting soil of that fertile delta where the river of personal experience splits into rivulets and flows into the universal vastness of the open sea. So, as I say good-bye to my parents and ponder my own mortality, I find guidance in dreams. Such dreams ask more questions than they answer. This is as it should be.

In this post and the next, I’d like to explore two significant dreams that helped prepare me for the deaths of my parents. Continue reading