“Mom, I had a bad dream. I had a dream that you died.”
And with that I bolted upright at 4 AM on Friday morning, not nearly enough hours of sleep under my belt.
My nine-year-old son was standing in the doorway, looking vulnerable, scared, and much smaller than he does in daylight hours.
He had never had a dream like this before—at least none that he could remember or thought to tell me about.
He asked if he should go back to bed. I asked him what he wanted. And for the first time in many years he crawled into the tiniest space in our bed, barely fitting but exactly where he needed to be. He held my hand and drifted immediately back to sleep.
And I stared at him—then at the ceiling, the wall, out the window, listening to him breathe, feeling his grasp, sometimes light other times more forceful, on my hand; and I wondered what he was thinking, what he was dreaming now, what precipitated this moment, what he was “working out” through his dreams.
Thoughts of my own mortality necessarily darted around, swooping in and out of my sleepy consciousness. I contemplated what my presence meant and means to my children, what my absence, my death, would mean–not thoughts I was planning on having 90 minutes before my alarm was set to buzz on a Friday morning but thoughts clearly worth considering.
It’s so easy, I think, to minimize our worth in someone’s life. Days are relentlessly busy with working, with cleaning and cooking and laundry and checking things off never-ending to-do lists that relegating our positions to those of scullery maid, chauffeur, and/or human ATM seems not only simple but natural.
But my son’s dream reminded me that no matter how natural these thoughts may be, they are erroneous—and deceptively so. We do matter to others, to our children—not because of our ample cleaning skills, drivers’ licenses, or available cash flow but because we’re here—with them—because the thought of our not being here gives them nightmares.
Gives us nightmares.
And more than enough to think about.