On Saturday night, I had a dream that woke me up in near tears....
I was in a school gym, the kind with the classic bright glossy wooden floors and no windows, and there were dozens of people skating around in a circle like at a skating rink. As I skated around by myself, I realized that all the people were people I know from different times of my life. Friends from high school, old co-workers, my husband's friends, family members from both my side and my husband's; all of them were skating around and around, laughing and talking to one another and yet is seemed like no one even noticed I was there.
As time went on, I started to feel sad and lonely, unsure why no one wanted to even recognize my presence. But as I went from group to group trying to capture someone's attention, something on the sidelines caught my eye. With a jolting stop, I broke free from the crowds and skated up to a table that stood near the exit door. There stood my mother-in-law frantically trying to clean up a pile of ash that was scattered across the tabletop. Before I even reached the table where she stood, I immediately noticed Joey's little urn tipped over on its side, the top of it open...it was his ashes on the table. With a horrified scream, I pushed my mother-in-law aside, causing her to fall to the floor. For a brief moment I stood petrified as I looked down at the mess before me. My mother-in-law crawled back over and again tried to clean up the ashes as she was crying and mumbling to herself "I can fix it, I can fix it!". I took one look at her fist full of ash, dusty and white with a handful of my son, and snatched her up by her wrists. "Don't you dare touch him!" I screamed, my voice sounding nearly unrecognizable in its strain, "I am his mother! It is MY job to clean him up! You don't get to touch him!" Violently I shook her hands until she let go of the handful of ash and I pushed her aside again. At this point, I noticed that my mother had broken out of the crowd of skaters, as did my brother-in-law. They stood there behind me, watching with pity etched in their faces. I looked over my shoulder at them, hunched over the ashes of my son, holding him greedily against my chest. My gaze darted around the room. "Why don't they stop?!" I cried as I looked at the crowd of skaters. "Don't they care? Doesn't anybody care? This is my son! Why don't they stop?!" My brother-in-law rested his hands on our mothers' shoulders, gently keeping them in place. I looked into his eyes as tears dropped from mine. Without any words spoken between us but just exchanged glances, I asked him where my husband was. He is at the store but he will be back soon, was his silent reply.
Falling to my knees, I turned my attention back to the ashes on the table. With an index card that I now had in my hand, I gently tried to gather together the ashes and scoop them back into Joey's urn. The bright gold of his urn now looked faded and dull. I tried to wipe it clean with my thumb, but it only left a streak of greasy soot. In near hysteria, I sat there crying.
It was then I felt the warmth of the sun as a beam of sunlight shown down on me in the windowless room. I looked up to try and find it's source, but the light was too bright to see beyond its brilliance. Though everyone in the room continued to go around in their oblivious circles, the room seemed to fade away and almost freeze in time. I was alone in this light, removed from time and existence. And yet, I wasn't alone. As my head rested against the table, my hands covered in ash, my face streaked with tears, I felt a small hand on my shoulder.
"It's okay Momma. I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere."
Startled, I looked up. There stood a small boy who looked maybe two years of age. He had dark golden/brown hair, green eyes, and a soft chubbier version of my husband's face...except the nose; it looked like my nose.
"Joey?" the name caught in my throat.
He nodded with a playful scrunch to his nose and an broad smile.
Joey reached his hand out and softly wiped away the tears on my cheeks. "It's okay Momma." he said again. His voice was so young and yet there was so much maturity behind his words. "I'm in a better place right now." As he spoke, I could see my brother-in-law and mothers moving their mouths to the words "in a better place right now" like drones; emotionless.
"No! I don't want you in a better place! I want you here! Here with me! Joey, don't leave me! I want you here!" I grabbed him into a tight hug.
Joey giggled, "I know Momma, but I'm not leaving you. I'm not going anywhere. I'll always be here with you. Being in the better place doesn't really mean I'm going away." He smiled at me, his eyes sparkling. My God he was beautiful. "I get to play there!" He said with excitement. "They have all sorts of toys!"
I couldn't help but chuckle a little. I held my hand against his face. "I'm glad." I whispered.
"Besides," he continued, "They're just ashes Momma."
"What?" I asked, looking down at the pile of ash on the table. But when I looked back up, he was gone. "Joey?!" I called out, as I heard his words echo away, "They're just ashes Momma...."
All the sounds of the gym came flooding back. I looked up to see the people still going around and around in circles, clueless to what I had just experienced. I saw the pity on my family's faces and I almost hated them for it. I didn't want their pity. I wanted things to be different.
"Joey!" I screamed, "Come back!" I could see my family shifting uncomfortably in their stance.
But a soft echo called back only for my ears to hear; "I'm not gone Mama. Everything is okay. I'm okay. They're just ashes."
I woke up that night with Joey's words echoing in my head. He's okay....everything is okay. I don't know if it was a sign, if I really talked with Joey, or perhaps it was just a dream. Maybe I needed Joey's permission most of all to try again for another baby. I have been struggling with feelings of guilt lately, wondering if Joey would be upset that we were trying for another baby. Perhaps by knowing he's okay, I can feel better about moving on and trying again. Who knows. But at least it is nice to think he's in a good place right now. I didn't wake up feeling hopeful that night. In fact, I woke up still clinging to the sad reality that I had lost him. But in time, the message of the dream stood out stronger. Joey, my little boy, my son...no matter how or why I dreamt it, I know he's safe and happy.