Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Are We Here?

I have been thinking about this post for several days, and I am still not exactly sure where it will go. So, please bear with me as I may start to ramble; although, many of my regular readers already know that about me.

For some time now, I have been having very vivid dreams about my dad, my grandparents, great-grandparents and even extended family members. Some of them I never even knew. However, they are showing up in my dreams and I am trying to figure out why.

You may or may not know I have sleep apnea. When I was first tested, they found I woke up and went to sleep every thirty seconds. As a result of that, I never got into REM sleep. I would always wake up more tired than when I went to bed. I would often fall asleep sitting in my chair watching a movie or even talking with friends and/or family members. I was tired all the time and driving was beginning to be a problem as I had a hard time staying awake.

Once I started to wear a BiPAP machine, I got into good, deep, REM sleep and my dreams became very intense. After all, REM sleep is the only stage of sleep when we dream. I learned years ago our average dream is only about twenty seconds in length. I also learned we tend to dream about the last thoughts we had before we fall asleep.

One of the problems I get frustrated with is I rarely remember my dreams. Last night I did remember one and it was about my maternal grandfather, Joe Smith. By the way, if you were to come up with an alias, could you come up with a better one than Joe Smith?

Grandpa died at age eighty-six peacefully one Sunday morning watching Mass in the same spot in the living room my grandma died thirty-one years earlier on a Sunday morning while the rest of the family was at Mass. She stayed home that day because she had fallen and broken her leg and was not comfortable getting in the car and sitting in a church pew for an hour. They were also married for thirty-one years. There are so many serendipitous factors around their two deaths that always amaze me how they peacefully passed into the spirit world.

On the other side of my family, my grandfather, Ben Patrick was killed by lightning while working a field in 1942. He was only thirty-seven years old. He was the oldest of six children and his younger brother, my Great Uncle Stanley lived to be one hundred years old! Three weeks later, he passed away. He had reached his goal and it was time to join his siblings and his parents in the afterlife.

Here is one of my favorite photographs of my Grandfather Ben, Great Uncle Stanley and Great Aunt Hazel Patrick taken in 1911: Click on the image to make it larger:

I love Stanley's curly hair. Stanley and I would have great conversations over these last several years. He told me stories about his brother Ben and his sister-in-law Irene I did not know. He was a treasure trove of knowledge and information from his time here on earth. I loved listening to his stories. Now he is gone and that wealth of knowledge is gone with them. I believe that is sad.

I have so many pictures from both sides of my family I am having a hard time choosing which ones to post.

Now, I want to talk about my dad because I have been thinking a lot about him lately. I posted about him on June 6th and you can read that post by clicking here. June 6th would have been his eightieth birthday. Unfortunately, he died July 23, 2006. He was my best friend and I miss him every day.

Here is a picture of Dad and me in the summer of 1968 when he was coaching my junior high school baseball team in Sibley, Iowa:

Again, click on the image to make it larger:
I am still not certain the point I'm trying to make with this post. It is just in these dreams these relatives and several others are alive and are all young adults, as am I. I find myself in various stages of my life with these dreams and others. Often times I am able to do things I could before my accident, and other times I find myself in my post-accident life.

I do not know what a psychologist would tell me about these dreams with my dead relatives. I am not sure I want to know!

I just know they all had an impact on my life in one way or another even though I may never have met them. My dad was a tremendous influence on me growing up. I see myself doing things and saying things he would have said. Like many of us, we find ourselves turning into our parents. I told you earlier my dad was my best friend.

Today, my mom is my best friend. We spend time on the phone almost every day. She also does some of my attendant care and stays with me every weekend. She has had two near-death experiences, one of them just a couple of years ago when she was in a coma for twelve days!

Am I learning things from these dreams in these relatives who are long gone? I do not know. Do I need to experience life with them through my dreams? I do not know.

Besides my mother and father, the most influential individual in my life was far and away my paternal grandmother, Irene Smith Patrick Grieme. I was the oldest grandchild and grandma was alone from 1942 until 1967 when she finally remarried Leslie Grieme. He also taught me many things when I stayed with them on weekends and for two weeks every summer for about five years until my accident.

I can extend this post much longer by sharing all kinds of stories about grandma, but I will not do that. Suffice it to say, I miss her tremendously as well.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I was not exactly sure where was going to go. I have rambled on long time here. But, I feel good about sharing these albeit brief stories. I look forward to meeting them all again one day in heaven. I am anxious to have great conversations again with Uncle Stanley, Dad, talk baseball with my Grandpa Young, and meet my Grandpa  Patrick. Uncle Floyd is another one who was a great storyteller. I have not even mentioned him yet!

This gets back to the title of my post, "Why Are We Here?" I am not sure I answered that question, but I am sure while I am here I want to make a difference, just as all my deceased relatives made a difference in my life. I am trying to pay it forward with my speeches, my book and of course, this blog.

If any of you have any ideas about what I might take from these dreams, please comment at the end of this post. If you are a first-time reader of my blog, I want you to know this is twice as long as most of my posts! If you're still reading, thank you for sticking with me.

As always, I welcome your comments.




Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to say, I liked this blog post. Keep on posting!

Ruona said...

I can relate. Of late and I think it's getting older does it, but I've been thinking about the man that was my mentor and grandfather. Ol' Emery taught me to love the outdoors and believe it or not wine. He was the reason I chose the career I did and probably the outdoor hobbies I pursue. Good blog Fat Cat. Many of us can understand.


Anonymous said...

As has often happened, at least I have noticed this anyway, certain of your posts touch a deep part of me, even though I have not seen you in person for many years (which by the way is totally ridiculous and we need to change that and soon!!!). But I digress...

But the post about your dad got to me--mine was 91 on June 8--and I still do not see or call him often enough. I need to change that and this week.

And as to the dreams, wow. I have had that occur probably 2-3 nights a week for a number of years. I am not sure if it is about growing older, being alone a lot, or a host of other reasons, some which may indeed be metaphysical in nature, or what.

But for one thing I dream about my mom all of the time, and she passed away in 1991, over 20 years ago. And other loved ones too. We were close then and still are now.

My return to the Catholic faith in 2005 made a lot of difference in my understanding of this as I began to believe once again in the "communion of saints," something not generally taught by evangelical Protestants which I was when we first knew each other and a concept which I had pretty much dismissed for 35 years.

But I think it makes huge sense that those who have gone before us have wisdom to teach us, gifts to give us, and prayers to pray for us. And us for them too. And perhaps we are sensing that connection during such dreams, even if our minds scramble the signals just a bit. I do not know.

One exception (for me) was when my aunt Veronica (and today was of all things is the feast of St Veronica!) passed away from cancer when I was 12. She had cancer in her spinal column and could only sit on a tall stool or higher level chair or she could not get back up again without help. The sofa or a regular chair was just too low for her with the partial paralysis it had caused.

Anyway she lived with us those last 2 years of her life and she was the closest friend I had during that time (and we were very close, I talked with her every single day after school, watched old TV movies or helped her in the kitchen on her good days as she was a great cook and willing to teach me, and we were true buddies as she was widowed and had no children.

She was also the only person I had known well who had died at my young age back then. I even actually picked out what she wore at her funeral (I guess I should have figured out that gay thing even then lol). I had just finished 6th grade when she passed.

But I bring up that point because a few weeks after her death she came to me in the most vivid dream I have had before or after. She came to me, wearing that lovely outfit, and told me "I have something to show you." She took me to another area of wherever we were, and then told me to watch. She sat right down on a low sofa or chair, literally bounded up, and said "See, Richard, I can do it all by myself now." I knew when I woke up that she was with God and truly okay. And I mean KNEW it. And nothing in that dream had been in my conscious mind that I am aware of prior to sleeping that night.

My point is that do sometimes get those messages just exactly when we need them. And I was not imaginative to have even begun to make that up or put it together in such an amazing sequence at that age or time in my then young life.

All I knew was that our Veronica was in heaven, totally happy, with God, and could stand up from a low chair once again!!! The cancer was over but her life had just begun. She had beaten it, not the other way around. I am now the same age she was (well within a year or so) of when she left us in 1968.

Anyway I know this is a mighty long response but all to say "I get it." And 45 years later it still brings me tears to even type or tell you of this.

So Mike just know that your lovely family is watching over you. Caring about you and praying for you every single day. Mine too. And your other readers. And sometimes, occasionally, we are allowed a glimpse of them I think. And it keeps us going.

Thank you so very much for sharing this post.

Anonymous said...

BTW I never met my maternal grandfather James Norton either, nor do I remember his brother Richard who I was named for. I look forward to those conversations too!!!

Ed said...

Hi Mike,

Just read your post and wanted to let you know a couple of thoughts that went through my head as I finished it.

First I think there's millions of Americans with sleep apnea and probably a large number that have not been diagnosed. I wondered if this was common to Americans or all parts of the world, or just industrial countries. Do people in third world countries have the same difficulties sleeping? Does it happen more frequently to the educated population, and does TV play a role? I won't ramble on with these thoughts but get to some dream stories.

I'll make these short because I imagine you'll get a lot of feedback from this post.

My father was in a nursing home for a number of years before he died, and was able to check himself out and go home to his wife for a few days and then return. He did this all the time during his stay up until his death, but once he went into a coma for a week and we thought this was the end of his life and he would never regain consciousness. He woke up after a week with no impairment and my older brother was explaining the situation of the coma to him when dad said my brother was crazy. He explained to us he was gone for a short time on a nice visit with his brother, Art. My uncle Art had been dead for about ten years, so my brother again tried to explain the coma. My father was totally frustrated with this nonsense, and said he didn't want to hear anymore about it, and that my uncle had told him something like this would happen. Dad said that was all he was going to say and to throw my brother off the issue made a comment, "you're too fat for your age, you need to worry about that stuff." End of story.

I've had a lot of dreams regarding my best friend Bob who die about seven years ago that sound similar to yours. Bob and I had been friends for about 40 years and hitchhiked across country a number of times in the 60's. I was his best-man at his wedding and when I moved to Minnesota we still would get together a few times a year. Two weeks before he died we were coming back from visiting my brother and my kids wanted to get home to see friends after a long Thanksgiving break. We still had a 3 1/2 hr car ride ahead of us and being teenagers my kids begged me not to stop, I'm thankful my wife told them it would be for a short time and said, "we haven't seen Bob and Tina for a long time let's make it a quick visit."

Anyway, a couple times a year I have these dreams regarding my friendship with Bob. The last time was a month ago at a Buddhist meditation retreat center where I dreamt he was telling me he wasn't dead and not to worry. We had a conversation about him being okay and that I should stop in to talk to Tina when I get a chance.

I should mention that Bob died on my wife's birthday, and that date, and the 4th of July bring up intense memories of our friendship.

I have other dreams about family members who have passed on so it seems we may be on the same page in the Universe Mike, a scary thought if you knew my family. Ha ha.

Take care,


Marion said...

Hi, Mike,

I, too, dream, but not about significant things. I've been asked if I dream about Bob. No, I haven't - yet. Next week, July 19th, is the first anniversary of Bob's death. I keep asking myself how will I deal with that? I've moved on, of course, on the surface. People expect that of those of us who lose our soul mates. We have to move on but it's tough, as you know more than anyone I know. But, here's the thing ... and I know it's tough for you to type - but I think you should write about your dreams; it's therapeutic. I've been writing about Bob's life; about our life together; and other things in our lives that matter to me. I'm thinking that one day our kids might enjoy reading about their dad. One of our children said to me, even before Bob's memorial, - "I didn't know dad".

Mike, that hurt me to the quick. So now I've decided to give my children all the knowledge I have, and that they might want to read about Bob - their dad. It's never too late to form that legacy. You have so much to offer so many people in your life; your siblings, your mom; your innumerable friends; stories and introspective of who you are in your inner being. Write about what you know - that would be you.
It's always good to read your blogs.


Always, Marion

Tiffani said...