I rarely remember dreams I have.
I can be having a fairly vivid dream; but as soon as I wake up, my memory of it vanishes, leaving only a foggy sensation that I was having a dream...and it was vivid...and oh, what was it about anyway? It's gone.
It hasn't always been that way. At certain times of my life, I've been more prone to recalling my dreams--perhaps never more so than when we lived in Israel and I was expecting David and my recurrent dreams during that pregnancy dealt with scary situations involving water and I felt like it reflected my anxiety about how childbirth would go in that unfamiliar setting. At other times too, I have been more likely to remember my dreams, some of which made sense and some of which decidedly did not! But these days, it rarely happens.
But a couple of nights ago, it did; and it was horrible (which is not nearly a strong enough word for how completely awful and appalling and terrible and horrid and dreadful and abhorrent it really was).
In the dream, we gave Benjamin up for adoption.
The details aren't clear in my mind, but it seemed to be a situation similar to the efforts of many Mennonites and Brethren after World War II when, out of their abundance in America, they sent cattle to devastated communities in Europe to help them rebuild. In the dream, apparently our abundance in the area of children made me feel like I should give Benjamin to someone who needed a child; and off he went.
As soon as he was gone, regret hit me like the weight of the world smashing down around me. I wanted to turn back time and change my mind and never let him go. I had made the biggest mistake ever, and my heart was absolutely crushed. I thought maybe we should have another baby and I longed for it to be a boy and we would name him Benjamin, but I knew nothing could replace the one we had given up. The presence of my other children couldn't fill the gaping, jagged-edge, profusely-bleeding hole in my heart, because Benjamin was GONE.
And then, as dreams do, it came to an end, and I woke up, secure in my own bed in my own home, the Benjamin of real life safely sleeping in his own crib, mere steps from me. I felt relief, yes; but even more than that, I literally felt physically ill. The anguish of heart affected my body, and I felt nauseated. Over and over I told myself, "It was only a dream. It didn't really happen. Only a dream. Only a dream. Thank You, God, it was only a dream." Though I was awake, the lingering sensations from the dream were so strong that my mind struggled to grasp reality. I COULD NOT SHAKE IT.
Several days later, the ache in my heart is still so tenacious when I think about that dream; but two positive results have shown themselves. First, my compassion for those who have actually lost a child has grown exponentially. It's not that I was without compassion before--far from it! But if I could feel such pervasive pain from only a dream, what must it be like for those who are confronted by the reality? More than ever before, my heart breaks for them.
Second, each moment with Benjamin since I awoke from that nightmare has been a precious gift--each time I've held him close and nursed him, each time I've changed his diaper, each time I've slipped clean clothes over his head and stuffed his chubby arms and legs into fresh sleepers, each time I've seen his smile, each time I've heard his laugh, and what's more, each time I've heard his cry. "You can cry as much as you want to, sweet boy," I find myself wanting to say to him. "It is a HOLY HONOR to care for you, and I will joyfully lay my life down for you and serve you in the humblest of ways. Because you are REAL, and you are HERE, and you are MINE."
And then an old car went by, stopped abruptly, backed up, and a woman got out of the driver's side and approached. Instantly I knew that she had evil intentions and meant to grab at least one of my children, stuff him in the trunk, and speed away. As quickly as I realized that, I became the epitome of Mama Bear, physically putting my body between the woman and my sons, shouting to Tobin and Shav to get behind me and stay there (then I wondered if they, especially Tobin, had been able to hear me clearly because they had hats or hoods covering their ears and my voice was facing the opposite direction from them because I dared not take my eyes away from the approaching woman), and preparing to hit, kick, punch, bite, claw, and do whatever else I needed to do to take down that woman so she COULD NOT TAKE TOBIN AND SHAV FROM ME. I would stop at nothing to defend my own.
I awoke with fear and fierceness still coursing through my veins; and, in my half-awake/half-asleep state of consciousness, I did my old trick of rewriting the ending. In this case, I had someone--one of the other workers along the icy road--come to my assistance; and we successfully stopped the plan of the woman and kept my children safe.
Why did I have these dreams? I don't know the answer to that. But because of these two terrifying nightmares, I, who regularly strive to notice and appreciate and treasure my children, have been motivated to do those things so much more.
Sure, they're only dreams; but even the unreality of dreams can have a big impact on the reality of life! And the past few days, my reality has been comprised of frequent repetitions of this kind of prayer, "God, please keep Your hand on my children. Protect them. Don't let them go. I trust You with them. Thank You for them. Thank You...
It's the prayer that never stops.