I had this dream 18 months ago and it was the kind of dream experience that happens occasionally – waking up out of the dream and upon falling asleep again, going straight back into the dream. It was 6 years between this one and A Mother’s Love but they are intimately connected. In that post I told the story of how the song by Anne Murray I’ll Always Love You acted as a bridge to re-unite my mother and me after a painful estrangement. In this dream I was desperately trying to find that same song to play it in memory of her.

The dream:

A service is being arranged for Mum. It’s not clear when she died and it doesn’t appear to be a funeral but more like a memorial service. I don’t know where we are or who I am with but it feels like family. We are working out what music to have. I say we must have at least one Anne Murray song and suggest ‘I’ll always love you.’ The dream then goes into one of those marathon ‘can’t find what I’m looking for’ episodes. I know I had made tapes of all the Anne Murray albums I had but couldn’t find any of them. I decided to try and find the original LP records and re-copy them and the search was then on for the albums, again to no avail.

The scene then switches to the kitchen in my current house and Mum is with me. I don’t recall the details of the conversation but the gist of it is that I am very worried about something. Initially Mum shows concern but as the conversation proceeds she starts teasing me about my seriousness. I get upset and ask her why she is treating me like that. Her response is “It’s because I love you.” In an exasperated tone of voice I say, “If you really love me you wouldn’t make fun of me.”

I wake at this point, still quite upset. I know I should write it down but before I can rouse myself, I fall back to sleep and the dream starts at the beginning again except this time it feels like I am in my old house. I redouble my efforts to find the song but to no avail. There is someone with me supposedly helping but she is prattling on about I don’t know what and I become increasingly annoyed at the distraction. I finally give her a mouthful and tell her to piss off and leave me alone and with that I wake up.

This time I got up and wrote it down. It was obviously important because of the escalation of the intense emotions in the dream and the residue that carried on into waking but I was quite baffled by it. Mum had been dead for 31 years at this stage and most of the dreams I had of her were what I termed spirit visits and they almost always had to do with healing or solving some emotional difficulty. This one too felt like she was trying to help me but without knowing what we discussed, I couldn’t work it out.

Later in the day, I was on my way into town when I got a call on the mobile. It was a friend calling to see if I wanted to meet for coffee. This friend happened to be one of the few people I could discuss dreams with and they were always our favourite topic of discussion. She had been my hypnotherapist many years ago and was intimately acquainted with all my family issues. The timing of her call seemed more than a coincidence so I was happy to change my plans and meet up.

We tossed around some ideas but nothing felt right. The most obvious interpretation was that not being able to find a song called I’ll Always Love You as a tribute to Mum and the amount of frustration and anger I felt in the dream suggested some unresolved grief or even anger but I felt pretty much at peace with my relationship with Mum at this stage of my life. We also looked at the other woman in the dream who was hindering my efforts to find the song as a kind of inner saboteur figure getting in the way of me finding this ‘always’ (eternal) love. This did make sense as I often felt at odds with myself but as dreams don’t usually tell you things you already know, it still didn’t feel like a good fit. We parted not having come to any satisfactory conclusion and all I could do was let it percolate.

Next afternoon I got a call from my sister to tell me she had just learned that our aunt – Mum’s sister – had died and that the service was going to be next day. The news affected me deeply. Her death wasn’t unexpected, she was 90 and in a nursing home but it posed a dilemma about whether or not to attend. Aunt had been my second mother growing up and I had lived with her family at different periods of my life. Although disclosing about the abuse I had experienced at the hands of her husband had driven a wedge between us, I still cared deeply for her and wanted to pay my respects. I hadn’t had much contact with the family in the intervening years and I didn’t know if I would be welcome. My sister decided against going so it meant I would be on my own.

I texted my friend with the news saying that I thought there might be a connection with the dream as it was Aunt having a go at Mum that caused Mum to stop talking to me and then eventually reconnecting via the song in the dream. There was a flurry of text messages and in the end I got one telling me to think about whose feelings I’m protecting and if I want to go, to take a risk and just go. I was taken aback as it sounded quite exasperated and most unlike her but then it hit me – this sounded very similar to the conversation with Mum in my dream! Here I was making a big drama out of the issue instead of just following my heart. As I reflected I became more convinced that the conversation I had with Mum in the dream was about this very dilemma and that she was encouraging me to go. With that, all feelings of trepidation left me and my mind was made up.

As it turned out, it was indeed a memorial service and not a funeral. It was held in football clubrooms and there was no casket, which made it feel very much like the sense I had of the event in the dream. Aunt’s only daughter, who I hadn’t seen in 10 years, broke the ice when she saw me by holding her arms wide for a hug and telling me how happy she was to see me. To my great relief my other cousins were equally friendly and that helped ease my feelings of awkwardness in this large gathering of relatives I had never met, having had little contact with the family in over 30 years.

The tributes to my Aunt told of a woman who was absolutely devoted to her family and adored by them and who didn’t have an enemy in the world. Two of her children and several of her grandchildren paid tributes to her and they all told the same story – how she made each and every one of them feel special and absolutely loved. I knew this side of her and it was unquestionably true but I also knew what lay in the shadows. Her determination to keep the family together and defend her image and her role as matriarch meant protecting her paedophile husband and turning a blind eye to his activities at any cost. I wondered how many people in the room had been affected either directly or indirectly by their shared complicity. Was it possible that the love she gave so freely balanced out the negative effects? At this stage of my life I could no longer judge her choices and behaviour, or condemn her for her attitude towards me and nor did I want to.

When the invitation came for anyone present to say a few words, I hesitated long enough to settle my pounding heart and then went forward to tell a little anecdote about her perming my dead straight hair when I was around 4. Her daughter had very tight curls just like her father and so when she took me home, Mum at first mistook me for my cousin. It was a sweet memory and typical of the little things she would do to make a child feel special. She gave me more affection than my own mother was capable of and to dwell on what I saw as her betrayal would be to negate the very positive influence she had on my formative years and all the love she showered on her own family throughout her long life.

There was a funny little incident towards the end of the service that again reminded me of my dream. A rather outmoded portable CD player was being used throughout for the music, with one of the granddaughters operating it. When the celebrant announced that The Sunny Side of the Street would be played to accompany the slide show, she duly pressed the button only to have something quite different start playing. There ensued a comical scene of trying to find the right track. The player was on the floor, which made it even more awkward and as she became increasingly flustered her father came to the rescue and amidst apologies for the ‘technical difficulties’ it was eventually located. I had a little chuckle to myself. It wasn’t Anne Murray but as my mother had also been a big Willie Nelson fan I know she would have thoroughly approved of the choice.

Another interesting bit of information that emerged at the service was that it was my Aunt and Uncle’s 65th wedding anniversary on the day I had the dream. Aunt survived him by 5 years and one day so they had 60 years together. As they were married the year I was born, it was also my age. This coincidence further convinced me that the dream was about Aunt’s death, rather than my birth mother’s. Over the years I have had countless dreams that have occurred on significant dates pertinent to the people in my dreams, regardless of whether they had been on my mind consciously or not prior to the dream. Without this one I doubt whether I would have had the courage to go and I was so glad I did, as much healing came from it.

With my cousin’s permission I made a recording of the service and listening to it again later enabled me to reconnect with the side of my aunt that had become a dim memory for me. Her 7 year-old great granddaughter gave out sunflower seeds to plant in her memory, which I sowed the following day. Appropriately it happened to be All Souls’ Eve (Hallowe’en). It felt very satisfying to do so and as I nurtured them over the following months and watched them bloom and then die, I felt that I had at last found the peace with the past that had been my quest for a long time – consciously for the past 20 years but unconsciously probably my whole life.

It wasn’t quite the end of the story though as I had another dream a year later that got me in touch with some residual anger that was most likely connected with the anger I expressed at the end of this dream. That will be the subject of the next post.