Soon after the wild trip to deliver my grandfather to my aunt, I had a haunting dream that set the stage for my obsession with genealogy and researching my family history.
In my dream, I’m walking through darkened rooms in a silent house. Where am I? Oh, I know this house! This is my aunt’s house. I’ve spent much of my childhood here. Where is everyone? With that thought, I now see through the windows that there are people out on the patio and scattered in groups across the lawn. Why are they all outside? Normally, everyone would be gathered around the big swamp cooler, visiting and telling stories as the children chased each other through the house.
I pull myself up short, realizing I’ve reached the end of the hall. This door leads to my aunt’s and uncle’s bedroom. I catch my breath, remembering the sticky door lock and the times I’ve found myself locked inside this room, screaming hysterically for rescue. As if against my will, I knock softly, hoping no one will answer so I can turn around and leave. The door slowly opens and I see a woman in a chair by the window at the far end of the room. She beckons me forward, but I’m frozen in place. Although it’s very dark and I can’t see who this woman is, my dream self knows her as Grandmother - not one of my grandmothers, but a woman called Grandmother.
As she continues to beckon to me, I finally overcome my fright and move toward her. I try to see her face, but the room is dark and she is shrouded. She motions to her right, indicating that I should look at the pictures arranged on the table there. I glance at the pictures and then look at her questioningly - what does she want? She motions again and this time I really look at the pictures. Immediately, I see what she wants me to see - this is the story of my life, of the lives of everyone who has ever lived and ever will live. In these stories, I see how everything fits and I realize that I know everything there is to know and everything is going to be OK.
And then I woke up . . . retaining for only a moment everything I’d just seen. Then, snap! I could remember the dream, I could remember that I’d known something very important, and I remembered the feeling of knowing that everything was going to be OK, but the substance of my epiphany was gone.
This dream still haunts and inspires me. My takeaway was two-fold: (1) At the moment when I understood everything, I knew that everything was as it should be, and that everything was going to be OK, and (2) the key to my understanding is in the stories of the people I saw in those pictures. Whenever I am overwhelmed with grief or anxiety, I take a deep breath and recall the comforting certainty of my dream, believing that the answers lie in the pictures and documents that paint the stories of our intersecting lives.
And with that, I received this beautiful tribute to our ancestors from my sister today - a call to remember and to show our respect by writing them into our stories.