Dream State


April 10, 2008



Debra Shirley

It’s been almost four weeks since I lost my Dad, and I appear to be stuck in Dream State . You know what I mean. I’m still waiting to wake up and have him here talking to me. I know I can’t stay here forever, but this is the only state of grief I can claim right now. I can’t go back to before the nightmare and I can’t move forward because the thought of the rest of my life without him is too much for me to bear - at least, for today.

It is said that there are many stages of grief. Anger – Regret – Despair – Acceptance – Living. Death cheats us of life with someone we love. Right now, I’m feeling cheated. Even though God blessed me with many wonderful months that we should not have had, I still feel cheated. So I’ll live in my dream where the great cheater, death, is not allowed.

It’s a strange place I’m in right now. Some people would call it Denial. Well, that’s understandable, because I’m the Queen of Denial. I live in a constant state of pretending everything is okay. If there is stress in my life, I pretend it isn’t there, until one day I awaken, and it’s not. If there is a problem between me and my husband, I ignore it and eventually it goes away. If I have health problems, I put off accepting them for as long as I can. If someone tells me I have to deal with something, I veto their decision and quietly refuse. Many would think Denial is a dreadful state, but it’s worked for me my entire life, and it’s working for me right now.

Oh, sure, there are moments when I have to accept that my dad is gone. But those moments are fleeting. When I break down, I whisper a prayer. “Lord, I’m just not ready yet. Please, give me a little more time.” I inhale, hold my breath, exhale, and go forward knowing that I’m one breath closer to admitting my loss, but choosing to postpone it until another day – another moment.

My head says, “He’s so much better off. No pain. No more meds. No more trips to the ER.” My heart just can’t catch up. My heart says, “I don’t care. I want my Daddy.”

I know it’s a normal reaction. After all, my family has been here before. Almost thirty years , with no warning and no time to prepare, my 21-year-old baby brother was taken changing the dynamic of our family forever. He left a void so huge that I thought nothing and no one would ever be able to fill it. I was right, but I was also wrong. There is still a hole deep in my soul that yearns for Chuck everyday, but God poured Himself into it and eased the heartache and pain.

I know He’ll do it again. Eight months after Chuck's death, God provided a miracle through the birth of his baby girl. Brooke brought healing. Laughter returned to the walls of my parent’s home. Now, she’s provided Mom with a beautiful replica of herself. An now, Mali brings enjoyment to my mother and our family in the midst of our grief.

For you who have never lost someone you love, you may not understand my dilemma, but you will. Unfortunately, there will come a time of loss and you’ll follow me through this Valley of Dreams .

You’ll open your eyes every day and pray, “Lord, please tell me it isn’t true.” And you’ll wait. You’ll move forward, slowly, but you’ll move, because you can’t stay in one place forever. That’s not how life works – or death for that matter.

My Dad has moved forward. He’s walking streets of gold. His back is free of pain for the first time in over ten years. He walks upright without a walker. His legs are strong. I wonder if he’s mowing the grass. I know he’s doing something, because Dad was never one to sit and take it easy. Maybe God gave him a can of paint and said, “Here Charles, paint until your heart is content.” Perhaps he works in the morning and plays baseball with my brother and his best friends in the afternoon. Has he knocked one out of the park yet as he so often did when he was younger? I was always so proud when that ball cleared the fence. He passed that talent down to his great-granddaughter.

I wonder what kind of reunion he had with his parents. His father has been gone more than 50 years. Did he meet him at the gate? Were his sister and niece there too? And what of his brothers. Did all three await his arrival? Do they get to share a house as one huge family?

Does he yearn for me as I do for him? Does he long for Mom, Libby, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too? Some people say that he doesn’t because of the song No Tears in Heaven, but I learned last year in a Bible study that those lyrics may be flawed because Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things s passed away.” In that final day when God returns and makes His dwelling among men, He Himself will wipe the tears from our eyes. Like Jesus who longs to call his children home, I wonder if my father shares that desire. 

 In my dreams, Dad sits at Jesus feet and tells Him, “Father, I love you so.” In my imagination, they talk about us and he tells our Savior how happy he is that we all know Jesus and will be with them again one day. In my dream, Granddaddy Hyche is leading a heavenly choir and, for the first time ever, Dad is singing in it. In my dreams, he is dancing too. I don’t have to dwell in the place of despair because I have hope. There is a future. There is life after death. In my dreams, there is truth.

Will I have to move forward from my Dream State ? As surely as I have breath in this body, I will, but not now. Not today. For today, I’ll dream. I’ll journey to that place where Dad zooms through his house in his Hooveround. I’ll cling to the memory of the last time I saw him seated in the rocker he gave me. I wish I could remember what we talked about. I can’t even remember why they came to visit, but, oh, I’m so glad they did. I’m so grateful that my Heavenly Father gave me that one last moment – that one last kiss – that one last “I love you” – that one last. For that is what dreams are made of. That is what I hold on to. That one last everything tucked safely in my mind and in my dreams.

Thank you Dad for my one last! I’ll love you and miss you forever.


Your Loving Daughter, Deb   

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Deb Shirley

12467 McMath Trail

McCalla, AL  35111