I've had life and death on my mind a lot this past week.
A young man, a former student of mine, recently (May 29, 2009) wrote on his page on Facebook:
Now I lay me down to sleep, pray the lord my soul to take. If I die before I wake, thanks a helluvalot for the friggin' warning!
He was just being funny, and I still enjoy remembering the irreverent cheek with which he addressed this old nursery rhyme and most everything else in life. However, a week after writing this (June 8, 2009) he died in his sleep. I'm not making this up. Yes, it is ironic, but when it is someone you care about, who cares about irony?
Frank was a young man I was very fond of, a clever, funny individual, barely out of his 20s, a joy to his friends and family, unexpectedly gone early.
This past week also saw a baby born to friends, a young couple about the same age as Frank. Both events occurred with days of each other, baby Charlie coming into this world on Friday, Frank leaving it three days later.
Here's something else odd that seems to tie in to these events. Unknown to me, Frank died sometime Monday night. In that last dreaming state before waking Wednesday morning, I had a vivid dream during which I flew. I've had flying dreams before, but only rarely. Years go by between flying dreams for me.
In the dream, I and another woman were teachers charged with assisting young people learning to fly. In my waking life, I am a teacher, and the symbolism here fits my beliefs. Isn't that the job of parents and teachers, to give our children wings and help them fly?
The other teacher and I each had a small group of young people, teenagers by the look of them, who were holding hands on top of a steep hillside. We sprang into the air with them and then let go, but after hanging in the air for a few seconds, they started to drift down again like balloons leaking air. This reminded me of astronauts on the moon, where the gravity is weak, who were able to take big leaps, but did not lose that gravitational bond with the moon's surface. I watched the young people kick off again as soon as they were close to the surface, float up, drift back down, kick off, and repeat the process, basically taking big hops down the side of the hill. But, none of them were able to actually fly.
Finally, we all reached a path that ran horizontally across the downward path. We had started walking along the path, basically through with the lesson, when I impulsively stopped, leaped straight up with my hands in the air, as one would when diving off a diving board, leveled off and flew over their heads. I was showing them that one could fly if one just believed one could. I flew down the path for a bit until I reached a bend in the path. The path took a sharp left, and straight ahead there was another drop off. As I flew out into the air past the turn, a young man joined me in flight and together we did a couple of loop the loops in the air. Then, that part of the dream ended. I thought nothing of it when I awoke, except how nice it had been to have a flying dream.
I took my shower, went downstairs, ate my breakfast, and then my husband told me that Frank was dead. I did not believe him. I thought he was fooling around or that Frank, who was very witty, had written some clever comment on his Facebook page, but he said, no, Frank had died in his sleep.
And then I looked at that dream with fresh eyes. I'm not terribly psychic. I don't think I've ever had a dream that could be called precognitive, but that this dream may have been about Frank or dreamed with Frank, I have to wonder. There is no way to know for sure, but I wish I'd gotten a look at the face of my fellow flier. For, it seems to me, that one who was once earthbound as we are, finally achieved flight.
Coincidentally, I am also reading Deepak Chopra's book Life After Death: the Burden of Proof. One of the stories that he tells from Indian tradition is of a wise man who asks a young woman, "Do you remember ever not being alive?" Of course, she doesn't. None of us remember not being alive. We only remember being alive, not the point at which our lives began. He goes on to tell her that our parents tell us the first great lie, that our life began when we were born. And if we believe THAT lie, that life has a beginning, then we will believe the other lie, that life has an ending.
I have long believed that we were alive in spiritual form before we entered our current physical bodies, and it is only that mortal shell we inhabit that dies, not the soul. Nothing can kill the soul. It is eternal.
It doesn't stop me from grieving the passing of my young friend, gone too soon from my life and the life of his parents, family and friends, for it is a separation we did not ask for. I miss Frank, but it is comforting to know that he has found his metaphorical wings.
The image at the top of the post was Frank's last profile image on Facebook.