Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Dream for All Souls Day

In November of 1993, my grandfather died. Over the short time he spent in the hospital, the family was given the grace to come and see him. It was a chance to speak our goodbyes, but Grandpa was speechless. He could see us, his eyes could pierce our own with a sorrow and pleading that I never saw in him before that day, but he could not speak. The stroke had robbed him of words. So we gathered, and prayed. We told him we loved him, and he was given the Anointing of the Sick. In that month of the Holy Souls, my family hoped that he would make his peace with God, that he would be able to trust, to rest. A scapular was placed on the bed post. My father saw Grandpa try to make the Sign of the Cross once or twice, but those frail arms would not obey. Frustrated, locked in silence, this man of the Old Sod who fought in World War II, worked as a welder for over 30 years, raised ten children, and loved his John Wayne movies, gave up his last breath on a Saturday, Our Lady's Day, wearing the scapular. His spirit moved free and strong again over those patchwork fields of Donegal, out into the West, through the thin veil of cloud that divides time and eternity. At the funeral, in a military chapel on a misty morning, a lone piper played Amazing Grace and we wept in our soft, subdued Irish way. We had grown silent too. But it was not uncommon for my grandfather to be silent. Frank was never much of a talker. He was a quiet man of action, total and uninterrupted, as he kept the family going and growing all those years. There are so many stories, and in all of them it seemed Grandpa's silence was the thing that spoke the loudest, in the lessons he taught his children. The year moved on, and many rosaries and masses were offered up in his name, as we prayed he would be in the Father's House. Then, over a year after his death, and the night before Ash Wednesday, Grandpa gave us a word. My Aunt Margaret, the eldest daughter, had a dream... She was in a white kitchen, an empty kitchen it seemed, all bathed in a white light; she couldn't make out any details. There were no appliances, just a sink and a window, and a lone figure stooped over the sink, stirring a cup of coffee. It was Grandpa. When he turned around, Margaret saw his face, young and strong, smiling. He was wearing his Irish sweater. "Daddy, what are you doing here? You look so good." Margaret said in the dream, perplexed, knowing he was dead. "Margaret, I'm all right." And he hugged her close. A few nights later, my aunt was on the phone with Grandma Donaghy. "Ma," she said, "I had a dream the other night. I saw daddy in a kitchen..." "Was he wearing that Irish sweater?" my Grandmother whispered. "Yeah, he was holding..." "A mug of coffee.... stirring it." Margaret's face paled as her mother relayed the very dream she had on the very same night. "Frank," my grandmother said in her dream, "what are you doing here? You look so good." "Nellie, I'm all right." He put his arms around her and the dream ended. There are coincidences, and their are God-incidences. How can two people have the same dream, with the same setting and the same dialogue, miles apart on the same night? This seems to me to be the work of angels, a pulling back of the veil, a gift and a glimmer of that silken web that binds us all and forms the web of being that is suspended above and around us all. For the Mystery of Providence, thank you God! For Your tender care of each of us, thank you Father! I believe Grandpa is home. For those who doubt, no explanation would suffice. For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.

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