Dreams can be difficult to interpret. This is not just because they speak a language of images and symbols, but also because it’s not always obvious what aspect of your life they are referring to. While most dreams offer insight into your current attitudes, relationships, and life situation, some dreams bring insight into your past and others into your future. Your unconscious knows things you don’t know. For example, it knows when and how you will die. And sometimes it gives you information about these things so that you can prepare for what is to come. This is one reason it is helpful to keep a dream journal. Often it is only with the passage of time and more dreams that certain themes become apparent and the meaning of earlier dreams is made clear.
In this and subsequent articles we will examine the dreams of a dying woman. All of them occurred before she even knew she was ill. She did not know, but her unconscious knew, and through her dreams gave hints of what was coming.
Nine months before it was discovered that she had cancer, and 11 months before she died, a woman in her early 70’s, whom we’ll call Lila, had the following dream:
I’m in a car with some people who are giving me a ride to somewhere? A man is driving. We all visit. I’m in the back seat. They want to stop and get snacks. I say no problem. I think I have my wallet with some money in it—but then I discover that I don’t have it. My purse is also missing. I feel terrible. I don’t want someone else providing for me. I want to be responsible for myself. I decide to call for someone to meet us and pick me up. We drive across a damp, flat meadow with soil and grass showing on it, towards some trees which are dense and dark. Then I realize a much younger, 1950’s version of my mother is coming to pick me up. I’m not happy.
The dream begins with a journey, a journey to an unidentified place with people Lila did not recognize. It is a journey into the unconscious, the unfamiliar. The dreamer discovers that she is missing her wallet and purse. Since a wallet usually holds forms of identification such as a driver’s license, it is a common symbol of our conscious identity and role within society. To be missing your wallet therefore suggests an opportunity for transformation, the loss of an old role or identity so that a new role and sense of self can be born. The dreamer is uncomfortable with this situation and calls for someone to pick her up. She wants to be restored to her familiar role.
The car drives over a damp meadow towards a dark, dense forest. She is “off road” now, off the well-traveled, structured paths of society. She is entering the land of the unconscious—new territory, unknown and mysterious. There she is met, much to her chagrin, by her mother. Lila’s mother, deceased at the time of the dream, did not treat her well when she was alive. Although her mother lived to be 90, she is in her 30’s in the dream. (It is not uncommon in visitation dreams for the deceased person to assume the age they were in the prime of their life.) A strange turn of events is occurring in the dreamer’s life. As far as she knows, her health is very good. Yet, instead of being picked up by someone from the land of the living, she is picked up by someone from the land of the dead. Perhaps her mother, whom she loved but disliked, was sent by the unconscious as a messenger and chauffer because the thought of dying was so distasteful and abhorrent to Lila.
Approximately three months after this dream and 6 months before her diagnosis, Lila had another curious dream:
I’m in a little old-fashioned house like my grandmother used to own. Xavier (my significant other) is with me. Older couples are bringing us food. Some come to the front door and some to the back. All were friendly and the food was good. The activities seemed almost funeral-like. I remember one food item being like an egg sandwich I had as a child. The crust was rather lumpy and there was pickle relish on it. We let the folks know that we had to leave for some appointments. Then we found ourselves in a small business, an older grocery store with a diner. There was an older woman on a gurney by the door when we came in. She asked if we could help her. She was lost. She handed me a crumpled 3×5 card with an address on it. She was trying to find that place. We were surprised—it was our place in this little old town.
Interestingly, after Lila was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, things played out very similar to parts of this dream. For example, many people, mostly older church friends, brought homemade meals for her and Xavier to eat. They came to both the front and back doors, and there was a funeral-like atmosphere, for Lila’s prognosis was poor from the start. Impending death and a sense of paying last respects was present. In addition, she had numerous doctor appointments to attend to, so visits had to be scheduled around these.
One of the food items reminds her of an egg sandwich she had as a child. An egg is a symbol of new life, perhaps a promise of life after death. It also reminds her of childhood, as if her life is coming full circle—a return to where she began.
At a grocery store she and Xavier encounter an old woman on a gurney who is lost. The place she wants to get to is the very place where Lila and Xavier live. Since there was no one in outer life who was actively seeking her help, it is fair to ask if the woman on the gurney was not a foreshadowing of Lila and her future condition, for she died at home in a rented hospital bed.
[To be continued.]