About 3½ months before her death and 1½ months before her diagnosis of cancer, a woman in her early 70’s had the following dream:
I enter a large barn. It is empty except for an older, maroon-colored car, similar to one I used to drag race back in the 60’s. It must have been restored for it is in great shape. Some women come into the barn. They seem to have some authority over it. They decide the car needs to go. They will have it moved outside because they want to use the barn for something else. I am upset by their decision for I feel the car is a classic and ought to be preserved.
The maroon car brings back fond memories for Lila (not her actual name). It takes her back to a happy and exciting time in her life. Symbolically, the car reflects the conscious beliefs and values that carried her through life. But now it is being put outside, like a horse put out to pasture. It has served its function and is now viewed as no longer being of use. It signals the end of an era, a worldview and period of time representative of Lila’s life.
Around the same time as this dream Lila had another dream:
I’m walking up a desert road on a slight incline which was like a trail. The hillside is kind of yellowish-orange sand with sagebrush. I notice a large hole in the side of the hill to my right. It is the size a badger or coyote might make. I’m surprised it is so close to the road. As I get alongside it I see a large, well-preserved snake skull. It is caramel color with brown tones. As I get close it starts coming out of the hole and moves to go up the hill on that side of the road. It has a very wide snake-like body with rattles. It is as wide as a badger’s body and about that long. It is not a threat to me as it just moves up the small hill. I was very surprised it had a live body and just an empty skull for a head. The whole thing seemed somewhat sinister.
For several months Lila had been experiencing digestion problems. Having had similar symptoms before, she assumed that they were just “stress-related,” for she had been worried about her boyfriend who was dealing with a serious medical condition. Lila sensed something ominous about the dream. She wondered if perhaps it was warning her of her boyfriend’s future death. Such was not the case, however. The dream was a harbinger of her own death.
A snake is a common symbol of the psyche (total personality), for like a snake we outgrow our skin—that is, we go through psychological transformations—many times in a lifetime. Combining the snake symbol with that of the skull suggests that a death process, or transition, is occurring. Lila intuitively grasped this idea but misunderstood its reference. The dream is informing her that the transformation to next take place—the skin to next be shed—is her own physical earthly presence. Indeed, the snake’s abnormally short body may have symbolized the brief amount of time she had left on earth.
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
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