There are beliefs that no one truly dies until all living memory of the deceased vanishes from the earth. So long as a single person…a spouse, sibling, child or friend remembers someone they knew in life, the deceased are not truly dead. Final death occurs only when all living memory of a person is gone; when the last person who personally remembers the deceased has also passed away. Then an individual passes into history and is nevermore.
There is some truth with this idea. The dead really do continue to exist in our memories. And the memory can seem so real it appears as if they are still alive, mostly in our dreams. In our dreams we have far more vivid memories then possible when awake. The dreams can become so clear, we may question if it was only a dream, or if the dead actually visited us while we dreamed.
My mom died two years ago of cancer. It was a horrible experience, and I blogged about it back then. It was hard for my dad, but he is ok now. He is a tough guy. He was born in Lithuania and experienced WWII as a child in Eastern Europe. After the war his family immigrated to America, and I am his son. So he is a tough guy, having faced horrible events as a child. He was in Nazi Germany during WWII while the Allies were bombing German cities. He recalls seeing a woman fleeing a flaming building covered with fire as she clasping her child to her breast trying to escape. Horrible, terrible stuff. Those experiences formed my dad’s view of life.
The point is my father is not a sentimental guy given to emotional flights of fancy. Yet sometimes he dreams of his wife, my mom. Last week I asked him if he still thinks of mom. He said he had a very vivid dream of her.
He dreamt he was in the first apartment he and mom lived in. It was in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago long ago. He is now 79 years old. Mom was in the doorway of a hallway, standing there just looking at him. She did not say a word, just made eye contact. And she was happy, with a compassionate gaze. She was not the age when they lived in the apartment when they first married, but at her prime.
However, she wore the robe she had when she was sick, when she died of cancer. Dad mentioned that…she was wearing her last robe. The robe she had at the hospital.
He said in his dream, it was so clear, that he felt she was right there before him. Even after he awoke it was clear in his mind. When I chatted with him later, he said he could visualize the dream.
I asked him if he thought mom actually visited him in his dream? Just to say hi? I’m still here, and I am watching over you and I love you? Or was it just a dream. He didn’t know.
Merely a dream or more, the dead are not dead until the last person who remembers them no longer exists.