Dates and Dreams and Love and Hope

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

The Date

I didn’t even remember it until I wrote the date out at 10:37 on Monday morning. Got as far as “6-” and when I had to remember that the date was the 27th, a little spark went off in my brain. … something important about this date… I stopped to contemplate the moment. I wondered if I should write a post about the day and its importance, but it felt too contrived. They’ll know it’s an afterthought What will people think, then?That I just don’t care? Out of sight, out of mind? That I’ve moved so far on that I don’t think about or love her anymore?

The scary thing is that all of these things are true.

See, the 27th was the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death.

I wanted to remember my mother forever after she died, mostly because I was afraid I’d forget her. I would sit with pictures of her and stare, trying to burn her face—her eyes, her ears, the wrinkle in her brow that only appeared when she laughed so hard she snorted—into my mind. I needed to create neuropaths tattooed with images of her at various ages so that, (long before 9/11) I would never forget.

I wonder how much I look like my mother when she was my age now. I’m slowly approaching the age she was when she died, which I’ve seen for years as the last milestone to hit before my life is really mine. I couldn’t imagine my life without her for so long, that I sometimes pretended she was still alive, even beyond the dreams I had; a life that belonged to no one.

Then I would wake up and she would be gone, and I would be devastated all over again.

Sunday night before I went to bed I watched a Nova documentary on why we dream. The whole thing was fascinating, although there was no scientific conclusion as to what the purpose of our dreams really is. Most fascinating to me was how REM sleep works. REM sleep has us using random (free) association to create connections in our brains between old and new information to make sense of a problem we might be trying to solve. Which makes me think about the dream.

The Dream

I’m in my neighborhood, and see a building I think might be abandoned. I enter from the alley behind the building and step onto an escalator, which takes me upstairs. As I move upward, everything about the building changes. The dust and gnat-ridden floor becomes clean and crisp, and I see my mom in the distance to greet me. The details fall away, and she tells me she is with Steven again. I am stunned, fearing for her life again. I panic and look for a way out. She says it’s complicated, and it’s fine; it’s different where I am now, she says. I look around to see where we are, and everything is white.

White cabinets. White dishes. White clothes. White furniture. Everything is clean and crisp, with stainless steel accents. Everything makes sense, but I can’t make “everything” out. My mom says again that she is okay, that she is good, and everything is finally okay with her. She wants to take me for a walk someplace to show me how she knows.

She leads me down a hall with more white walls, and stainless steel accents everywhere. Clean and crisp. She lets me slip past her and I step onto the escalator; my mom does not. I try to climb back up, but my steps take me no closer to the top. I can’t move my legs fast enough to keep from being lowered to the bottom floor. I sob, reaching for my mother. She stands on top of the escalator, smiling, waving, getting smaller and smaller until she’s faded and all I see is white.

I am now in my apartment trying to explain to my girlfriend what just happened. I take her back to the building, and it is just an abandoned building, with an alley entrance that is blocked off and boarded up. There is no escalator, it is now a single story building. Dusty, gnat-ridden.

I stand in front of the building alone, stunned. Clean and crisp.


Luckily I was also in therapy at the time, so my dreams and I didn’t have to navigate through life alone. The dream happened at a time in my life when my brain was trying to solve a lot of problems, most of which are insignificant now. The importance that remains is the recognition of that dream as the moment I truly began to let go of my mother, and make a clean break from her past into my present. I finally accepted she wasn’t coming back—which is crazy that it took more than ten years, given all we know about the permanence of death. I finally accepted that she was fine where ever she was, and that I needed to move on, unless I wanted to stay standing in an alleyway before an abandoned building in my dreams every night. I did not.

Back to Sunday night, I think about this dream of long ago, as I learn that dreams piece together our current reality and try to solve our problems. Non-REM sleep tried to make logical sense of my life, while REM sleep seemed to use crazy connections or seemingly unconnected events and objects and people and places and escalators to bring me closer to peace. At least, that’s what I believe.

I believe I’m in constant search of peace. That there is chaos all around, and I can choose to try to make sense of the chaos, or I can choose to search for peace. For a long time I tried to make sense of the chaos, and found myself swimming in vicious circles. I had to drown myself in the past in order to try and make any kind of sense of its chaos. I had to be submerged in what had already happened so that I could play it out in new ways, trying to come up with some sort of understanding. This is the crazy-making part of the belief that everything happens for a reason.

When we believe that everything happens for a reason, we end up trying to search for those reasons—the crazy-making, vicious circle. I prefer now to let life be, and go forward in truth. So when I say I believe that my mom is out of sight and out of mind, and that I don’t care as much anymore, and that I don’t love her as much anymore, I mean it’s kind of true.

The Love

I don’t think about my mom all that much any more, but this is a good thing for me. Now when I do, it’s on my own terms, not chaos’ terms. It’s not crazy-making to accept where I am and live from this moment forward. Today, I don’t care about the details of her death—frankly, it’s none of my business. I don’t even care about whatever happened to Steven anymore. Today, I can write his name and it doesn’t give me heart palpitations. As I sit here today, my mom has been out of my sight for twenty years, out of mind for much of the last ten years, and almost non-existent in my thoughts over the last few years. With her body and her details gone, what remains is my love for her.

It’s a different love than what I had for her when she was still alive. This love is of her memory. The memory of a woman I loved deeply. Fierce love for a woman who was stripped away from me during a time I was already struggling through. Undying love for a woman who made many perfect mistakes, which contributed to the wise and imperfect woman I am today. Transcendant love for a woman who lives solely in my memory, and visits mostly on holidays and birthdays, with a few random surprise visits.

This love is all I have.

I decided that rather than post something cryptic on one of my social outlets and have people bombard me with questions until I answered with either the truth or that I wasn’t telling (then why would I post anything in the first place?), that I’d write this post and share my process of lovingly forgetting my mother.

I’d prefer to be the perfect daughter and remember every little detail and cherish every moment without her, but it didn’t happen that way. And since the way I love my mom is my reality of life and death, it’s only fair that this is the part I share with you. I no longer need or want the attention of announcing that this is some sort of anniversary. Along with the people who let me be, there are always people who feel sorry for me, or who never met her and think they have to say something poignant and meaningful, or even people who knew her that think they have this perfect anecdote I’ve never heard that will make everything okay.

Trust me, there’s nothing that will make everything okay.

Nothing anyone can say, nothing anyone can do.

Because really, everything is already okay.

It’s been twenty years and I’ve grown and loved and hurt and moved on, not necessarily in that order. I began to privately let go of my mother years ago with that dream. It took many months—dare I say, years–for me to process and truly be at peace with her death. Maybe now it’s time for the public letting go. Not because I need the public to say anything, or because I need some sort of closure or validation. But because this is how it will go for you one day—although I hope under more peaceful circumstances—and I hope seeing my process and the words I’ll say next will resonate then, if not now.

The Hope

I hope you know it’s okay to let go of the woman you love.

I hope you know it’s okay to be angry with her and still love her at the same time.

I hope you know she loves you, even if her way of showing it was sometimes cryptic.

I hope you know she’s okay, where ever she is right now.

I hope you know it’s okay if she only shows up for birthdays and holidays and random surprise moments.

I hope you know it’s okay to laugh when you think about her.

I hope you know it’s okay to cry.

I hope you know it’s okay to feel neither one way, nor the other.

I hope you know it’s okay that you are little bits and pieces of her, even when you try not to be.

I hope you know it’s okay that you’re your own woman, and in some ways, you’re nothing like her at all.

I hope you know that it’s okay that your life is yours.

I hope you know it’s okay.

I hope you know you’re okay.


Lindsey June.30.2011 at 1.38 pm

This is lovely: difficult and honest and beautiful.  Thanks for sharing your memories of your mom, your process, and the last lines that really speak to me.  Thank you. xo

Dian Reid June.30.2011 at 5.02 pm

Thank you, Lindsey. So glad my light was able to speak to yours =) xo

Lindsey June.30.2011 at 1.38 pm

This is lovely: difficult and honest and beautiful.  Thanks for sharing your memories of your mom, your process, and the last lines that really speak to me.  Thank you. xo

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