I dreamt about my Mom two nights ago. It is the first time she has appeared to me in a dream since her death ten months ago. As with so many dreams, none of the details fit together, but my Mom was completely herself. If the “herself” is the Mom I knew before age and illness and memory loss crept in.
In the dream, she appeared at the door of an apartment I shared with three others, bearing brownies and her soft smile. I was delighted to see her, but not surprised. We talked for a bit, had a brownie and a cup of tea. And when I turned to pour her another, she was gone.
I’ve talked with many of you over the years about our dreams of deceased loved ones. For some of us, those dreams magnify the loss—we wake missing them more than before. For others, the dream is an opportunity to talk again, to laugh again, to walk again. For me, the dream of my mother left me grateful. Of course, I miss her. But the dream reminded me of the gift she was to me and my brothers and sisters. Though not a powerful or important woman, she shaped us all, teaching us patience and gratitude and compassion. (I miss her more writing to you about her now than I did when I woke from the dream.)
What do you suppose prompted that dream?
Of course, we’ve all been having weird dreams and interrupted sleep these days—our minds processing in sleep what they cannot comprehend while awake. Isolation. Unemployment. Illness. Grief. Fear. Anger. Disappointment. Boredom. All those things we suppress during the day stomp through our sleeping like Maurice Sendek’s Wild Things.
Or it could have been that I discovered an on-line auction for a neighbor from the farm. Scrolling through the photos of her possessions was like being in my parents’ home, her belongings were so like theirs. (Sadly, I lost the bid on a box of marching band uniforms. Who doesn’t need a box of high school marching band uniforms?)
Or maybe it is that, as is typical in my line of work, I’ve been immersed in a scripture text all week in preparation for Sunday preaching. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because we always read from John 10—sheep and shepherds, gates and gatekeepers, thieves and bandits.
In the text, Jesus names the religious leaders, the would-be gatekeepers of religious and civic life, “thieves and bandits.” And himself? Later in John 10 he will name himself “good shepherd,” but in the verses we will study he names himself “gate.” “I am the gate of the sheep,” he tells the “thieves and bandits” in flowing robes.
I am the Gate. Unusual image for a leader, for a teacher, for a savior, don’t you think?
In addition to weird dreams and scripture study and zoom meetings (spare me another zoom meeting), I’ve been thinking about those who lead us through this current crisis—the elected leaders and medical professionals and economists and analysts and theologians who seek to guide us through this unprecedented chaos. Some of them, many of them actually, are performing heroic, selfless, honest service. Others ought not be given a public platform or newspaper column ever again. Some of them I would follow into battle; others I wouldn’t trust to walk my dog. Some of them are “Shepherds” and others “Thieves and Bandits,” to quote Jesus.
Back to my dream. Perhaps the dream of my mother was simply my brain processing all this week has held. Memories of life on the farm. Biblical images of shepherds and sheep, gates and gatekeepers. Public leaders tasked with ordering our common life. My own struggles to know how to be your pastor in absentia, how to lead our congregation into a future filled with promise and peril in equal measure.
Or maybe my sleeping self knows a truth my waking self is too sad to imagine—that what I really need right now is a brownie and a cup of tea with my Mom. It would do us all good.
“See” you Sunday,
Pastor JoAnn Post