After Erik’s death, my entire family and I plunged into a state of numbness. We were shaken by a grief so profound each minute seemed like an eternity. Making the funeral arrangements from choosing a casket and burial plot to deciding what clothes he should wear in his perpetual sleep was an agony that clawed angrily at my heart. Every decision was gut-wrenching and insurmountable. All I wanted to do was lie down in a corner and sob. I’m so grateful for the inner strength my husband, Rune, demonstrated. He too was in pain, but society mandates that the man must keep a stiff upper lip and muddle through on their own somehow. They are the silent, neglected grievers, the broken warriors who need just as much support and comfort as women.
In all the tragic turmoil, however, Erik came to provide us with comfort three times in as many days. The second night after his death, he came to my husband in an uncharacteristically vivid dream. In that dream, they were both standing near Rune’s new Ford F-350, a truck that my son drooled over with great pride. Then Erik said in joyous excitement, “I feel so wonderful! I’m so light and free. It’s an amazing feeling. Here, Pappa, feel.” And when Erik reached out to grab his father’s hands, Rune was overcome with a sense of intense euphoria unlike any sensation he’s had before. It was a feeling of joy, love, comfort, lightness and freedom that simply cannot be describe in our limited language as humans. After a few moments, Erik let go of Rune’s hands, leaned toward him and said, “This is what I felt like before.” Rune then felt the deep despair and darkness that had long tormented his son. The world felt heavy and unwelcoming. Rune knew Erik was trying to convey that he was fine, in fact happy for the first time in years. From that moment, healing for our family had begun.
Erik’s grandfather, José, had a similar experience. Let me preface this by saying that my father has never truly believed in life after death. To him, when the body dies, so does the soul. We all simply turn to dust. There is no immortality. There is no God. There is no Heaven. Three days after my son’s death, my father called me to say that Erik had come to him in a dream. I could tell by his voice that he was quite shaken. He said Erik appeared to him as a small boy. He crawled into his lap and snuggled against his chest. My father felt, without a doubt, that Erik’s presence was real. He felt the warmth of his grandson’s small body and the love that emanated from his presence. Mind you, my father was wide-awake at the time. After a few moments, Erik looked up at his grandfather and recited a Spanish proverb that essentially translates as “things come in threes.” Dumbfounded by the encounter, my father exclaimed, “Why did this happen to me? What does it all mean? I feel so startled!” Erik’s visit challenged the very foundation of the staunch beliefs he had held for decades. As for the meaning behind the proverb, I wondered to myself if Erik was preparing my father and my mother, both in their 80s, for their own transition into the afterlife.
The third visit was to a family friend, Kelley. She has known all of my children since they were small, and our families have vacationed together several times. Erik was quite fond of Kelley, in particular. Shortly after his death, Kelley called me to recount a lucid dream she had had: “I saw Erik in a beautiful meadow sitting in a hammock with his back to me. Beside him sat a girl with long, light-brown hair.” (This may have been a former girlfriend who, 7 months earlier, suffered an accidental gunshot wound to the head by a drunken “friend” who thought he had unloaded his new revolver.) Kelley goes on to say, “People were milling around everywhere. I got the sense that everyone knew and loved each other and that they regarded Erik as some sort of celebrity. He seemed to have a movie star quality about him, like Brad Pitt. I moved closer to him and asked, ‘Why did you kill yourself, Erik? What could have possibly led you to do such a thing?’ Then he turned his head to look up at me with that charming, mischievous grin he was so famous for and began to sing a tune, ‘If you wanna be free, be free. Cuz there’s a million things to be,’ and then he calmly faced forward and hummed the rest of the song.” Kelley woke up with a start, wondering if the tune was indeed an actual song. Eager to verify her suspicions and lend meaning to the dream, she jumped out of bed, turned on her computer and typed the lyrics into the search window. The results stunned her because, although she hadn’t recalled ever hearing the tune before, it was an actual song composed and sung by Cat Stevens entitled, “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” Days after, the song appeared as a theme in a commercial for T-Mobile. Eventually, we would discover the true meaning behind that song as you will soon discover.
All of these dream visitations were of great comfort to my family and me although I wondered selfishly why he had not appeared to me, his own mother. In retrospect I believe I was too besieged by grief to open my mind and heart to him. But that would soon change.