Last night I dreamed of Mom for the third time since she died.

The first time. I dreamt that she was sick but not quite gone. I had a chance to talk to her at the end, while she was lucid, that I didn’t have in real life. By the time I arrived at her place last December, it was too late. She could no longer communicate complicated thoughts, and was down to only a few of the most important words to convey needs. In my dream, she was able to share with me her thoughts about her own death.

I want to know what she thought of it. Of course it doesn’t matter, and maybe if I knew it would be bad, but I still want to know. But there are clues, and they are good. Mom told me about a year before her death, the thing that everyone could agree is ideal to hear. “I am satisfied. I could die happily now,” she said, back when no one (except maybe her?) suspected anything.

Instinctively, I knew she was being literal. In my discomfort, I had laughed. “Ha ha, Mom what the heck are you talking about?”

“I just mean…I realize I have had a good life. I have my dream home. My kids have all grown up into wonderful people. My husband provides everything I need, so I am never hungry and I have beautiful clothes and jewelry, and things for the kitchen and new furniture if I want it. I have reached the goal. So now I can die.”

I spent Thanksgiving with her, and on Friday after, she had me drive her to her friends’ houses so she could say goodbye. She did not say that to me, or to any of them, but I realize now she was making her preparations. She told her friends (and I listened quietly) how she was getting very sick, but that she looked forward with joy to being in Heaven soon. Mom expressed pure conviction that she was going to be accepted with genuine welcome by God and Jesus. I was relieved to see that, because she had spent a significant part of her life doubting Their love for her and doubting her worthiness. She seemed eager to go.

The second dream was the most therapeutic. Mom had already died, but she had come back to help me pack up her belongings from the house. She looked like her real self in my dream, and I didn’t touch her, but we both knew she was only an apparition. I re-lived the traumatic day of when cousin Debbie and I packed up her bedroom, only this time it was not traumatic, just very sad. I asked her the questions that had been burning.

“Mom, why did you save these antique baby clothes? Eight different, empty, antique fake leather coin purses? The empty Eau de Toilette bottle? A block of wood and a carving tool? The embroidered pillow case folded and wrapped and kept in the bottom of a trunk?”

“Is this old magazine important? Why did you keep this newspaper clipping? Where in the WORLD did you put your gold jewelry? We have been looking everywhere!”

And she told stories that were triggered as we worked. She told about being a little girl, about her dreams, her plans for the things she had kept. She told me why she hid them in old travel trunks, buried in the dust of her mountain cabin closet. We smiled and looked at each other and felt a desperate sadness, but still a peace.

I woke up, not remembering a single word she had said in the dream, but still feeling the peace that comes from having 100 questions answered satisfactorily.

My dream last night was …less… than the other two. Mom and I didn’t interact. I knew she was there, like the apparition of her in the second dream. She stood still, beautiful, with her long brown hair falling down her back.

Mom stood off to the side of the activity of my dream, which was in a house, with a family that I wasn’t a part of, but had been welcomed to join. They paid no attention to her at all, and she didn’t do anything but stand to the side. I had my dream without her really. I participated in the dream actions and had the dream conversations, but kept looking over at Mom, who merely stood there, watching. I knew she was Mom, and that she was gone. My level of sadness in the dream was about at the level I manage to keep it in real life these days: as long as I don’t allow myself to think about her, it is a dull ache in my chest and at the back of my mind.

It’s easy to tell that it’s my psyche working through things despite my efforts to resist. I refuse to allow myself to think about her during my waking hours because I would break into pieces and I don’t know how long it would take to get put back together again. So, I guess my heart tries to work it out in the night, when my willpower is not as strong.