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Gently Down a Stream…Life is but a Dream

Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say anymore about life? ~ Henry Havelock Ellis

If, as Carl Jung proposed, the psyche has a foreshadowing of death before it comes, how do the physical circumstances of death line-up with it? And if the psyche does indeed experience a foreshadowing of death through dreams and intuition, where does it come from? Does the foreshadowing imply a design?

I believe the life force was draining out of my father long before the car accident that led to his death, in the same way that a bright leaf hangs from a tree in October, and when you see it you know it’s only a matter of time before it will fall. A hard frost or gust of wind is like the equivalent of the physical circumstances (illness, accident, etc.) that precipitate death. And the leaf dropping from the tree is like the body, something we slip out of when it’s old.

“The tree doesn’t die when the leaves on it do. But are we like the tree, or just a leaf growing on it?” I posed the question to my husband on the ride home from my father’s funeral in an effort to convince myself of the continuity of life. As one who struggles with religiously framed tenets, understanding life and death by looking at nature appeals to my sense of logic.

But I don’t understand! Not really.

“The tree does die! Eventually,” I blurted out an hour later, as if I had the discovered the answer to a riddle, or a hole in the theory.

“The earth doesn’t die when the tree does. Are we like the earth, or just the tree growing on it?” I quipped, knowing my line of questioning could go one endlessly. “Do we go on endlessly?” I seemed to be asking.

Hospice caregivers and others who work with death report that many dying patients who start out fearfully resisting death often come to accept it. Acceptance is facilitated through dreams, contact with unseen forces, or an internal process, and is often accompanied with a burst of energy and marked lucidity. Is that what was happening to my father when, after being frustrated, impatient and confused for weeks, on the last two days of his life, he was (in my sister Sherry’s words) “almost ecstatic.” On the last day of his life, he announced excitedly “Today’s the day! Everything is coming off (tubes, neck brace, etc.),” and he looked at the calendar repeatedly as if he knew (in my sister Kathy’s words) “his contract was up.”

Some people believe that the soul makes a decision to be born. Maybe we don’t die either, unless some sort of agreement is made, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.


Good food for thought, Colleen. I saw that process with a good older friend of mine who died of colon cancer. Acceptance came hard, but it did come. When my great-grandmother died, family members in the room report that she sat bolt upright in bed, with a smile on her face, and said "I see you, honey, and I'm coming". We don't know to whom she referred, as her husband was still alive at the time, but she was definitely communicating with someone already passed. She might have been doing it for weeks, and we didn't know. That story helped all of us take her death a little easier, as she was obviously happy to be going.

Yes, Kenju,
My girlfriend's mom never regained consciousness after a surgery. Except for the moment when she bolted up in bed and said, "I don't know what to do." Family members told her it was okay to go and then she did!

Just because we can't see beyond the horizon doesn't mean there is nothing beyond it. We know there is.

My dad's been having a difficult time sleeping lately. Yesterday he allowed that maybe the reason he's been having a hard time is because of the things he's thinking about, such as he's too old to use the snowblower, too old to shovel, too old to clean the gutters and it worries him that he can't do it. After reading what you said, I wonder if something is coming.

I agree, though, that it is very comforting to believe that there is something 'beyond'.

That quote made me think. I guess that is why you posted it...thank you. Again, I'm sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Your words are amazing and your thoughts very true. I enjoy reading your posts and comments.

While going through my training to become and EMT, we were told, "If a patient tells you they are going to die....believe them." I've heard lots of times people become the strongest, clearest, etc. just before they die. I agree that people are sometimes allowed the chance to "let go". Both of my Grandparents decided to "let go". Colleen...Nana kept asking when it was going to be Christmas before she died. It seemed very important to her to make it to Christmas. She died in early Jan.

I love your thoughts about the leaves, tree and earth. I do find something wrong with it though. We aren't trees, leaves or the earth...we are *part* of all of it.:) That's why it's hard to draw the parallel to it.

You are such an amazing woman! I know you have been hit hard. My thoughts and prayers continue

Hi Col, Just some thoughts to add to the pot: From the leafs point of view, and esoterically speaking, some would say that after the leaf falls from the tree it will no longer "have to" identify with being a just a leaf. In it's deepest joy it would now be able to relinquish that simple role and become part of the bigger miracle and be ALL THAT IS which has no end. Of course, with this kind of explanation, our worry is that there's been a total change; the leaf is gone...it will no longer be there for us. It was so pretty hanging on the tree - it provided shade - it helped us breath; as trees do - we loved that leaf as we watched it grow and change colors...the prettiest, in the fall just before it drops. The leaf was there for us and now it's gone. Perhaps though, the leaf is happier now. It has been freed from it's temporary function, of being just a little leaf, with all the problems that leaves do face; the hot sun - pounding rain - dry summers - people tugging at it. Needless to say - our dad is not a leaf, so this analogy might seem way off the mark. It's just a concept. I'm using it to add to your thoughts. Dad will never really be lost, his journey has now been transformed... and maybe...just maybe...like the leaf, he will be able to be so much more because he will no longer have to identify with his role. Yes, his precious qualities will always be so very very missed. I wish I really could know the truth of it.

Loved ones are always alive in our hearts and memories. I personally believe in life of our spiritual bodies after our physical ones have worn out. I am comforted in knowing there will be no pain, illness, no suffering. I am confident that this new life will be more wonderful than I can imagine.

My grandmother had Alzheimer's and had reached a point where she did not communicate with most of us. We had visited for two weeks without her saying anything. The Saturday before we flew home, she sat at the table and for five minutes knew who we were and related a story of her childhood with clarity. Then the shade closed. The next day she fell ill and died on Monday. The clot that blocked her mesenteric artery had already formed that Saturday, it was already starving her bowel of oxygen, the die was cast and we didn't know it. Perhaps she did. She too was ready to go, my grandfather was waiting for her. Perhaps she knew and was given a moment of true clarity to say good-bye in her own way.

I am so sorry for your loss.

I'm sorry for your loss, Colleen, I haven't been by in a while, and much has happened here. I appreciate the way your let us into your heart as you contemplate these things--I learn much from you.

My mother had told me that the night before my grandmother died, she looked wonderfully peaceful as she slept; before, her face had always been in a scowl. The night my mother herself died she was joyous, expecting to be discharged in the morning.

I've heard of pets dying in their companion's arms after being told it was all right to go. There is so much that we don't understand.

This is a great post and very provoking. I believe that the person has a knowing that it is going to happen. Even, if it is sub-concious. I think my sister "knew" something was going to happen. Which is why she asked my husband and I to take care of her child a week before the accident.

i also think we go on to have experiences we cannot see or dream of. The journey continues. I just cannot believe that THIS is all there is....

I'm completely in agreement that I don't believe THIS is 'it.' Wonderful post, Colleen.

You pose some very profound questions, Colleen...it gives one a lot to think about and contemplate...I sure have no answers myself, but I thank you for stirring many things in me with these recent posts...

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