Beyond the Ash Tree and the Endless Road:
It’s like dreaming, but knowing that you are dreaming, and that you can’t leave the dream and go back into the world that seems like a dream nearby, the voices of your children disturbing the drowsiness, talking to you and expecting you to answer, and you want to but you can’t move or speak, you are there with them and yet you are busy elsewhere, some of them talk about you as if you have already gone.
You can feel their emotions, sadness, grief, shock, confusion, guilt, and when they touch your arms or forehead you can still feel it, but it seems far away.
You are waiting, for what, you are not sure, in this doze, a drowsy time like a sleep in the study after lunch, you wish that the nurses would stop moving you about and administering medicines as if this is helping you or healing you, and their actions bring you closer to the surface, away from your doze a bit, closer to an unknown horror that you are trying to avoid, pain? vaguely you remember pain, headache, sickness, you feel yourself cough and then the pain fades and you drift back into the comfortable waiting dream, you dream of your children and their endless talk and demands that you always needed to take refuge from in the study and in prayer, you dream of your grown up children, how you wanted them to understand you and come home, you wish you could speak and say something, but you can’t speak aloud, you send your thoughts to them instead ‘I love you’. You wish you could open your eyes and see who is actually there around you, they keep telling you who is there and you think it is strange that you can’t see them, can’t see anything much most of the time, sparkles of light and busy things going on somewhere nearby, it is like there are now two worlds, a sleeping world and an awake world nearby that you aren’t completely in.
You are waiting, waiting for something but you aren’t sure what.
then you are awake again, in the real world. Your children are all there, and your wife standing behind them, you wonder where she has been, she wasn’t really there in the nearby waking world when you were sleeping, all your children are there, the estranged ones seem fainter and further away, but you reach out to all of them and bless them individually, you remember and yet don’t remember their names, the eldest three are furthest away but you bless them anyway, the one who you were proud of will take after you, the one who found you is lost in grief and there is one who is very clear and close and yet is also lost in the dark, you can see a bit of paper in her hand and you can see the words but you don’t understand, a tribute that will be read out, you bless all your children and your wife and you tell your wife to remember your words, then you are dreaming, dreaming of the playtimes of all your children, the sun shines over the great hill and the tide is in the children are running and laughing in the sun and the wind.
You hear people talking nearby, they disturb your dream, you realise that they are nurses and they tell you about a scan, what scan? they talk to you familiarly and you never liked that, you see yourself being prepared and wheeled on a trolley and yet you can feel the trolley as well. You realise that your beard has gone, you are like Aslan when his mane was shaved, you feel grief, why have they taken your beard? you feel blood in your mouth and you cough but you can’t move your body, you are up there watching your body and someone else wipes up the blood.
You hear the doctor’s grave voice, unemotional and final, ‘there’s no brain activity’. ‘No brain activity? My brain is fine, I can still think, I am still here….?’ You feel the grief, you hear the phonecalls, you want to move your sleeping body and say ‘I am still here’ but you are beginning to realise that you aren’t. There are people all around you now, hurrying or walking slowly, some are quiet and shadowlike, some are crying out in pain, some are angry and defensive, some are happy, looking forward, you are on a road, heading somewhere and you feel expectation, sparkles of happiness, something you have been waiting for so long, but the grief pulls you back from the road that is calling you, people are saying your name, back in the waking world, trying to keep you there, resigned to the fact that you are not there any more, you smile down at them and wait, wait as your body sleeps and waits to stop breathing, you are waiting between the two worlds, waiting to go, reluctant to go, looking down at your children as they grieve, knowing that they love you and that love blots out any bad things and hard times, perfect love, perfect peace, the scar has gone from your forehead and you look up at the ash tree that stands by the endless road and you start walking up towards the mountains as the waking life ends, walking easily and joyfully with all the pain and disability gone, all the harsh confusing struggles of life over, all that is left is the realisation of your dearest hope and the lovely dreams of your young children when you were young with them, walking in endless happy dreams towards home.
layla tov motek, le’hitra’ot