Wednesday, October 24, 2007


An October Moment...

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but writing this year's round of October Moments has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not because they all revolve around my parents, but because I realized something fairly early on: I didn't believe in October Moments anymore.

To be sure, the events I've written about all occurred: my son saw eagles I couldn't see; the lightbulb in the garage blew out; the Éclair continues to stare at empty spaces with the most rapt attention; the duck night light was unplugged before it could cause a fire. But my suspension of disbelief--or to put it most bluntly, my faith in the idea of unseen forces acting in my life--was gone. It was only too easy to find a rational explanation for everything. I'm too incredibly near-sighted to pick birds out of the sky. The lightbulb in the garage was old and had never been changed in all the time I've lived in this house; babies constantly stare at nothing. As for the night light? As sleep-deprived as we were with a new baby in the house, I could very easily have unplugged it myself and forgotten. I mean, you're talking to a man who after an all-nighter in graduate school once stumbled into the kitchen to fill and set a coffee pot, eat an entire bowl of lime-green Jell-O, then urinate in the sink--all in front of his bemused housemates and one startled landlady--before stumbling off to bed for a 19-hour nap, waking with no knowledge of the event.

Writing these entries was a struggle, not because I knew they were ordinary events after all, but because I suddenly found it easier to believe in a rational explanation than in anything else. My gut sense, my instincts about the unseen, which have guided me since the age of 12, seem scrambled. It's as though whatever antenna inside me that once picked up those signals has become bent or broken, at a time when I really needed it in working order.

It's a terrible thing to lose faith, like descending stairs in the dark and missing a step, there's an awful lurching moment and a sense that you're about to fall into the void, only that moment just seems to go on and on. For so many years I really believed that unseen forces acted upon our lives, and considered myself one of the lucky ones for ever having experienced a taste of it. In the past six months, I've come to wish I never had.

At least, I did. Until I had the dream last night.

Or to be more accurate, I had the dream again.

For the past few months, it's mostly been a fragmentary thing: a sense that I'm in a moving vehicle, lights flashing crazily around me as the vehicle lurches. Then there's the sound of metal crashing most terribly, followed by darkness. I assumed that I was simply dreaming about being in the accident that killed my parents.

But last night, for some reason, I dreamt more than a fragment. I dreamt a revelation.

As before, I was in a moving vehicle. Lights flashed dizzily, sickeningly. The car lurched. The gnashing screech of metal filled my ears...

...and then the car turned sideways and in my line of sight I could see the grille of the truck. In particular, I could see the silver dog sitting on top of the grille. And I knew exactly where I was.

This wasn't my parents' accident.

This was my car accident, the worst accident of my life. It occurred in October of 1991. I wrote about it at length here, as some of you will remember. That night, I was broadsided by a dump truck at 60-some miles an hour on a crowded expressway. The collision sent me across four lanes of busy Chicago traffic, yet only one other car hit me, the car that knocked me to safety, into the breakdown lane beyond the reach of traffic.

In the dream, each second of that night was replayed with hideous clarity. As before, time slowed, and I had plenty of opportunity to look up into the grille of that truck, and more than enough time to realize that I had come to the end of my life. I was all too aware that the truck was now lifting my car up on its side and that in another second (or hour. Or year) the car would roll over and the truck would crush it, and me along with it. As before, I thought to myself, with an otherworldly and quite uncharacteristic serenity, So THIS is how I die.

And then a second later, everything changed. The truck didn't slow down--couldn't slow down, not for several hundred more feet--and yet my car stopped rolling. Somehow, something righted my car and forced it away from the truck, pinwheeling it into four lanes of oncoming traffic. There were cars in every lane, all going as fast or faster than that truck. I should have been hit multiple times. Instead, I spun across every lane, getting hit only in the last lane, and then knocked almost into the El tracks.

And still the dream went on, playing out the events of 16 years ago with total fidelity. I reached to open my door, but it was bowed inward, hopelessly smashed shut. In less time than it takes to type this, I was out of my seatbelt and across the passenger side. Except that door was blocked by the concrete retaining wall. I rolled the window down in three mighty jerks, then threw myself out the window and up onto the retaining wall.

And there was the El, bearing down on me.

I twisted and flopped forward across roof, sliding down onto the hood of my car as the El roared by. I caught my shirt on the jagged edge of the front fender, then flopped bonelessly onto the tarmac before rolling to my feet and sprinting from the car. I ran straight ahead, up onto the stopped Caddy in front of me, bounding up on its hood and over its roof before sliding off the trunk to the road again.

I probably would have kept on running, but just then...

Just then...

In the event, the driver of the Caddy--an older gentleman whose only distinguishing feature I can recall at this point is that he was from Romania--leapt out of the car and called to me.

But in the dream, there was no driver.

Instead, my parents were standing there in the breakdown lane. And I stopped running.

They were dressed as they always did when they traveled. My Dad was wearing jeans, a grey fleece pullover, a cap bearing the Cabela's logo. My mom was in a blue pullover, a denim skirt, her bag hooked on her shoulder. They were both smiling at me. It was a smile I'd seen hundreds of times, the expectant smile of parents waiting for their kid to come out of the gym after practice, to come off the stage after a show, to get off the bus and bound through the door.

Now they were waiting here, of all places, of all times, they were waiting here, on this strip of highway in October of 1991.

"What is this?" I asked.

They said nothing. Just kept smiling.

And then, as sometimes occurs in dreams, I was simply given to understand what was happening, or what had happened, or what would happen. I don't know if I can explain it to you now in a way that will make sense--or at least make the kind of sense it made in the dream--but I'll try.

In a moment, what I was given to understand was that I should have died in that accident. It's true. At the time, in the actual event, the cops, the truck driver, witnesses--EVERYONE marveled at the fact that I didn't have a scratch on me. For a long time afterward, many people--including my own parents--spoke of it as a miracle.

What I was now given to understand was that it was a miracle that had been bought and paid for.

I was given to understand that this accident was just one counterweight in the great Rube Goldberg machine of the universe, a machine that somehow stood apart from real time, so that two similar events--two horrific car accidents 16 years apart, for example--could be parts of the same machine. Could, in effect, act one upon the other.

I was given to understand that somehow, after the accident that killed them, my parents were given the choice of dying in the accident (I know it sounds like nonsense now, but in the dream, in the context of time not mattering, cause and effect didn't matter either), with the understanding that this action would create a reaction. I was given to understand that they had made a conscious decision--a trade. In 2007 they sacrificed what time they had left here so that in 1991 I could emerge miraculously unscathed from a car accident that should have been--that WAS--every bit as terrible and fatal as the one that killed them.

Oh my, it sounds so insane telling you this now, but I swear to you that in the dream, it was like a puzzle piece finally falling into place. I mean, aside from all sense of time being thrown out the window, it made perfect sense. Given the chance, given the opportunity to save your child by sacrificing your own life--no matter how or when it occurred--wouldn't you seize that opportunity? I know I would, in a skinny minute.

Meanwhile, my parents were still standing there on the highway, silent but smiling. I opened my mouth to tell them that I understood what they had done, but before I could speak, they already seemed to know what I was going to say. My mother laughed, the softly derisive laugh she always had when one of her kids had so naively jumped to the wrong conclusion. My Dad just shook his head.

And then I really got it.

If you've read my earlier entries about the events of that night in October of 1991--written a full two years ago--you may remember that this was not just the worst accident of my life, but the best one, too. It led directly to me becoming closer to Her Lovely Self, which in turn led to, well, every good thing I have in my life. But now I finally saw how much more it led to: Thomas, the Brownie, the Éclair, not just as they are now, but as they will be. I saw their children. I saw their grandchildren. I saw hundreds of people--a multitude, a world of them--and they were all mine, all my family.

And all because I wasn't killed in a car accident.

And all because my parents were.

"I get it!" I cried. "I really get it now!"

Then, for the first and last time in the dream, my Mom spoke to me.

"No, you don't get it at all," she said. "This is just something you made up to make yourself feel better."

And I woke up.

Now, I don't know what to believe.

But as matters of faith go, I suppose that's better than not believing in anything at all.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I don't know what to beleive either. Are the dreams right and reality is wrong? Are we so caught up in the logical-ness (now there's a word for ya!) of reality that we can't accept what our dreams are trying to say to us? Or is your mom's comment in the dream right and you really are just trying to make yourself feel better? Jeez, who knows anymore. But thanks for sharing this kind of stuff with us. Makes you think, anyway.
Here's a thought. Maybe BOTH interpretations are right. Maybe everyone is making it up as we go along, AND there are weights and counterweights everywhere that we're rarely aware of.
MM, your writing has evoked so many emotions since I started reading you...but not until today have I had a jaw-dropping revelation while in your word-world. Thanks for that.
Maybe it was a message from your mom, or from God,or from someone else. Maybe you are making it up to make yourself feel better. I don't know and neither, I suspect, do you.

If it makes you feel better, it's all good.

If you are making it up, there's no deceit involved, and it might be what you need, so what's to feel bad about? Dreams just happen and are usually uncontrollable.

I wish you comfort and healing howveer you can find it.

And now you've got me creeped about my car accident in 1987. I migth have died but only got bruises. Those early Hyundais had horrible steering, and I skidded on wet leaves.

But they had fabulous safety harnesses,which saved me. The car flipped and landed on the passenger side but I stayed buckled in until I let myself out. The bruises were mostly from my shines hitting the underside of the dash.

I've never really though of why I was saved,just glad that I was.
I agree with Little Gator, I think you should grab on to whatever comfort you can get. You wrote that you have been having this dream for a little while, maybe more clarification is still to come?
I don't get how you can not believe in October Moments anymore! I agree that the ones you've written about recently haven't seemed much more than coincidental or odd. And I completely understand why you would not necessarily be into writing October Moments in this particular year. But what about FLYING PINECONES, cold spots, or "Look, Dad. People who aren't alive anymore."

Geez. It's people like you who make believers out of people like me who have never had a single paranormal experience ever.

As far as the dream goes, I believe it. But I tend to believe things based on the sheer amount of people who have experienced them. And people who claim to have died and come back talk about things like trading life events.
Any dream is better than none..i have naver dreamed about my son since he died, and i have no clue why not!
I would venture a guess and say that the image of the whole unraveling into circles, ripples of generations..thru you, you parents..your childrens the real truth.

the deep truth.

You imagined a soeaking you came out of a deeper sleep..into more of a "this time" consciousness.

The closer I am to being awake..the more realistic my dream become..and the less sense they make.

Stop trying to make sense. Faith has very little to do with sense.

As always, I am very touched by your adventurous candor.
After hearing that you can insert your will into your dreams, I kept telling myself each night to ask my Dad where he is now, because I see him quite often in dreams. One night, I finally "remembered" and his response was fascinating. And although one might just write that off to my subconscious supplying his words, they weren't at all what I would have expected, so who knows? I like to believe he communicated with me.
I didn't really believe in any of this year's October Moments, until now. I don't know if I could tell you didn't believe in them, if that was communicated in the way you wrote, or if something else was happening, but it seemed like you were looking for a Moment and not quite finding one.

This dream definitely qualifies as an October Moment, though. I got the pang of shock, the thrill. My initial response was simply ""

You're a storyteller, and because of that you search for meaning, or at least connections. That may be where the dream came from initially. You could probably explain it all away as your subconscious trying to deal with the horrible tragedy you've suffered. But I could feel the awe in your tone this time. I don't think your mom's comment at the end was just you talking to yourself in your head. I think your parents were communicating with you and you could sense that, and that's why you can't write this one off like the others.

You weren't looking for this one. And even though the given explanation makes sense, I know you never would have asked for it.

What was your mom really saying? Maybe she meant that she didn't see her choice as such a huge deal, and she didn't want to be thought of as a martyr. Maybe she thinks she did what anyone would have done, and she doesn't feel she should be sainted for it. So she brushed the whole thing off, told you not to think about it that way.

I don't know; I'm just speculating based on what little I know of an amazing woman I never had the honor to meet. But your parents always seemed like honorable, humble-when-it-mattered, kind but tough people.

In any case, there's no question in my mind that they came back to you in your dream, to try and give you what you needed.
Wow - strongest October moment ever! Thanks for including your struggle with them this year - it did make it so much more real.
Touching, inspiring, beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
"My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55:8-9
Very interesting post, MM. I don't know what to make of your dream either, exactly. And, I've never seen a ghost before, myself. But I do sometimes wonder if when I dream about my father that's his way of staying in touch from wherever he is now.
MM, you've nailed it yet again. I was crying in my soup, vigorously nodding in agreement.

I'm wading in a pool of darkness desperately wanting to believe, yet rationalizing and doubting all of it.

Never having had a working unseen antenna myself, it's easy to chalk things up to wishful thinking, or grasp at straws whilst drowning in that darkness.

I'm not going to venture an interpretation of your dream, there are too many too count. In time - it's meaning will become clearer.
So, didya hit your shin or not?
Don't be concerned about your doubts. Faith cannot increase without them. Doubt is the space into which faith grows.
Parents are your foundation. When you lose them suddenly, you can lose faith in everything.

What you believe is your reality. Maybe no one elses, but it is definately yours. It is what you feel and experience until the day you die. Then maybe, it's false. Until you die, as long as you believe, its your truth.

And maybe I'm full of crap because your post pushed some of my own buttons, because of the loss of my mother, or maybe it's because I haven't had any caffeine yet.

October is full of nostalgia.
My own philosophy says that the made up part in the dream was the tit-for-tat scenario. Your miraculous escape from death in 1991 does not depend upon your parents trading their lives for yours.

Whether one views this dream as a visitation or the mutterings of an active, semi-conscious imagination, what a gift it is! It is part of our nature to need to know, yet the fabric of the universe prevents a complete knowing.
If God does test our faith, which is a basic tenet of most religions, then yes, there are always "rational" explanations. If it were obvious that no rational explanation could possibly exist, then we would be forced to accept a supernatural explanation, and there would be no test. The test of faith is in either dismissing the rational explanation because you sense the involvement of something unseen -- or in recognizing that even the rational explanation is evidence of God's will. If something made you get up in the middle of the night -- more than once -- and unplug the dangerous night light and go back to bed and remain completely unconscious of having done so. . . how is that any less miraculous?

And as for what your mom said at the end of your dream, I personally think that it was just your rational mind insisting on having the last word.
I need to ponder this entry more and then write a better comment. This story speaks to me on many levels. I've been told so many times over the past month how lucky I am to be standing/to be walking/to be alive after my recent accident (though I keep having flashbacks to it.) And dreaming about parents moved on... I don't dream of my father anymore, and, as time goes on, I don't dream much about my mother. And with one exception, when I dreamed about my father, he never spoke. With one dramatic exception, that felt much more like a vision than a dream...

Must ponder this. It's brought back very vivid memories. I shouldn't read your blog when the back has woken me up at 5 in the morning on a Saturday. Now I'll never go back to sleep! I blame you, MM! ;)

Off to ponder, ponder...
Don't discount your feelings. I was in a similar car accident in 1989 in MD. I was driving home from work in my little Honda CRX, cool fall evening, sunroof open, listening to Melissa Etheridge's new album and a tractor trailer hit me. He had one of those cabs with the long extended engine compartment that sticks out, and I was in front of him in the lane to his right. Well, all but about a foot of my car was in front of him. He changed lanes, spun my car sideways so my head was level with his license plate and continued to bump my car about 10 times b/c he still didn't see me and couldn't figure out what the aound was. It was completely silent to me, only the tape player's music and the wind, and I felt as you did - this is it - this is how I'm going to die. I let go of the wheel and folded my hands in my lap and just waited. The last time he hit the side of the car, it spun away and slammed into the retaining wall over train tracks about 200 feet below, passanger door against the wall, facing the wrong way on I-95. My seatbelt didn't even tighten. It was bizarre.

Turns out he didn't have insurance and then drove off and left. I eventually drove home, making only left turns b/c the wheels wouldn't turn right (that's what I get for being dumb and 19) and spent the next few months wondering what, exactly, happened.

I think what I settled upon was that I'm not really in charge of the timeline of my life. I make the decisions, sure, but some things are too big for a little mortal like me to manage, so it is out of my hands.
what i've started doing, when faced with decisions like this (i.e. believe or don't) is go with the one that makes me feel best. an explaination may come with time, or not.

i'm sorry, though, that life has made you start to question. i don't think i'm the only one that will not be sad to see 2007 get outta here.
First - I've been reading off and on since discovering your blog earlier this year.

Second - My parents grew up in Elkhart, IN, before moving away (military life!). While I haven't been there in years, I had the instant, personal connection (simple as it may sound).

Third - What's to say that both are right... that there is the counter-balance/cause and effect in the cosmos, but due to the thoughts of "rationalizing" the other events, your mother's words may have been the "rationalizing" side coming through, talking you out of the otherwise poigniant moment.

Fourth - and here's the hardest part to write. I can SOOOO (almost) relate to your frustration and your events. My wife died earlier this year - she was almost 27, and it was shortly before our 2 year anniversary. I am not one with an "active" antena for "October moments" (broken a long time ago) - but I believe they exist, and I was desperately hoping for one after she died (my in-laws had a few of them). Ultimately, I found peace in knowing that she's still with me, even if I can't fully register any of her activity.

Best Wishes...
something bad happened. and another happened. one you survived. the other others didnt.

you are questioning why you lived while others didnt. was there a cause & effect? a give and take? a someone lives yet someone dies kind of karma?

it's strange how our brains want to make sense of everything.

but i agree with you: look to the present. you survived and you have a beautiful family and kids. thank God. try to close the chapter by giving thanks for what you have now. it's more precious in light of what happened to you :-)
MM, I have wanted to comment since you wrote this but I find I Have nothing of significance I could say that hasn't been said already, and better, by you or the others in the comments section.

I am happy that your parents have visited you. I believe they did. I hope it helps you eventually.

The whole time healing wounds has never totally been true in my experience. Time makes the wounds not so immediate, but for me, stuff still hurts.

That said, we are here for you, as always.
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