Lost In A Dream Of Immortality

I had a most curious dream the other night, deeply moving.

In the dream, my gorgeous ex-fiancee, my dear lady wife of forty years, had been told that she only had a week to live. So we flew to Fiji, where we lived for years. We rented a room in that most historic of buildings, the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

grand pacific hotel fiji.png

In my dream the hotel was right on the edge of a gorgeous calm lagoon. She sat down and started meditating in front of a big picture window. Outside the window, the lagoon water had that lovely turquoise blue of the tropical ocean over a shallow reef. She looked so peaceful, perfectly serene, completely at ease.

blue ocean window.png

I was in total turmoil.

I left and wandered out into the main room of the hotel. There was a table full of pastries. I was weeping, weeping without surcease. A hotel employee came up to me. He said “Would you like a pastry?” as though that would cure everything. I ate one. It was deliciously sweet.

table of pastries.png

I thought “How can something taste so good, and my wife is dying?” It was unbearable. Pastries were still sweet, people around me were laughing, the world was going on, and she wouldn’t go on with it. How could that be?

I left, I couldn’t take it. I went into town, but there was nothing there. I jumped into the back of a dump truck to ride back to where she was staying. When I got back the bed of the dump truck lifted up and dumped me out on the beach, back into my life. dump truck by beach.png

It also dumped out a couple of newspapers. I read one. There was nothing in it about my wife dying. The unfair world continued turning.

I went for a walk along the coast. Even though it was Fiji, the coast was lava. The lava was sharp, a’a lava like they have in Hawaii. I was barefoot. The pain was almost welcome. It brought me out of my head into the moment. The coast was stunning. As always, as I walked I was awed by the beauty of the tropical ocean.

a'a lava coast.png

As I was making my way back to the hotel, I looked up, and glory of glories, my dear lady was walking toward me. She said that she couldn’t stay meditating in the room, she had to walk. I was overjoyed to see her, I ran towards her …

That was the dream.

As to what it meant to me, I divide life into three periods. Early youth is from birth to thirty-five. Middle youth is from thirty-five to seventy. And late youth? That’s everything after seventy … so at seventy-one, I’m in my late youth, and my gorgeous ex-fiancee, being seven years younger, is in her middle youth. And except for the usual facts of advancing age, we’re both in perfect health.

I suppose that when a man is in his late youth as I am, it’s natural to dream about death. But this was the first time I’ve ever dreamed about death, whether of myself or of anyone close to me.

And what did it mean? As soon as I woke up, I had the very clear thought, “I gotta up my game with my sweetheart!”. But it wasn’t like I had to change large things in my relationship, give her big presents or something. It was more that I had to stop living as though that dear woman and I were immortal. If living as though you’re immortal is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins, we ought to add it to the list.

No, it’s more about the little things, the everyday things. Like when I’m up to my ears in my scientific research, my brain hopelessly lost in Fourier Transforms and climate datasets and linear regressions, and she wants to talk about some dang thing or other, and I get all curmudgeonly and say “What do you want? in an unpleasant tone … huh? Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the support in that? Why can’t I smile and ask what she wants, set aside my endless thoughts and attend to the present?

That was the kind of change the dream was telling me to make.

Now, I don’t expect that the change will happen in an instant. I grew up a cowboy, and now I’d describe myself as a somewhat reformed cowboy. I went to the Betty Ford rehab clinic for recovering cowboys, and I enrolled in their 12-step program … but every time I get up to the fifth or sixth step, my foot lands on a banana peel and before I know it I’ve tumbled back down to the first step. So I can see it will be a long path, but at least I’m making the first moves.

Because as a result of my dream, I’m choosing to do what the country song says, to live like I was dying …

He said “I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime

I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”

I asked him “When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?

Man, what’d you do?”

He said “I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”

And he said “Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”

My best to you all, dear friendsenjoy the day, tell your family you love them, dream your dreams, remember to do the little things, for the long dark night is surely coming …

w.

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29 thoughts on “Lost In A Dream Of Immortality

  1. I love your “early youth, middle youth, late youth” growth periods. I am also in my late youth. 26 inside, 81 outside. I’m looking forward to extremely late youth, after 90. Don’t let the old man in!

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  2. I tell them that all the time. Thank goodness for those Latter Day Saints guys I almost fell for many moons ago who practically forced me to say it to my dad too for that opportunity no longer exists.

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  3. W: Close to your age and married 47 years, I now have the role of being my bride’s caretaker due to her failing health. We’ve always been there for each other, but she was always the caretaker while I was the hard charger. Now it is my turn to be the caretaker, a role I readily accept. We discuss our deaths and our firm belief in a hereafter buoys us. Your focus on the little things in your relationship is exactly what we all need to do from day one of our relationship. Sometimes that focus gets a little unfocused, but if you recognize its immense value, you will always return to doing those little things and your relationship will be steadfast. We have a little thing we do upon retiring for the night: we say, “Watch out for things that go bump in the night, (with the reply) and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Trite but never dull because we find ways to make it fun. Last night I told her to be careful getting into bed because I had my army of bedbugs digging a swimming pool on her side. She laughed and retorted, “You really want to see me in my bathing suit don’t you?” Just these kinds of little chuckles and laughs keeps our love fresh. To all here I pray and wish that you can find a deep and abiding love to share life, and death, with.

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  4. I’m your age and my wife only a year younger. Up til now the end seemed far off but now I can see the end of the road up ahead. It’s not here yet but it keeps getting closer. How did it get here so fast when not too long ago it was so far away? As I said to my wife “the days go slowly, but the weeks just seem to fly by”.

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  5. Willis,
    Suggest that you read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckart Tolle if you haven’t. You may not buy into all of the New Age teachings but gives you some truths about living in the present that may be of interest.

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  6. Dreams are weird. That’s all I know about dreams. But I like your response. I didn’t know this song; I see that resonates with millions. “Live like you were dying” isn’t the wording I would have preferred. I know what he means; it just doesn’t sound right. “Live every day as if it was your last” would be better. I would like to hear what other cultures or philosophies have to say about this.

    The Epicurean Horace said “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”:
    “life is short; should hope be more?
    In the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb’d away.
    Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpe_diem

    Ram Dass (“Harvard psychiatrist who has reached the pinnacle of success, discovers the mind-expanding powers of acid, and ends up trooping through India” in the sixties) said: “Be Here Now”.

    Harry Chapin sang “Cats In The Cradle” about the problem of valuing the future more than the present.

    Mostly what we hear is about sacrificing now to save up for the glorious future, the promised one with no guarantees.

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  7. Well said. Time on this life’s ticket to ride, if one pays attention towards the bonus round, is just the priceless now we never made time to linger with.

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  8. Thanks Willis…Incredible Dream…thanks for sharing. Reminds me also to live my Sweetheart wife Lana beyond just telling her but more shiwing her daily with Random Acts of Kindness and Love…
    For me it also made me think about Eternity and Life After Death.

    Eternity and Life After Death

    Is There Life After Death.
    https://www.gotquestions.org/is-there-life-after-death.html

    Whst Happened To My Friend That Just Died?
    https://www.everystudent.com/videos/bpfaith.html

    My Personal Christian Testimony
    http://www.everystudent.com/mypage/jimknight

    Meaning Of Life Ravi Zacharis. Incredible True Story

    Ravi Zacharias How Can Someone Come Into A Personal Relationship With Jesus?

    From My Who Is Jesus Ecourse Lessin 4
    https://whoisjesuscourse.org/lesson-4-video

    Blessings.. in HIM
    jim

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  9. Whew…

    “If living as though you’re immortal is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins, we ought to add it to the list.”

    Willis, thank you so much. Long have I valued your writing, be it scientific, philosophical or five-star entertaining, spell-binding narrative. For your gifts I am grateful, and something tells me you too are grateful for them, and for the platform by which you pay them forward.

    I thank you for alerting me to things I don’t know, to things I may never have imagined, and crucially in this post, to the things I really did know already, but have neglected in my single-minded lack of mindfulness.
    Through your dream, it seems to me that your gorgeous ex-fiancee sharpened your own mindfulness, as my own bride of fifty years so often rescues me from myself.

    Here in NZ, our son has returned from his home in Switzerland for a time. Yesterday we threw a fiftieth birthday party for him, with his old friends and extended New Zealand family. We ate, drank and sang far into the night, under clear starlit rural skies. Today we are slowly munching through leftovers and relaxing in the early summer warmth. He will be with us through Christmas and New Year, the first time in fifteen years, before flying back to the snows of Switzerland and to his own gorgeous fiancee.

    May you and your bride of forty-plus years enjoy a great festive season as passionately as if it were your last – and then enjoy more of them, for decades to come.

    Thanks again, man

    JJ

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  10. I’ll add another song on the Topic:
    “The Living Years,” by Mike and the Mechanics…
    That one touched me deeply, and would have changed my behavior, had I not stayed in touch with all my relatives, anyway!…

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  11. It was 42 years for Mrs. H.R. and me this past October. I almost lost her to a stroke in 2008. Stuff like that has a tendency to change your perspective. She still has higher risk factors for a shorter-than-average lifespan.

    Not often, like our host, but I did retire early because of the clarity that incident brought. We’d have a financially more comfortable retirement if I had delayed retirement 3 more years. But since we were doing well enough, the extra money wasn’t worth the lost time together.

    Referring back to the recent post on forgiveness, I would have never forgiven myself if I lost her while continuing to work, knowing I could have retired early.

    P.S. Currently we’re snowbirding in Florida for the Winter in a travel trailer. If you want more ‘togetherness’, I highly recommend a travel trailer 😜

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  12. ” It was more that I had to stop living as though that dear woman and I were immortal.”

    Of the twelve steps, apologizing to the love ones you have hurt is probably the most immediate and lasting worth while efforts. The other step is to personally forgive those love ones who have hurt you and let them know. Doing each facilitates moving on which makes real our daily passage into eternity.

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  13. As aGrimm said I’m now my wifes caregiver we’re in our middle youth me 58 and her 57 married 34 years it’s not always been easy watching her waist away as the MS does it’s worst but it has made us so much closer. Doing things for her that in earlier years she would do without thought, making plans for things to do only to get to the day and I look at her and with mutual agreement say we’ll do it another day, some friends and family can accept these sudden changes others find it a little harder. People see her and say you look great today and I look and know she’s almost running on empty and needs to rest. It is a blessing being able to do these things for her.
    When we married there was a lot of talk about the vows in the service where the bride says she will obey her husband Cathy thought if I don’t say that what’s James not have to say and she found I wouldn’t have to worship her, she told me I’m not letting you off that so she was happy to say obey (she will willingly obey me when I ask her to do what she wants till then she’s deaf) So I now worship her by caring for the love of my life.

    James Bull

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  14. Willis, it’s what I would call a “Self-Realization”…They come to us in different ways but the important thing is you took it upon yourself to make your Life better. You reached in and your Heart guided you. Always listen to your Heart. Intuition is a very powerful tool…I love to read your posts here and at Watts Up! Your depth in Life is special. Thank you for sharing…

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  15. Thanks for sharing that dream and your insights. It’s causing me to reevaluate my life with my wife, yet again. At 65, I’m approaching late youth, and this exercise is nothing new.

    I’ve determined, so far, that my goal, maybe purpose in life, is to enable her joy.

    A songwriter who wrote about her 101 year old grandmother and her joy – but a part bothered me – that her grandfather had somehow stolen part of her grandmother’s joy. Of course, my mind went to infidelity. When I questioned her, she said it was nothing like that. Her grandmother’s joy was stolen by the fact that her grandfather never realized/acknowledged all the things her grandmother was.

    I am still in turmoil over that. I suspect we all are guilty of not knowing all another person can be. Where have we held them back?

    Then the selfish side of me thinks of all the efforts that I have made, the dreams given up for her, and realize that joy is missing in my life – as if that same knowing joy was stolen from me. Willfully given may be a better way to state that. Enabling her joy sometimes feels more a duty than a joy.

    So now I feel doubly guilty – stealing some of her joy, and for feeling something short of resentment. Can two people whose lives are so intertwined for so long really experience a full life of joy?

    I wonder what that songwriter actually thought of her grandfather’s life and his joy. Does she have love for her grandfather, or was he just another villain?

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    • Thanks, fxx. Let me say that I do not believe the underlying claim in the song, echoed in your comment, which is that someone can “steal” someone else’s joy.

      My joy is my own. It is my response to the mysteries and the madness of this world. If I am joyful, that is my doing and my choice … and if I’m not joyful, that is also my doing and my choice.

      So no, nobody can “steal my joy”, only I can do that.

      My best to you,

      w.

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  16. “As soon as I woke up, I had the very clear thought, “I gotta up my game with my sweetheart!”. But it wasn’t like I had to change large things in my relationship, give her big presents or something. It was more that I had to stop living as though that dear woman and I were immortal.”

    There is an excellent Swedish novel with a similar conclusion. Don’t put off your good intentions until later — I thought I would have more time for that — because you don’t know what will happen to yourself or your sweetheart later. It’s an excellent read. I do enjoy good writers (Willis included!).

    It touches on several themes of this blog. The most obvious being suicide. Ove has just been retired, his wife has died, he has nothing left to live for. And he is OCD and not a people person and has good reason to be angry. But secretly, he has a big heart.

    One of the subplots of the book is about “White Shirts”. In English, we might just say “Shirts” or “Suits”. Here it refers to the Swedish bureaucrats from the government or the council. In English, we might take “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” as a joke. In Swedish, it means “I’m from the government and I’m here to crush you, just because I can”. So much for that famous Scandinavian Socialism. So that you do not think I am joking, here is a link:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/norways_hidden_scandal

    The novel is “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

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