The dream never happens the same way, but the thoughts I have during the dream are. Every once in a while, I dream about my friend Rhonda, who died more than five years ago from complications from diabetes at age 32. She had been a bridesmaid in my wedding just a month before, although she didn’t get to fulfill her dream of being able to walk down the aisle. One of the groomsmen escorted her in her wheelchair.
Rhonda was a trip, plain and simple. You couldn’t help but laugh while talking to her because at some point, she would say something to crack you up. Her husband, Lee, told me at her funeral that she loved to hear me laugh and that when she was down, she would call me to cheer her up.
We grew up at Aggie’s house. Aggie was my and my brother’s babysitter, but she was more like a grandmother. She had never had any children of her own, but she and her husband, John, were Rhonda’s legal guardians. I, being five years younger than her, was Rhonda’s shadow. If I could have had a sister, she would have been Rhonda.
Two months before my third birthday, we were playing golf in the backyard with a broomstick and plastic baseball. She swung back to hit the ball, but I was standing right behind her, and the stick cracked the skin open on the upper part of my left cheekbone. It took two stitches and a lot of tears to heal that injury. My mom still talks about come to pick me up and finding me, Rhonda and Aggie crying. Even up until the months before her death, the mention of that incident always made her ask, “You’re not mad at me about that are you?”
The first time I dreamed about Rhonda was the night before the first anniversary of her death. I was at the hospital before she died, something I had not been able to do. I was standing outside of her room, looking in as she lay unconscious. Lee was in the next room talking to some people about the situation when I saw her eyes open and her head turned toward me. I called out to Lee, to anyone, that she was awake, but when I looked back at her, she was waving and smiling. I yelled again, but she slowly laid her head back down. Then she was gone. It was one of the few times I’ve woken up crying.
Since then, I’ve had many dreams where she and I are talking, and I have this wonderful realization that she’s not dead – she’s right here with me. I wonder to myself where she’s been all this time, and I look forward to spending time with her again. Then I wake up, and the disappointment is devastating.
On the one hand, I’m thankful for those dreams. I like to think that she’s trying to communicate with me through them. On the other hand, it’s simply heartbreaking – as heartbreaking as seeing her in her son’s dark brown eyes and mannerisms.
But life goes on, and I know that she and I will talk again one day – a day when she won’t be in a wheelchair – and we’ll dance around to “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” or maybe “Funkytown,” because she was never one to dwell on sadness. So I can’t either.