81: There for Me

81: There for Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

There for Me

Those whom we have loved never really leave us. They live on forever in our hearts and cast their radiant light onto our every shadow.

~Sylvana Rossetti

Some years of our lives are clearly more difficult than others. Those are the years of struggle and loss and hurt we never forget, and look back on, shaking our heads, wondering how we found the strength to live through them.

1978 was one of those years for me. I was thirty-four, a divorced, out-of-work art teacher, supporting my children by selling beaded jewelry to tourists on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. My dearest friend, Stuart, had died that February. A car ran a red light at a city intersection, colliding with his motorcycle as he drove to work, knocking him to the ground and killing him instantly. He was thirty-nine. He was the first man I’d loved and trusted since my divorce three years before. Reeling from my loss, I struggled to accept what had happened and to be strong for my sons.

Then in late May, two drug-crazed intruders broke into our apartment, and we jumped to the back yard from a second floor window to escape them. Thankfully, my sons were unharmed, but I landed on a concrete step, breaking and dislocating the bones in my ankle. “Looks like one bad break to me,” I heard one paramedic say to the other. They loaded me into an ambulance, and sirens screaming, rushed me to the hospital, where my leg was immobilized in a full-length cast.

Oh, God, what am I going to do? I thought. I won’t be able to walk, at least for a while, or drive to the supermarket to buy groceries, or go to work. My leg hurts, and I’m so scared. How will I get through this without Stuart?

And that’s when I heard Stuart’s calm, low voice whisper in my ear. No worries. I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together.

Stuart’s presence stayed with me after that, sustaining me throughout the long summer, fall, and winter of healing — not only the bones in my ankle, but my battered spirit, and the spirits of my sons, as well. Sometimes, I heard Stuart’s voice in my head. Other times, I saw him standing or sitting nearby, dressed in jeans and his favorite brown jacket. He was watching me; his surprisingly blue eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled, letting me know I wasn’t alone.

With Stuart’s help, I found my strength again. My ankle not only healed, but I walked without limping. I returned to work. My family recovered. I found a sunny new apartment in another neighborhood and moved us in. We made a fresh start.

One night, soon after our move, while asleep in my peaceful new bedroom, I had a dream about Stuart and me.

It was daytime. We stood together on an unfamiliar San Francisco street, facing the corner of a tall building. From this position, we could look down along the sidewalks on either side of that corner — they appeared in sharp perspective, like in a drawing — each leading off into the foggy distance. Stuart wore a brown suit, a tie, and a crisp white shirt.

“You’re all dressed up. What’s the occasion?” I asked. I’d never seen him in a suit before. The whole time I’d known him, he’d worn only jeans, and a leather or denim jacket.

He was tall and stood smiling down at me, creating the dimples that had charmed me from the day we’d met. A breeze came up, ruffling his neatly combed, sandy-brown hair.

“I came to say goodbye,” Stuart said, and indicated the sidewalks to our left and to our right with gestures of his hand. “Our paths diverge from now on,” he said, sounding sorry, but matter-of-fact about it. “You need to go in one direction, and I, the other. I hope you understand.”

Tears filled my eyes as I stared at him silently. Stuart and I shared the bond of belief in reincarnation — and somehow I understood that he’d remained close to me because of my need for him and his love for me. But now it was time for him to continue on with his journey — and for me to continue on with my life. Stuart smiled, and his big hands stroked my face gently. He bent and kissed me.

“I gave you my love. You’ll never be without it.” Then he turned and walked away, disappearing into the fog.

I was crying in the dream, and my face was wet with tears when I woke up. I never saw Stuart’s face or heard his voice again after that night, but I remain grateful to know that miracles do occur when we need them. As long as we love, we are never alone.

~Lynn Sunday

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