93: I Just Needed to Say Goodbye

93: I Just Needed to Say Goodbye

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

I Just Needed to Say Goodbye

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.

~Richard Bach

In 1977, my sixteen-year-old brother, Jimmy, was killed in a car accident. He died on my sister’s birthday and was buried on my birthday. Two days later, my two younger sisters were scheduled to have a double wedding. In fact, Jimmy had died after the stag party for one of my future brothers-in-law. He was the designated driver for the party and he took a corner too fast and hit a pole.

There was no time to cancel the wedding, and more than 500 guests came out two days early to attend Jimmy’s funeral. It was bizarre and surreal that something so tragic should be followed by something that should have been so happy. I can’t remember the wedding ceremony at all. I was twenty-two years old, and my heart ached so badly that I finally understood the expression “dying of a broken heart.”

One month after my brother’s death, I was still broken and cried myself to sleep every night. I couldn’t remember if I’d told him how much I loved him. I couldn’t remember our last conversation. I couldn’t remember his voice. I desperately needed to talk to him and tell him I loved him, and especially to tell him goodbye. Thoughts of my brother filled my head every waking moment, and every night I would toss and turn, trying to find respite from my grief in sleep. When exhaustion overtook me, I’d sleep a dreamless few hours, and in the morning I would wake to find my pillow wet from tears. Even in my sleep, I was crying.

One night, I gave up completely. I said, “God, I cannot live with this pain. I just want to die. I want to see my brother again!” I cried myself to sleep feeling as though I was drowning in waves of grief, and that night I had a dream that changed my life forever.

I dreamed a lady came to me. She felt like a sister, but she wasn’t, and yet I felt I knew her. She was dressed all in white with beautiful, long blond hair, and she motioned for me to follow her. She took me to an “elevator of light,” and we rose to a place that I can only describe as a waiting room. She told me to wait there for my brother.

When he appeared before me, the tears flowed down my face as we hugged each other hard. I told him how happy I was to see him and how much we all missed him. He told me he missed us too, but that he was busy! He said he was learning patience.

In life, Jimmy was the most impatient sixteen-year-old I’d ever known — he wanted to do everything, and his motto had always been, “I’m here for a good time — not a long time!” So when he told me he was learning “patience,” I understood exactly what he meant! He also told me to tell Mom to quit crying so much.

It felt so good to talk to him again and to tell him how much I missed him and loved him. He told me to remember that he would always be there for us when we really needed him, but to quit bugging him for the little everyday things. I desperately wanted to stay with him, but he said I couldn’t go beyond the “waiting room” because I wasn’t ready yet.

We hugged goodbye, and he told me to tell Mom that whenever she heard the bird, she would know it was him saying hello. I had no idea what that meant, but he said, “Just tell Mom. She’ll know what it means!” Then my beautiful guide appeared and took me back through the elevator of light.

I woke up, but this time I had tears of happiness on my face. A weight had lifted off my heart. Being with my brother in that dream felt more real than any other experience I’d ever had in my life, and he’d said things I had never heard of before.

I had no idea what he meant about the bird, but my mom knew. When I told her about the dream, she told me that Jimmy had learned to mimic a certain bird’s call. He would often stand on the sundeck and call to it, and it would answer back. She was immediately comforted by the message.

Jimmy’s words, “I’ll be there when you really need me . . . ,” came back to me as I was driving through a snowstorm less than three months after his death. I heard his voice say to me, “Do up your seatbelt!” It was an order, not a suggestion. I fastened my belt, and a few minutes later the car slid, as if in slow motion, off the slippery, snow-covered mountain road and rolled two and a half times down an embankment. If I hadn’t had my seat belt on, I would have been dead. Thanks to the words he spoke in my dream, I knew that what was about to happen was important enough for him to “be there,” and I’m glad I listened.

When I told Mom that Jimmy had saved my life, she looked at me, and a wave of understanding passed through her. She said, “I understand now. It was Jimmy’s time to leave, but it wasn’t yours.” She is now ninety-two years old and still patiently waiting for her time to leave because she expects to see her son again.

Sometimes, we get to say goodbye in life. And sometimes, if we are really blessed, we get an opportunity to say goodbye in a dream that is more than a dream. It is a gift.

~Glenda Standeven

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