guest post by Alec Crisman
Experiments in Faith
It’s very odd timing.
In the final month of the shittiest calendar year in my memory, after the worst run of romantic luck in my life, after getting sick and losing my job due to it, after dropping my medication and the return of the mood swings, and smack-dab in the middle of my recent irreligious awakening….
…Amuma dies. Early morning on the 3rd.
For those of you who haven’t heard my stories, my Amuma (grandmother in Euskadi) was my first best friend. Now, you could have said that about her by any standard of a true friendship, but she excelled in the category by which I judge the term; she was the first person in the world to whom I could tell absolutely anything. The summers we spent together could be argued to be the best moments of my life, and certainly feel that way now, bathed as they are in the golden glow of nostalgia. She saw me in my worst moments too, my playground scuffles and my childish tirades. When my grandfather died, and I realized death was real, she was the one who talked me through my first existential crisis as I lay, aged seven, curled up sobbing on the floor of the room we shared. She helped me with my first feelings of suicide, taught me the virtue of living without gods, and maintained through a love for me so luminous that I… well, I took it for granted.
Losing her has felt like losing a limb. Not seeing her before she left is like having it torn off. And I would give most anything to have her back. Which brings me (as with so many others) back to faith.
Those reading may or may not know that I am a fairly proficient lucid dreamer. I have an inter-brain adventure about once or twice a week, so I’m extremely comfortable with navigating the corridors of my subconscious. But I’ve also talked with many people recently who believed that dreams can be a glimpse into another realm, where the numinous can contact and connect with us. Over my studies this year I’ve read up on dream experiences and NDE’s and every supposed form of communication with the unknown I can think of. My logical mind dominates the conclusions I draw from these studies, but I have always (now more so than ever) wanted to believe.
These are the thoughts that were on my mind when I talked to Amuma the night of the 6th.
To see someone that’s been on your mind in a dream isn’t incredibly odd, I grant you. What made this time different from most, however, is that, midway through the conversation we were having, the dream became lucid (realizing the person you’re chatting with is dead can do that for you). Suddenly, all my research about dream visits comes flowing back to me. This phenomenon has been reported. People do think their loved ones talk to them in their sleep from beyond the grave.
And then… I can’t say if it was the dream-state I was in or just a wave of hope and need, but I began to believe it. Suddenly, before I realized it, I had actually taken the leap of faith so many of the faithful had advised for me. I was in with both feet. My entire mind said “This isn’t just a self-generated image; this IS my Amuma. I’ve read that she might come, and she’s here, and I finally get to say the things I missed out on saying.” In that moment Iknew this to be true, more firmly than I’d known most anything. It was a dizzying feeling, and as it was so contrary to my worldview we can upgrade dizzying to terrifying, but buoyed by it I decided to ask her a real question.
”Amuma”, I said “I know how you’re doing, but how are you?”
The words froze her, and dream-time (a malleable construct if there ever were one) seemed to stop. Suddenly her manifold creases and wrinkles were thrown into stark relief, and I was struck then as during her last week with how skeletal she looked, how her skin hung off her bones like an ill-fitting suit. But what arrested me most were her eyes; the look in them after my question was one of sheer animal terror, as if I’d reminded her of something she’d wanted, no, needed to forget. That look is in my mind’s eye right now, and I don’t think it’ll ever go away.
Especially since, a microsecond after all this registered, the color bled out of her skin and she crumpled sickeningly to the ground, cold and lifeless. Her fetal position on the imaginary floor mirrored her pose in the hospital bed she died in. Hard reality had re-asserted itself with a vengeance. I awoke screaming.
Now what do I take from this? The answer was clear from the moment my eyes shot open that night; false consolation isn’t for me. I may study it, I may pine for it, and I may even need it, but it isn’t forthcoming. This model brain can’t run that software. However I cope with the death of my best friend, I must do so in MY world. I cannot borrow the hopes and dreams of others to soothe the pain; I must celebrate her life as opposed to trying to deny her death.
So please; I know most of you disagree with me on these matters, and I know you wish to ease the ache, but please don’t tell me Amuma’s “in a better place”, or that she’s looking down on me (as several well-meaning people have done). After my metaphysical misadventure those words ring cruelly hollow, and overall I’d be better off without them.
Because now I know better.