I was dreaming when Jeff nudged me awake. “The alarm didn’t go off,” he said. “It’s 5:30.”
In the dream, I had been pushing all my weight against a door, trying to keep someone out. The door wouldn’t close; a stubborn hand reached through the gap–fingers grasping. Just go away I kept saying. You have to go away.
In real life, I stumbled to the kitchen, cracked three eggs in a bowl and began whisking breakfast for the second day of the school year. I added milk and whisked some more, all the while my mind turning that dream over and over again. It reminded me of something, but the wakefulness of a typical Tuesday morning left the dream details blurry and fading fast. There was a nagging about it. Not fear exactly, but something desperate and weighty. Something pressing.
And then just as if someone flipped a switch, my mind strung the details together: school started yesterday on the 15th…today is the 16th. That Day.
It must have been about a month after it happened. I went to the mail and sorted through it as I walked back to the house. There was an envelope for my husband and I opened it just the same as I do the rest of the bills. Only this wasn’t a bill. It was a speeding ticket. If you’ve ever received one by mail you know the offender is pictured in four low-quality images, just in case there is any doubt as to who was driving. The four that arrived in the mail that day depicted my husband driving one-handed, his free hand brought up over his gaping mouth. I checked the date. July 16th. Those cameras had snapped a picture as my husband rushed to the hospital that day–still in shock from the call.
When he walked through the door of the ER, I told the story again. And then I sat with my head in my hands and openly bawled. He sat in a chair of his own and stared at a spot on the floor. He didn’t come to me. He didn’t say a word. I mistook his shock for blame and fell backwards into the pool of it–eyes wide open. In the hours that followed, Jeff would snap out of it and throw me a life raft, but I wore the anchor of guilt like a vest and it would be some time before I would slip from within it.
Four years and the guilt lives here still. It’s less a vine rooted deep and more a seed buried in the fleshy soil of my heart. When once it was thick and strangling it now lies dormant–pruned back by time gone by and the grace of God.
Every year I wonder if maybe an anniversary will slip by unnoticed. but then the dream and it seems that even if I don’t consciously take note, that seed within me plays out while I sleep.
People kept telling me that time would heal the wound. It’s true. Time closes wounds. Time scabs them over. Time turns wounds to scars. But time never forgets.