We planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday. We silly humans who make plans. And the cats say “ha!” My big fluffy tiger cat sat by my closed door and whined loudly for attention at the crack of 7:00 a.m. I grabbed my pillow and then him and went downstairs to the couch to try to find a few more minutes of sleep there, with a cat purring upon me.
When I fell back to sleep, I had the weirdest dream. I was out, at a party or something, and my cell phone rang. I looked down to see who would be calling and all I saw was four digits … 2 7 7 9 (I think). I answered tentatively, “hello?”
“Hi Tina, it’s dad,” came my father’s voice through my ear. Distinctly my father’s voice. Not his timid, little-boy, end-of-life voice, as we came to call it. No, it was his healthy voice, so healthy, in fact, I thought I heard the faint hint of his general annoyance with all things human.
“Dad?” I answered, fully aware that he was dead and that this contact was, in fact, impossible. “Where are you?” I asked him.
“I’m here with God,” he said, and this time I totally heard the unsaid “duh!” in that statement, which, in and of itself was absurd. “Where’s your mom?” he asked me then.
“I don’t know, did you try the house?”
And then I sat up, the full force of this exchange charging me up, cutting off any further connection.
It was absurd. My father? With God?
And yet, it wasn’t. I had gone to sleep that night fully aware of how cut off I have been from my own practice of “prayer,” for lack of a better word. I ached to pick up the pen and re-begin the process of writing, as I have on many occasions, what could be called “journal entries” but all of which begin with “Dear God.”
When did I stop? Why? Haven’t a clue. It would require me to look at that notebook, those pages again. And even fully aware how much I missed this as I went to bed Friday night, I refused to get up and look. Why? I really don’t know, but will figure it out once I start writing again. I spent the day in a somewhat silent way. Doing laundry, cleaning up, doing the banking and delivering children where they needed to be. All the time processing, returning to that phone call and asking myself, was it real? Did I really hear his voice?
At one point I began to panic. Why was he looking for mom? Was she supposed to be on her way, too? But an email from her allowed me to believe that no, she was fine, and what I was hearing was an echo of a conversation my dad and I had in our last two weeks together.
I did process the dream, and later called my mom so she could laugh with me about it. But, I didn’t come away from the dream with a certainty of God and of the goodness of that loving God who would not only embrace a skeptic and a heretic like my dad, but let him use His/Her cell phone, too.
No, the dream provided me with an affirmation of my own faith in my belief that there is a God who loves us all, period. All of this is so contrary to how my Dad felt and thought that it does seem like my own form of heresy, and makes me feel like I’m 13 all over again, defying my father just because I can.
The dream reminded me of Anne Lamott quoting her spiritual advisor/friend as saying “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is.” The only certainty I hold right now is this: that I will have doubts and that I can live in a place of faith and doubt at the very same moment. And that allows me to interpret my dream as about me and my faith and not about what is real beyond what I can see.
You see, it would be like my father to phone me from a place alongside God and act as if they had always been first-name friends. Presented with the fact of God when he was alive, my Dad would, no doubt, have claimed that he never said he didn’t believe but that he waited for God to show up and for His/Her existence to be proven. The dream affirmed not only my sense of God, but of my Dad that, given proof, he would change his mind and act as though he never changed a thing.
But the dream gave me what I needed. And that was all it was. There is no proof in it. Just a four-digit number, my dad’s voice, and the insistent echo of my own soul, reaching for God.