My grandfather died when I was thirteen. I didn’t really know him very well, and most memories I have of him are second hand, borrowed from stories told by others, a person and a life fabricated from tall tales, hearsay, and conjecture.
He was well into his 60s when I, his first grandchild, was born. When he died, they found his heart pills tucked one-by-one under the mattress of his sick bed. He must have slipped them under his tongue then slipped them out again when no-one was looking.
I have three pictures of him.
One is the last photo taken of him, relaxing in a garden chair. My grandmother kept that photo in a frame by her armchair, until she died many years later. I have that picture in my mind’s eye, in my photographic memory, you might say.
One is his wedding photo, a grand affair in Budapest, Hungary. He is in his late 20s or early 30s, an English sailor; my grandmother is only just 16, pregnant, a Budapest child. Read their faces.
One is the picture I have of him sitting on his motorbike, a couple of nights after he died, when he surprised me in a dream. And that’s the picture that stays with me, though I don’t remember him having a motorbike in waking life, and I don’t remember anything he ever said to me when he was alive. At the tender age of thirteen, that dream was life-changing. And at the tender age of thirteen, of course, I believed that Philip Augustus Newton had actually visited me from the afterlife in a dream.
I’ve had vivid, colourful, full-on textural dream recall for almost as long as I can remember. I have always been fascinated by my dreams, but this was perhaps the first one that got my serious attention.
The dream was short. I was standing outside my school waiting for my young brother, Philip, to walk up from primary school so we could walk home together. While I was waiting, a motorbike came up the road and stopped in front of me. After exchanging a few words, the driver lifted his dark visor, slowly revealing his face. I was surprised to see it was my grandfather.
“But you’re dead!” I reminded him.
“I didn’t want to frighten you, so I came in a dream,” he said.
That made sense, and I was thankful. I was surprised, my breath was momentarily taken away, but I was not frightened.
“I’m here to answer any questions. Is there anything you’d like to know before I go?” he asked.
“I only had one question,” I said. “Is there life after death? But I don’t need to ask that now.”
He smiled, lowered his visor, and rode away.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve referred to this dream in another Dream Sight article, ‘Relativity’, which I wrote nine years ago, in October 2000. That article explores the question of communicating with the recently departed in dreams and looks at the symbolism of death dreams. Today, I am exploring a different theme.
What that dream did for me, as a teenager, was to assure me that dreaming was a safe space where I could face fears and find answers to questions as large as the meaning of life. I had no idea where to begin, and it would be many years before I would be able to interpret dreams, but I developed a profound respect for my dreams from that point forward.
Today, as a dream analyst and alchemist, my task, like my grandfather’s in my dream, is to help people safely face and understand the fears that limit and shape their lives, and to gently ask and answer questions that help them to clarify their vision and touch a deeper sense of meaning.
I’m often asked why dreams are so bizarre, so masked in symbolic language. I’m glad that they are. They allow us to gently prise them open, to give our eyes and hearts time to softly accustom to the light.
You may not know your deepest fears, but they show up, somewhat disguised, in your dreams.
“I didn’t want to frighten you,” a buried fear might say, “so I came in a dream. I’m here to answer any questions. Is there anything you’d like to know before I go back into the night?”
When you bury a fear, deep in your unconscious, it exerts a powerful influence on your life. It may be out of sight and out of your conscious mind, but that only gives it more power. Your unconscious fears limit and shape the way you respond in the world – and you have no idea that this is happening. You bury fears you do not want to face, yet the saving grace within gently reveals these to you in your dreams, asking, “Is there anything you’d like to know?”
Knowledge is power. When you know about your fears – what they are, where they originated, why you have buried them, how they are influencing your life – you can set them, and yourself, free.
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, November 2009. First published as a Dream Sight article.]