I stood over a hospital bed, staring down at my nephew. Joey had always been such a sweet boy, with a hearty laugh and big blue eyes. I was close with him, taking him out to amusement parks and other fun outings. Then Joey grew up. He was 34 now but seemed so much older. His face was thin and drained of color. Years of alcohol and drugs had left his body weak. It was starting to shut down. He’d been unconscious in the hospital for days, hooked up to all sorts of machines. The doctors had told us it would be a matter of days.
But right now, as I stood over his hospital bed, Joey’s eyes were open. He was looking at me intently. I just stared back, mesmerized by his big blue eyes. They were so bright and clear—the most beautiful blue I had ever seen. He tried to talk to me, but his voice was distorted by a tube in his mouth. What was he trying to say?
I woke up with a start. I was at home in my bed, the morning sun just beginning to lighten the room. I’d gotten home from the hospital late last night, after sitting with Joey for hours. I knew he was still unconscious. Seeing Joey’s open blue eyes had just been a dream. But this dream was different from my usual ones. It was so much more vivid and felt immensely important. Like God was trying to tell me something. I should know. This wasn’t my first message dream.
When I was ten, my grandfather committed suicide. He had dealt with depression his whole life, but no one in the family realized how bad it was. He and I were close, and I took his death hard. Questions plagued me. Was my grandpa okay? Was he safe in heaven? I couldn’t be sure.
The night after his funeral, I dreamt I was walking around at my school’s playground. Suddenly my grandpa was beside me, walking next to me, like he had always been there. He stopped me and looked directly at me. “Yes,” he said. I woke up in my bed. Was he trying to tell me he was in heaven? I wondered.
The next night I had another dream. I was walking through the playground again and saw Grandpa next to me. But this time he was fainter. I could almost see through him. It was like his soul was slowly leaving. “Yes,” he said again.
Then on the third night, I had my final dream. This one was even more vivid than the others. I was walking in a field just as the sun set. I’d never seen the field before. I could see a windmill in the distance. As I walked, I felt an arm drape over my shoulder. I couldn’t see anyone, but I wasn’t afraid. I knew the feel of that arm anywhere. It was Grandpa. Then I heard his sure voice say “yes” one last time. I knew I had my answer. I awoke feeling comforted for the first time since his passing.
I never expected to have a dream like this again, especially after all these years. I was in my forties now. But I knew beyond a doubt my dream about Joey was important. If only I could have understood what he was saying. Did he need me to do something? Did God have another message for me?
I went back to Joey’s hospital room that day. The doctors said he was the same. Our family was gathered around him, praying. As I sat, I said my own prayer. If I am supposed to do something, God, please tell me, I thought. I went home that night exhausted. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I opened my eyes to find myself in my living room, lying on my couch. I heard the phone ring and then click over to voicemail. I heard Joey’s voice, strong and sure. “Aunt Lorraine, you better get down here,” he said. I woke up suddenly in my bed again. I got out of bed and got dressed.
“I’m going to the hospital,” I told my husband.
“The hospital just called,” he said. “Joey is awake. Let’s go tomorrow. We have work today. Some of the family is already there with him.”
Maybe he was right. I’d spent so long at the hospital the past few days. I was burned out and behind on my work. Our son was there now and could phone us if anything changed. But my mind drifted back to my dream, to the message and Joey’s firm voice. Aunt Lorraine, you better get down here. I knew then like I knew when I was ten: these dreams meant something. I shouldn’t ignore them.
“No,” I said. “We need to go down there now.”
As soon as we walked into the hospital, we knew something was wrong. The family sat solemnly around Joey, who was unconscious again.
“He took a turn for the worse,” a doctor told us. “He doesn’t have long now.”
I blinked back tears and sat down next to Joey. I took his hand in mine. His mother, my sister-in-law, sat on his other side. I just held his hand until the machines finally went silent.
The next week was rougher than I could have imagined. The grief seemed to completely overcome me. I couldn’t comprehend Joey being gone. Never hearing his laugh again, never seeing his big blue eyes. Seeing what years of addiction had done to him was hard enough. Now we had to be without him. At least I was there with him in the end, I thought. I guess that was comfort enough.
One night just a few days after Joey passed, I fell into a deep sleep. I dreamt I was hanging up my clothes on my clothing line. My grief continued to weigh down on me as I worked. Then I felt a presence with me. I turned to see Joey. He looked so different. His face was filled out and had its color back. He smiled and his blues eyes were bright and full of life. As he looked at me, he started to laugh his familiar, hearty laugh.
I was suddenly hit with anger. How could he be laughing right now? Didn’t he see how much pain I was in? But Joey just smiled at me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Aunt Lorraine, you don’t get it,” he said. A calm slowly settled over my body. I could only describe it as a shot of pain medication, but there was no prick of the needle. The sensation was beautiful and warm. I didn’t feel sad or angry anymore. I just felt the most unimaginable peace.
I woke up in my bed and that feeling of calm lingered. I knew Joey was okay, just like I had known my grandpa was okay all those years ago. And I knew I would be okay, too. It was the last message dream I ever had, but it was the one I needed.