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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

In my 20s, I knew this woman who often dreamed about her teeth falling out—she swore that dreams of teeth falling out symbolized death. And, maybe she did have good reason to worry about her mortality since she’d survived a brain tumor while in college. Of course, in typical twenty-something fashion, she didn’t really do that much to take care of her health, so maybe her sleeping brain had to remind her to do so.

I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed my teeth were falling out—both my grandmothers lived over fifty years longer than their teeth did, so maybe losing teeth doesn’t equate with dying in my mind anyway. If I’m going to dream about my mortality, I dream about my mortality. Isn’t that more attention-getting anyway than dreaming about your teeth?

Last week I had one of those dreams where you wake up unsure that what happened was a dream until, thank goodness, you conclude that it was. On the bright side, my dreams don’t seem to be predictive. No, they serve better to give me that proverbial kick in the head and ask me if I’m paying attention.

Long story short, but in my dream I ran into an old friend who is quite intuitive, but in real life she’s a dental hygienist, not a healer, and definitely not a medical professional in a women’s healthcare practice. After hugging me and spending a few minutes with me, she told me I had a growth somewhere in those often fatal regions of the abdomen.

Well, I got mad. I mean, as much as I’d been whining about all the complications in my life, I wasn’t ready to give it up. Despite everything that can and does go wrong, Life is sweet—a gift I don’t want to waste. Then, I clearly decided I was in a dream and I wanted out of it—it was time to open my eyes.

Sure, after I opened my eyes and loved on seeing even the clutter that is mine, I still felt disturbed for awhile. Had to keep reminding myself I’m not at all psychic, despite the fact my husband Sherman always called my dad the Amazing Kreskin, due to Dad’s ability to predict some things that happened. I never thought Dad was psychic, either, just intuitive.

So what did I do about the dream? First of all, I already have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the end of the month, so just in case I’m not crazy, I’m covered, right?

But, otherwise it was just another wake-up call to get back to doing the things I want to do.

That very afternoon I wrote the introduction to a fiction story I’ve been talking about writing since earlier this year. Though I had done some background research and written down some thoughts about the character and the plot, I hadn’t written a single word on the actual story–until last week.

The next day I got an e-mail telling me about a ZUMBA training session I could attend. I mean, I think I’m healed, but why haven’t I gone back to memorizing routines so I can put together a full session so I am ready to substitute teach? Sunday, I went. Now I have several new songs in my repertoire.

And, yesterday, well, I organized spools of thread. (Can’t win them all, right? Although if I start doing more sewing projects, I’ll be glad I did . . .)

Geez, if I’m going to live and live well, maybe I better start flossing my teeth again! Mortality dreams or not, teeth do come in handy—and buying dental floss costs a lot less than buying dentures.

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(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Some impressions burn into our memories and never leave. Let me try to describe one of my newest. No doubt words will not be enough to convey what I hold inside, but that’s all I have since none of us in our group had a camera.

But first, let’s start at the beginning: April 19, 1995. For those of us not in Oklahoma City, our initial images came from our TV screens and newspaper pages. Pictures of chaos, rubble, flames, a small body cradled too late. I think our national innocence began to crumble on that day. We finally started to understand terrorism could happen here—and later realized that it could be homegrown by our own, not just by some mysterious “other” who hated us from afar.

Since this event occurred in my brother’s adopted hometown—where he has lived and worked for over 25 years—our family has had the chance to visit the site a few times over the years. My parents arrived for a planned visit during the days following the event when smoke and stunned grief obscured the blue skies of otherwise picture-perfect spring days. Our own family visited while the ground was still just a hole, surrounded by chain-link fences covered with teddy bears, flowers, notes, and the mourning of stunned nation. The finished memorial we observed years later barely covered that hole in the ground—if only in our minds.

There is something about spaces from where so many souls have departed at once or soon after. The ground becomes sacred. As author Madeleine L’Engle stated, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” This space was not a memorial to evil intentions and actions, but to those who were lost or injured and those who banded together to make good out of what was intended to bring them to their knees. Though they fell to their knees, they also continued to look upward and to one another.

Even though the blood sacrifice alone of those who died consecrated the ground, the Memorial erected on that soil helps to retain a collective sense of hope.

While the Memorial moved me when I visited in the daylight, all I can say is you have to see it on a moonlit spring night, such as the night we visited. For a place built upon such darkness, the space glows with light.

Our group stood on the terrace in front of the Survivor Tree, looking down upon those lighted empty chairs and the reflecting pool which stretched from one end of time—before at 9:01—until another—after, 9:03. What lay in between we’d prefer not to remember.

However, on such a clear night, I easily heard the hooves of horse-drawn carriages rhythmically approaching the street beside the site. If memories have a soundtrack, mine that night was hearing a song from the Bradley Ellingboe “Requiem” my church choir sang at the Good Friday evening service last month. (The song is arranged from a George Herbert poem titled “Evensong” and can be heard in the church archival recording from April 6, 2012 7:00 p.m., starting around the listed times of 77:53 to 83:00.)

The musical arrangement begins with only rhythm—a rhythm that sounds to me like the relentless march of time and/or of death. The hooves that May night in Oklahoma City beat in a similar way and then the sounds stopped.

That’s how Time must have stopped for too many at 9:02 that bright morning—except they heard no warning march of hoofbeats.

None of us knows when those hooves march toward us. The best we can do is look to shine light on our own darkness and live well for those gone before us before our own days are spent.

The moon on a clear night and the sounds of hoofbeats only added to the power of a memorial that expresses so well both the loss of particular people on a particular day as well as the loss of our nation’s belief that ordinary people doing ordinary things could not be targets for some twisted agenda. Yet the site is also a powerful tribute to the resilience of a people who banded together to help one another and believe they could still find beauty in their collective tomorrows. Oh for me, that night’s beauty also shone light on what followed after darkness.

[To read the George Herbert poem, go to The English works of George Herbert: newly arranged and annotated and considered in relation to his life, Volume 3 (Google eBook), p. 391]

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

This is, after all, Holy Week. This walk to Golgotha, sad as it is, gives me comfort in facing mortality. Yet still, I am not so ready for myself or anyone else to test out Jesus’ love for us. I continue to be pretty firmly grounded in my humanness, for better or for worse.

Family members, friends, beloved pets, loved ones of friends, celebrities—it seems mortality will not be ignored right now, no matter how many times I say I’ve had enough.

Death is not in my hands, it turns out. Yet, thank God, neither is eternal life solely in my hands.

I like to believe I’m ready, that if it were my turn, I could rest in Jesus’ arms and go toward that proverbial light we’ve all heard about from those who’ve returned from near-death experiences.

Last week as I was sleeping, I had a dream that told me I have more work to do with my faith. (Or is it not work per se, but the need to let go of control?)

I’ll make the disclaimer that it could have been a metaphoric dream that had nothing to do with real death. It could have been about death to old ways, especially since I am firmly set on a life transition as I learn how to be the matriarch of our family while at the same time my family responsibilities have reduced. Despite all the recent sadness, I am returning to a time when I can focus more on my own real life dreams.

But this dream tells me old habits die hard.

I am prone to strange dreams, but this one seemed pretty normal at first. I had walked into a room where Indian music was playing. As I stood there, I clearly heard the woman sing, “Glide on into infinity . . . ” and then my body felt a strong pull upward.

There was no white light and I knew I did not want to go. As dreams go, I was suddenly lying down. With all my might, from head to toe, I held my body down while shouting, “No!” The next thought was that neither Sherman nor Christiana could handle my loss so closely after the other losses. (Lest you think I didn’t care about Jackson’s loss, just know that he is more like me—he builds walls around his grief rather than falling into it.)

No, in the dream I didn’t think nice thoughts about how good it would be to be in the presence of the Eternal. And, I didn’t even think about all the things I still wanted to do here. Nope, I fell right back into care-giving mode.

However, as I lay there awake with my heart pounding, I did think about myself. While I’ve decided that dying in my sleep is preferable to going out in many of the horrible ways I’ve seen, all I could think was, “I didn’t mean yet!” Yes, I was scared I was going to miss out on my own time now that I had finally gotten it back. I discovered I was not at all ready to submit to Divine Will should it be my time to go.

Nonetheless, why would it be my time? Just to calm my nerves, I asked Sherman, “Did I sound funny at all in my sleep?”

He replied, “Well, you were making all these loud breathing noises and then suddenly you stopped. I thought you had died.” And then he rolled over and fell back to sleep.

You can guess who didn’t fall back to sleep right away. I mean, do I have apnea or a heart rhythm problem or just a lack of trust in the Big Man? Or all?

I’m trying to convince myself this is a story about my need to grow my faith. Or about how I should not float around without making concrete steps toward the next phase of life. Or how much I do want to live. Maybe, once again, the answer is all of the above.

Then into all this emotional turmoil, I hear of another death—of someone who was a mere 4 days older than I am—and he died unexpectedly the day of my dream. Of our onetime group of four friends during the early months of college, two have now died and one has experienced a brain tumor. As I grieve for them, I look in the mirror and wonder, “Why them?” “Why not me?”

Somehow I have to remember that this walk to Golgotha is about Jesus and how because of his walk, he walks with us on our own walks to the cross. We are not alone, whether we are left, hearts pounding in the dark, to ponder our own numbered days or whether we walk our own holy week, “gliding on into infinity”—and beyond.

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