Dreams and Dying, Part 2

Dreams and Dying, Part 2

Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him. John 11:11

Many years ago I was told that if a person died in a dream they would be dead in real life, too. I am not sure how anyone would know, but the thought was memorable. I remember several dreams in which I was dying, although just as I was about to breathe my last, I woke up to my earthly life. In one particularly vivid dream, I was on the downtown streets of a foreign city when a group of rebels drove by, shooting everyone on the sidewalks. I was hit numerous times in the torso and fell back against a building and onto the sidewalk. I watched blood ooze from my many wounds and felt myself becoming lightheaded as I progressively lost consciousness. There was no pain, only wonder that I seemed to be more an observer of my death than its victim. I knew I was dying, and (strangely) remembered hearing that if a person died in a dream, they died for real. Then I woke up, shaken, but very much alive.

I have observed in previous Life Notes that our consciousness is not tied to our body, as is evidenced by our dreams. In the dream of being shot, I could feel the bullets penetrating my body. I heard the loud, repetitive sounds of the semi-automatic weapons being fired and the people screaming in the chaos around me. The force of the bullets slammed my body against the building behind me. I remember the feel of the rough bricks scraping my back as I slid to the concrete walk. The only thing missing from what I would have expected from a flesh and blood experience was the pain. I remember thinking, “This should really hurt,” but all I felt was a detached numbness.

Most of my dreams, particularly those that occur in the initial stages of sleep, occur in familiar territory. If I am awakened soon after falling sleep, I find that my consciousness has drifted seamlessly from my pre-sleep thoughts into familiar surroundings with people I know well. Sometimes I know them in my waking life, too, but not always. For example, I often find myself with my family in our “new” home, meaning a home my family moved into some time ago, but it is not the home of my waking moments. I often remember my waking home and wonder why we ever decided to leave it. Even so, I have a history in this dream reality, exactly as I do in my waking reality. I resume life-stories there in the same way I resume life-stories here, with people and places I share life with. Recurring dreams happen often, where I experience similar events on a regular basis, just as I do in my waking hours.

I share details of these dreams to illustrate the greater point that our consciousness not tied to our body or to our waking reality. I also share them because everyone has dreams in which they find themselves in familiar settings that are very different from those of their waking hours. If our dreams demonstrate that our consciousness is not limited to a single point in space, such as our earthly body, then our dreams also demonstrate that our consciousness is not limited to a certain point in time, either. The concepts of space and time we have developed from our waking consciousness are severely limited. Although our dreams regularly seem to last for hours or days, the earth-time duration of most dreams, however, is a few minutes or less. I regularly have dreams where long-dead relatives are with me as if they had never left. Some of my dreams are with famous or historical folks I have never met here. Most encounters are with regular folks doing regular things, exactly like what I experience in my waking hours.

The point I wish to emphasize has nothing to do with the strangeness or diversity of our dreams but with their realness. Our consciousness experiences all these seemingly real settings and people beyond what we experience in our waking hours. I think we write these off as only dreams to our own detriment. Our dreams give us inklings of the unlimited nature of the worlds our consciousness can and does inhabit. Our lives are so much more than what we experience here. It seems likely to me that at our moment of death to this life, we simply slip easily and comfortably into one or more of these other familiar worlds, just as we do when we fall asleep at night. Regardless, death is not the end.

This is the 41st in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

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