It was May of 2001. A full year had gone by since I had fallen down the stairs, broken my neck, and gotten addicted to pain medication. I had spent so much time at home in bed that I felt isolated from friends and from participating in any kind of life. One night I tossed and turned due to pain and depressive thoughts. I finally fell into a fitful sleep…and dreamt.
There were the three of us, seated alone in the stands overlooking a huge Olympic-like running track. My mother was seated next to me on my left, and a close friend of mine on my right. Below us, walking along the dirt lanes of the track as if in a parade of some sort, were thousands of people, all dressed in Biblical costumes. I knew that they were portraying the history of man, from the beginning to the end of time. The “end of time” was going to be portrayed way off to my right, farther than our eyes could see. I felt comforted by my mom’s presence. In the back of my mind, I remembered that she had died of cancer at 56-years-old in 1986.
“Were you in the processional last year?” my friend asked.
“No, last year I broke my neck,” I answered.
“I was in it last year,” she responded. I already knew this, because when I picked up the flat crystal pendant attached to the gold chain around my neck, the circle of glass, the size of a fifty-cent piece, afforded me a glimpse into last year’s parade. I picked it up and watched it again, and there she was, walking the track, just as she had said.
I glanced over to her to say something and noticed she had a bouquet of “Lily of the Valley” in her hands.
“Can I smell your bouquet?” I asked.
“Sure.” She handed me the bouquet and I buried my nose in the tiny fragrant white blossoms, inhaling deeply.
“Ah, that smells intoxicating,” I said as I handed the flowers back to her.
My eyes flew open and I realized I was flat on my back and staring at the ceiling. What a dream! It seemed significant, but I had no idea what it could mean or if I had just eaten too much pizza the night before.
A few days later, thoughts about the dream returned as I was worked around the house.
Last year you could not participate (in life) because you broke your neck. This year you cannot participate (in life) because you are still recovering. But in a year, things are going to change.
I thought about the comforting presence of my mother in the dream and the bouquet of flowers. I remembered the lyrics of a hymn by William Charles Fry written for the Salvation Army long ago, “He is the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star.” I thought about how I could inhale the fragrance of His presence and it was sustaining me in this time of healing. I wondered if I was right in thinking that the dream meant something was going to change in a year.
A year is a long time to wait for something to change, and as weeks crept into months, I really stopped expecting anything to change much at all. Then came another May, with summertime just around the corner. Lily of the Valley grows rampant next to my backyard fence, so as usual, I picked one or two tiny white flowers and crushed them between my thumb and forefinger, bringing them to my nose before I dropped the petals back into the flowerbed.
Later that day, a friend of mine, a therapist, stopped by for a visit. She had a surprising agenda.
“Linda, I want to ask you something. I believe that you have a real gift for counseling others and if you would go to college and get your degree, I would love to take you into my practice.”
“That would take me ten years!” I answered.
“No it wouldn’t, and even if it did, so what?” was her retort.
As if on cue, the dream of the procession of the history of man seemed to have been pulled out of a file cabinet in my brain and placed into a Blu Ray player. My heart skipped a beat.
Later on, I relayed my friend’s suggestion to my husband.
“You should go for it,” he said.
Since I had been kicked out of high school years ago, my first wobbly steps were to enroll in an adult education self-paced class to relearn high school math. Then I took a course on “how to study.” I thought I was as ready as I would ever be.
Four years later, at almost 55-years-old, I graduated Maxima cum Laude with a B.A. in Psychology from one of the top ten best four-year colleges in the western United States (according to US News and World Report). I proudly “walked” on graduation day and threw my mortarboard in the air with the rest of the young graduates. I had had my “do-over,” and now I was on my way to grad school. I had been one of twenty-five who had been accepted into a Masters of Social Work program at the University of Montana.
But look at that picture above again…because unbeknownst to me when I was smiling for the camera, something insidious was lying in wait, lurking in the deep recesses of my brain. Soon God was going to have change the plans of two neurosurgeons who told me I had one year to live if I was ever going to fulfill my dream.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. II Corinthians 2:14”