My friend and former boss Ken Otterbourg recently wrote a remarkable piece on grief, baring his soul about his wife, JoAnne, who lost her fight with cancer last year.
I discussed the piece over dinner recently with Ken, and that night, I had a strange dream. As someone who rarely recalls his dreams, this one was startling:
I was visiting my old newspaper, The Hartford Courant, in Connecticut with a cousin (I have no idea why he was in this dream), which was having an all-staff reunion on the building’s rooftop and giving away old photos and mementoes of a bygone era in another room.
While at the rooftop party, I ran into a childhood friend (not a journalist; I have no idea how that person popped up in this dream) in the other room, who in turn told me of the death of another childhood friend.
I then returned to the roof, where it had gotten extremely dark and windy, a brewing nor’easter. I ran to the door, scrambling with my cousin to get downstairs, into our car and away. That’s when I woke up.
Even though I lost my father unexpectedly when I was just 22, in the scheme of life, my father’s death occurred in the “correct” order. I’m now 58, however, and with that age come two related truths: 1. I’m a lot closer to being the oldest generation, and 2. People in my generation and age range are going to die. My former colleague at The Courant, the brilliant journalist Lisa Chedekel, lost a fight to cancer in January. She was 57. Ken’s wife, JoAnne, was 60.
All of which is to say I can’t help but think the dream held a message for me.
Since 2016, I’ve been working toward my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. The dream was affirmation of that life choice—I need to stop worrying about what was (my journalism past, which dominated my discussion with Ken that night), what is (people of my generation are and will continue to die) and instead look forward to what will be (a future in counseling).
The final coincidence in this story is that my daughter is in a master’s degree program studying dream psychology. I might inquire what she thinks of the dream’s meaning. But I’m going with my own interpretation. As the publisher at my first newspaper, George Riggs, used to say, “onward and upward.”