October 2006. Four months since my son Jesse died. Until now my grief had been tempered by hope that he would come to me in a dream to show me that he was okay. But as days and weeks passed, I began to fear that something was wrong, and I was close to despair.
I had expected to hear from Jesse very soon because, like me, he had the dream gift that runs in our family. Every family member I’d been close to had come to me at least once in a dream after they died—although sometimes not for years. And Jesse and I had talked about communicating through dreams after one of us “crossed over” (as he called it).
The dream I’d been waiting for arrived by email one Sunday evening. A woman from Meeting who I didn’t know well at the time had written about a dream she was feeling led to tell me.
Claire’s dream was a dart to the heart of comfort, hope, and joy—strong healing medicine. As I read the dream, I knew instantly that it was Jesse. I cried for joy and was euphoric for days. People at Meeting and work remarked on the change in me.
The full dream with commentary would take too many words, so highlights follow, with quotes around Claire’s words.
The dream had a “Native American motif,” though Claire knew nothing then of my ancestry or background. A house and the surrounding area were covered by a dome of buff-colored leather, like the surface of a drum. As Claire looked at the dome, an opening appeared and Jesse came through. Before the opening closed behind him, Claire saw the sky beyond —“bluish-black with billions of bright stars, like salt on a dark blue plate.”
Jesse (who had been paralyzed) was walking. He looked healthy and energetic and told Claire, “I can do everything now.” But Jesse had other reasons for visiting Claire than to show that he was alive and well, and this element of the dream took time and prayer to discern.
Jesse told Claire that this dome-covered place was where he had lived. As he showed her around, he told her that he’d been troubled while living there, and he shared a few details known only to me. Jesse said these things were in the past, that he’d been healed.
Outside, as Jesse and Claire stood talking beside a split rail fence, I rode up on an Appaloosa — a Nez Perce horse. Claire didn’t know then that horses have special meaning for me or that Jesse had once named a horse I’d seen in a vision.
As I prayed and journaled about Claire’s dream, I saw a connection between the leather dome that covered the area where Jesse had lived and rawhide domes that cover sweat lodges. And I came to see Jesse’s confession to Claire as part of a healing process, sometimes uncomfortable, that the dream had likened to a sweat lodge experience.
The euphoria from Claire’s dream lasted only a few weeks, and the grief returned, but the healing medicine remains as part of an inward river of memories and feelings that comfort me with reminders of God’s love and grace—like Claire’s dream.
— Sally Gillette
[Postscript] About six weeks after Claire’s dream, Mike and I went to Jesse’s grave on his birthday. As we stood beside the grave, still covered with a mound of dirt, I was aware of the connection between graves and sweat lodges. I read aloud a Nez Perce poem about the sweat lodge that I’d found when praying about Claire’s dream. In the poem (below), confession is part of the healing experience. The italicized words are spoken by Old Man, the Sweat Lodge.
Old Man the Sweat Lodge
This small lodge is now
The womb of our mother, Earth.
This blackness in which we sit,
The ignorance of our impure minds.
These burning stones are
The coming of new life.”
I keep his words near my heart.
Confessing, I recall my evil deeds.
For each sin, I sprinkle water on fire hot stones.
The hissed steam is sign that
The place from which Earth’s seeds grow
Is still alive.
I remember, Old Man heals the sick,
Brings good fortune to one deserving.
Sacred steam rises;
I feel my pores give out their dross
After I chant prayers to the Great Spirit,
Through this door dawns wisdom.
Cleansed, I dive into icy waters
Pure, I wash away all of yesterday.
“My son, walk in this new life.
It is given to you.
Think right, feel right.
thank you, Old Man, the Sweat Lodge
Below: Claire’s Dream. Collage by Sally Gillette