I wake up in the middle of the night with a start:
Heart racing, breathing fast.
It was a dream, I soon realize. What I fear is not true.
The despair, the nightmare, the horror.
All of it was a creation of my mind.
In the dream I was searching for him.
He was gone.
He just disappeared.
My child jogged off into the woods, his identifiable gait
Seen from behind,
Tennis whites lit up the woods–
But where was his racquet?
I realize now in the dream he didn’t have it.
He ran off never to be seen again.
Did not get to his destination.
I searched. I could not find him.
I failed him.
I quickly erase the fiction from my mind,
It’s not true I tell myself:
It’s a dream.
Focus on something else.
It’s 12:56 AM.
My heart settles back to its rhythm
I hear the rain,
My children are safe in their beds.
I can relax now.
But ease does not come.
My fear is misplaced.
The nightmare still persists.
The reality is a different image.
There is a nightmare.
A waking one.
One that’s real and true, one I cannot shake off with time, or more sleep, or distraction.
My nightmare is loss, it is my children out of my grasp, it is separation.
I still fear all of those things.
But it is I who will wander off into the unknown
Leaving others behind
Waking in the middle of the night with only an image of me,
As they search for me in vain.
I will be there, with them, but only in memories.
It will have to be enough.
But I know it won’t be.
This is what cancer nightmares are made of.
This is what grief does.
I cannot do more, be more, than I am right now.
But I can want more.
It is a parent’s prerogative.
I am greedy.
I make no apologies for wanting to see the things I want to see,
Wanting to share the things I want to share,
Wanting to live the life I want to live.
This is what I want.
This is what I hope.
This is what I dream.