The Incommunicable and Unappeasable Want

The Incommunicable and Unappeasable Want

I have a recurring dream. The first time I had it, after the death of my grandfather, I thought it was special but of no real consequence. Since then I’ve had the exact same dream the night after the funeral of every Christian loved one in my family. This dream’s effect on me has been so powerful that in a way I now look forward to having it.

Whenever a Christian family member passes away, that evening in my sleep I return to the backyard where I grew up. I see the huge oak trees in the yard and a large picnic table on our patio. Each time I have the dream, the table gets larger. There’s a picnic taking place. On the table is a neatly placed red and white checkered tablecloth. In the center of the table are large buckets of chicken surrounded by baked beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, and coleslaw. I’m always standing inside my house, peering out the glass door like I’m spying on someone. As I’m standing there, the person whose funeral I just attended that day slowly walks in from the right.

As the person appears, I always see my grandfather look up and smile. He never smiled a lot when he was alive, but he’s smiling in the dream. He stands up, wipes his hands on a napkin, and reaches out and kisses the new person at the table on each cheek. People stand up, laugh, and greet one another like they had been expecting each other. My grandmother is the last one to join them at the table. She is wearing a white blouse and blue pants. Her tightly-permed hair looks just like she always had her hairdresser style it while she was alive, once a week, every week. Now, however, she’s walking upright. Her face looks much younger. The weathered lines on her face are gone. She’s laughing. She’s not wearing dentures, so the first thing she grabs is an ear of corn.

In my dream as I stand in the house watching this, I always feel like I’m trying to cry, my throat knotting up in a ball. It’s a strange sensation. As the dream brings me back to all of these people who have touched my life in such profound ways, I am overcome with feelings and memories I haven’t experienced in years. With each dream the feelings become more intense. Each time I’m taken back to the picnic, I want to stay there a little longer. I want to talk to everyone. I try to push the door open and tell them that I’m there, but each time I do so, I wake up. I get angry and try to force myself back to sleep, but once I’m awake the dream is gone, until next time.

This longing and feeling of connection with these people only strengthens and grows because of something else I always see in the dream. It’s always a light, a sort of center of warmth, or presence. Just outside my vision to the left, blocked by the door, something is sitting, or rather, someone. At first I didn’t know who it was, but each time I’m taken back to that place, the more certain I become about who is sitting there. I can’t see him, but I see his presence reflected in the people sitting at that table. I can see his attributes bouncing off their faces. No matter how hard I might squint and maneuver my body, I never see him, but each time I’m there I feel him in the same way, just like I feel the sunshine on my face on a warm summer day.

I know the dream isn’t real, but somehow I don’t think the dream is the point—the point is the longing that induces the dream. My desire for something that endures beyond the grave is real. The yearning, the hope for something beyond this life, never leaves. It only intensifies with time. The dream, in my mind, is only a reminder of something that stirs much deeper inside me. 

  1. S. Lewis called it “the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want.” The neurons in my brain are only reaching for the most potent memories, images, and emotions it can grasp to remind me, if only a few times in my lifetime, that something exists beyond this world, a place, a dimension—I don’t have the words to describe it, but it’s real. Everything within me knows this place exists. The Bible calls it Heaven. To me it simply feels like home.

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