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Picture After Picture

This whole "grief" thing is one hell of a roller coaster.

I strongly recommend you avoid it if at all possible.

It's been just over 3 months since my mom died.

Three months since I last saw her.

Three months since I last talked to her.

Three months since I last told her that I loved her.

And three months stuck inside an ever expanding and contracting vacuum of grief.

I'm sure you've heard someone say "well, I have good days and bad days".

Could be about anything. A job, an illness, an emotion,

the way their car runs…whatever.

Good days. Bad days. And then there are just days.

Well, the last three months have been no different for me, except that they have all been bad days. Just with varying degrees of "bad", "not that bad" and "ok I suppose".

But every day is emotionally the same.

It's just the details that change.

I think about my mom every second of every day.

That's not an exaggeration and I'm not just saying it to be dramatic.

I, very literally, have her on my mind all the time.

Her memory has become my foundation, the cornerstone of my days, and then all the other things get piled on top. But she's always there and I lately I've found myself mentally staying closer to that foundation then anywhere else.

I'm not saying it's good or bad.

It just is.

But the hardest part of that, are the dreams.

I've been dreaming about my mom a lot lately.

Almost every night.

I recently came back from a much needed vacation and I think I dreamt about her every single night I was away. Part of it was definitely because I'm still dealing with guilt I feel about her death. Guilt about not seeing her enough. Guilt about not talking to her enough. Guilt about not being there when she died. And I carried that guilt like it was an anchor for the entire trip. I felt guilty about taking a vacation. I felt like I was being selfish. How dare I? I don't deserve a reprieve so soon after her death! So, that burden of guilt probably manifested itself into some pretty vivid dreams. Dreams so clear and concise that I can still remember them now.

I've heard people say that it's not uncommon for a deceased loved one to visit you in your dreams. They say it's their souls way of communicating with you. Occasionally to let you, the bereaved, know that they are ok. Occasionally to steal money out of your wallet. Whatever the reason, there are actually scientists that claim quantum physics can prove the existence of life after death

(Click Here if you want to read up on it)

I'm not saying I believe this.

I'm not saying I don't.

But I can tell you matter-of-factly that in one of the dreams I had, my mother was mad. She was mad that she had died so early and so quickly. She was mad that she wouldn't be there for my brother and I. She wanted to see her granddaughter again. She even told me she was sorry for the pain her death caused. I remember very clearly telling her it was ok and having her look at me and saying, "Yes Mikey, it will be ok".

I woke up from that dream crying.

Crying because I was sad and crying because I felt like I had actually just

spoken to her again. But her anger and frustration was so palpable,

it stuck with me the entire day.

Is that just my subconscious translating my own anger for her sudden death? Possibly.

Or did she really visit me in a dream?


Who can really say?

The one dream that really sticks with me, the one I can remember as clear as if I'm watching it right now, is the one with the pictures.

It started out as all dreams start out – suddenly.

You have that sudden moment of realization that you're somewhere

in some kind of situation.

The only difference is, I knew from the very beginning that I was dreaming.

Or at least it was a major plot point within the dream.

I knew I was not awake.

Knew none of this real.

But there was an incredibly overwhelming sense of urgency

right from the beginning and I knew why.

I knew that time was a factor.

Looking around, I could tell I was my version of the Bronx, circa 1950.

Not the real Bronx. Just the way I had envisioned it.

I knew it was my version, I knew it was the past and right from the beginning

I knew why I was there.

I was there to find my mom and take as many pictures as I possibly could in the short amount of time that I had.

Before the dream ended.

Before she died again.

And for some reason I thought that if I take pictures here, when I wake up,

I will still have them. In fact, I was sure of it. I felt like I was being given a chance to do something that I should have done while she was alive.

Picture after picture.

I had to find her and take picture after picture.

I repeated that over and over in my mind so many times it became a mantra.

And even though this was my version of the black and white Bronx,

everything exploded with color. Every last detail was lush, alive and new.

I remember finding my mom standing outside next to the doorway of her apartment building. She was there with some friends and everybody was laughing.

I remember looking at her, thinking she was so young, 17, maybe 18 and beautiful. And that I had never seen her so happy.

But not just happy. Worry free.

She looked as if she had her whole life ahead of her and not a care in the world.

And I distinctly remember feeling my first real measure of joy since her death.

Even though I knew it was a dream and even though I knew none of this was real, I felt a small spark of elation knowing that somewhere, even if it was just in this made up world, my mom was alive and more then that, she was happy.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and just started taking pictures.

I don't think I ever took my finger off the digital shutter button.

Picture after picture.

Picture after picture.

Just keep taking pictures.

We got into a car. A light blue late 50's style convertible. I wasn't sure the exact make or model but I knew I didn't care. I sat in the back seat, my mom was in the front passenger seat. I don't know who was driving, but again, I knew I didn't care.

And as we drove down some endless city street, my mom tuned around to face me. She never spoke, but I could tell she knew why I was there. She just smiled as I took picture after picture.

Picture after picture.

We drove for what seemed like hours and with each passing block, my mom seemed to get a little older. When we started our trip she was still a teenager, but now she looked as if she were in her mid to late 20's and then later her 30's. But no matter how old she got, she never stopped smiling at me.

It wasn't that she was just happy to see me.

It's as if she wanted me to take these pictures.

She wanted me to have these memories.

She wanted to leave me with something.

Picture after picture.

Picture after picture.

She was now in her 40's

Picture after picture.

She was now in her 50's

Picture after picture.

Suddenly the car came to a halt. I looked up and saw that we had stopped at a red light so I began scrolling through the photos on my phone and sure enough, every one of them was still there. From the moment I first saw my mom to just a few seconds ago. She was now 70. But still just as happy as when she were a teenager. I had taken hundreds of photos.

All of my mom smiling.


Reprieved from the doubts and fears of this waking life.

Almost as if she had captured the essence of a warm summer day.

I thought to myself, "I did it. I actually pulled this off".

I leaned in closer to the front seat to where she was sitting. I wanted to thank for being there for me one more time. I reached out to place my hand on her shoulder – but she was gone. The driver of the car was gone too.

The colors that once saturated the landscape were now sickly and anemic.

The air tasted stale. A day that started out warm, was now bitterly cold.

I got out of the car and looked around. The streets were barren.

The city had become a ghost town.

There was no sound except for the wind.

Then, in the distant, I heard the faint sound of a phone ringing

and a voice whispered in my ear "she's gone".

And I woke up.

I stayed in bed completely motionless replaying what had just happened.

The phrase "picture after picture" was stuck on an endless loop in my head.

I wasn't upset because it was "all just a dream".

I knew it was a dream while it was happening.

And I wasn't sad.

I was disoriented.

I felt like I had been given something important

but I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it.

Of course I checked my phone and of course there were no pictures on it.

This isn't the movies. But I can remember exactly what those pictures looked like. I could describe each of them to you in detail.

So what does all this mean?

Got me. I never claimed to have any answers.

It's possible it doesn't mean anything at all.

But then again, it's possible it does.

I guess it all depends on what you believe and how far you're willing to extend your faith. I can say that these dreams have brought me a small amount of happiness. But at the same time have made me that much more cognizant of what's missing. What will forever be missing.

I love my mom and I miss her more then I will ever be able to describe.

There is still no part of me that is able to fully accept that she's gone.

But knowing that there's even a chance that part of her is somewhere in some other place and that part of her is happy and unburdened from the pains she had in life, gives me a glimmer of hope.

I still cry every day, but part of those tears are for her freedom and her joy.

I love you mom…wherever you might be.

Sorry for making a fuss.

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