Night after night, I prayed for my mother’s return.
Then, one night, in a dream, she was finally there. She said she’d come in answer to all my prayers.
I was so happy, I wept. In the dream, my mother held me and gave me the comfort from this wretched life I so desperately needed.
In this dream, she held and caressed me, asking me what she could do to make things better.
I told her she needed to return to my dreams every night. And, just like the old times, give me comfort with the stories and accounts of the way things used to be.
That night, in my dream, she held me and told me all about what my life was like as a child. She told me all the stories I already knew about my growing up. She told me about what a special and wonderful child I was. Then she told me of what a wonderful adult I’d became. It was everything I needed. It was a return to the only comfort I ever had. It was just like before she died. In my dream, she held and comforted me with assurances that everything would be all right. Then, before I knew it, it was dawn and I was awake again.
That evening I slept the best in all the years since my mother died.
So the next night, I prayed again, and she returned to give me the same comfort and intoxicating slumber.
Every night I repeated the ritual. Every night my mother returned. Every night I slept as well as I did as a baby. Every night I fell asleep so easily, knowing she’d be there to comfort me in my dreams.
Until the night I noticed all her stories about me changed. That night her recollections were a bit more direct and a little less flattering than all the nights before. It was as if some entity other than my mother was creeping into my dreams.
That night I slept worse than I had in months. So the next night, I asked my mother if anything was wrong.
She asked why, in all the months of her return, I hadn’t asked about her and her existence in the afterlife. She asked why, given all that she’d experienced after death, why I was the only thing either of us were expected to care about.
She said, “For all you know, I suffer in the afterlife. Yet, you’ve never once asked.”
I said her return to me was the only thing that gave me any comfort. I explained that her comforts were all I needed. I explained how, being so important to my sanity, it was something I assumed she was more than happy to deliver without a need or expectation for anything in return.
My mother explained she’d come to understand many things about the afterlife. And it would seem a normal thing for any mortal to desire to understand it too, given that it’s everyone’s inevitable coda. She said she had a lot to offer to make the transition into the afterlife easier for me than it was for her. She said one of the first things was to understand my life wasn’t simply about me.
But I explained how she and the afterlife or anything else didn’t give me the comfort of knowing how good I’d always been. Nothing gave me more comfort and solace than her reassurances of how much I was and continued to be loved. For me, there was no rest without knowing I was important to someone once. And the comfort and assurances I was still important – that I still meant something to someone – superseded everything else.
My mother asked if I cared at all what the afterlife was like. She warned that much of the way it was going to unfold would be of my own making.
I replied, “Not if it comes at the expense of losing the attention you give me, for that is my greatest and only comfort, and the only thing that makes my living bearable.”
My mother urged me to seek comfort, not only in her, but within the life I still possessed. She said it would be the only way for my peaceful transition into a tranquil afterlife.
I said I wasn’t interested. I pleaded that all I needed were her comforts.
My mother began to explain the labors and difficulties of breaching the metaphysical boundaries of the afterlife for her nightly visits. She said there were penalties if she ever got caught. She explained the reason it took so long to answer my prayers was the necessity of devising a plan for routinely trespassing back into the realm of finite existence without ever getting caught. She said there could be severe punishments for her deceiving the gatekeepers of the afterlife night after night.
But I wasn’t interested in that. The hours of my slumber were limited. And I needed comfort. Constant comfort and reassurances of her love for me since the rest of the world had so callously disposed of me in her absence.
The next night I prayed, and my mother never appeared in my dreams. Every night I still pray, but she’s never returned. Every night I pray for hours upon hours, sometimes until dawn. I fear I’m losing my mind – maybe even my soul – from lack of sleep.