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Dream, Dream, Dream

By Linda Hoffman Kimball








I am a dreamer. Not so much of the “can’t-pay-attention-because-I’m-imaging-an-idyllic-life- herding-goats-in-the-Alps” variety. Also not the “come-up-with-big-schemes-and-never- accomplish-any-of-them” kind. It’s the nighttime kind. The crawl-under-the-covers-and-snooze kind I like best.

Here are some reasons why.

I often have a little subconscious welcoming committee. Late at night as I’m getting sleepy I frequently find myself remembering the previous night’s dreams. The mood returns, the characters, the improbable plots – as though they had been there all day waiting for my conscious mind to do its daytime busyness and get back to the real world. Once I am asleep, the mood, characters and improbable plots are completely different, but on goes the loopy narrative like one long “exquisite corpse” project. (Such an unfortunate name.)

I can do cool things in my dreams. I go up or down stairs without touching down more than once or twice. This happens so often I sometimes think this is a talent I possess in my conscious life. I often fly, swoop or hover just over the ground. A couple years ago our family tried a segway tour (like all the other tourists in DC) and the sensation of navigating that odd vehicle was a waking version of what happens a lot in my dreams. (Does this symbolically mean that I’m ungrounded or out of touch with reality?)

Cows fly in my dreams. Not just cows. Any animal could fly or sing in a chorus or prance in a kick line. In one dream a whole herd of Holstein cows arose out of their lush green field, galloping skyward over their red barn, mooing Alleluias, arcing across a blue, blue sky.

The animal I see most often in my dreams is my dog, Worthy, who died in 2005 at age 13. I am always delighted to see him, nuzzle my face in his fur, take in that doggy scent, watch him galumph through meadows. Whenever I see him on these occasions, I marvel that he is so fit and vigorous since I have no memory of filling his bowl for years. “We should go visit the vet,” I tell him. “They won’t believe this!”

Several years ago while I slept I met another loved one who had passed. I won’t call it a dream because is was qualitatively different. In this event, my mother (not a Mormon and still alive, living a couple hours away) came to me all in white and told me she wanted to introduce me to someone. My mother left and a different woman in white stepped forward.

That woman was her mother who died in 1939. She looked to be in her mid-30’s. I recognized her as a older version of the graduating nursing student from 1901 whose picture I treasured. The love between us was powerful, palpable, immediate. We embraced. We didn’t speak but we communicated. She let me know that she loved me and that she was very grateful to me. We were both crying.

I woke up abruptly, my cheeks still streaming with tears. My pillowcase was soaked. In the morning I told my roommate about this holy encounter. Four days later I received in the mail confirmation that my grandmother’s temple work was ready to be done. The envelope was postmarked with the date I’d had my “dream.”

I hadn’t been to the temple yet when I had this experience. Parts of the “dream” make more sense to me now that I have been. There are some aspects of the temple that perplex and sometimes wound me. I have learned to lean on my grandmother’s perspective. There must be something powerful going on there if she came all the way from where she is to thank me. I trust her. I trust that experience. It is one of the “realest” of my life.

My mother was never particularly keen on my having become Mormon. Once, either feeling prompted by or ignoring the Spirit (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) I told her about my “meeting” her mother. Mom, who was something of a food allergy fanatic, replied matter-of-factly, “I always have weird dreams after I eat beef.”

Clearly she didn’t give the event any spiritual weight. Mom, who passed away in 1994, might answer differently now. I’m still not sure why she, a living person, had a part in this encounter. Should I expect a logical framework for something like this?

Generally I don’t share this particular story. Sacred things are not to be trifled with. And I don’t really want the rest of the world to assume I’m a fruitcake, or to have others suggest I avoid beef.

But there. I have shared it. Just between you and me.

Yeah, right. With this posted on the internet?

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

12 thoughts on “Dream, Dream, Dream”

  1. Don't impose a logical framework. What matters more are the feelings and the message conveyed than the details fitting into a clean, easy explanation.

  2. Accept the gift! I never dream and never remember if I do, so when my grandfather appeared to me one night dressed in temple clothes (he was a non member when he died and my grandmother, his wife had just passed away 27 yrs. after him) I understood with no words being said, "get her baptized" We did! I hardly ever share, but it really happened.

  3. Thanks for sharing that, Linda. My dad tells of having had a dream or two like yours. I never have, but I don't discount them.

  4. Sadly when I dream of my mom who has been gone 4 years now we fight. She comes back after a long absence and expects to fit right back in, and I yell at her that you can't abandon your family and just come back. All 3 of my brothers have the same dream. I think we are still mad that she abruptly died, and it seems like she should have come back by now. I would rather have a different dream about her.

  5. You've probably thought of this already, Linda, but it strikes me that the dream was a gift specifically for you. It wasn't to motivate you to do something (like her temple work–it was already done). It was a beautiful, free gift. Maybe, as you indicated, to shore up your own future temple experience. Or maybe even more just a gift of love and connectedness.

    Speaking of connectedness, I think it's perfect that your mom escorted and introduced your grandmother. It's through your mom that you are bound to your grandma.

  6. Great minds think …

    This morning I woke up anxious to write about the dreams I had had the past few nights. Because my children had urged me to do so, I began keeping a dream journal a little over a year ago, but nothing I've recorded compares with what you've shared here. Thank you for doing so.

    Last night, just before bed, I finished reading "The Manticore" by Robertson Davies (second in his Deptford trilogy–if you haven't read these, you should), in which the protagonist tells his story as notes from sessions with his psychotherapist. Of course, he relates and they discuss a number of his dreams, so, as I read, I began to try to analyze patterns in my own dreams in terms of what the fictional therapist was telling the fictional analysand.

    Lately, I've been having a lot of dreams about trying to get somewhere and being stymied because I don't have everything I need for the trip: I can't find my car keys, or I've forgotten something and have to go back home to get it, or I spend so long trying to pack every possible thing that I miss the train. I used to dream about arriving at school without having studied for the exam or without the paper that is due today. Clearly, I have anxieties about being ill-prepared for life. And I've missed so many trains. But, thankfully, there's always another one, even if it doesn't come until the next day.

  7. I too am a dreamer. Sometimes inspired, sometimes nonsense, sometimes confusingly in the middle. I have sought to understand when and how (and when NOT) to use/apply this spiritual gift. I love your account of your grandmother and could share something similar. My comments below relate mostly to those dreams that feel meaningful, but don't necessarily contain inspired direction from heaven.

    In one of Truman Madsen's audio tapes, he quoted Joseph Smith as saying something like, "God comforts men through their dreams, even if they don't mean anything." I could never find the original quote, and Brother Madsen died before I could ask him the source.

    But I remembered this quote and found that it connected amazingly to the scientific findings in the book "The Mind at Night" by Andrea Rock. The first chapters of the book focus heavily on brain neuroscience, and can be a little dense. But I was amazed and gratified when I read the findings of university researchers who compilied thousands of findings and dream records from sleep labs and brain monitoring across the country.

    Here is a very poor summary of a few points that really helped me: (Read the whole book if you are interested.)

    First, Andrea Rock asserts that it appears that dreams play a form of internal therapy during the night. It's as though your brain is saying, "hmmm…how can I connect all these issues I've been dealing with? When have I encountered this before, and how did I/would I handle it?"

    Here are some of the details that explain dreams:

    1. When you dream, your right brain is driving and your left brain is merely watching the show. (They know this because the corpos callosum–cord that connects the two halves–is low in electrical activity.) This means that you are thinking in emotions, pictures, colors, and music, rather than in linear, word-driven fashion. The "plot" of your dream is often what the left brain makes up to explain the silent movie it is watching, and often sounds ludicrous. But if you ponder mostly on what you saw and felt, you can often figure out how the symbols are related to your real life concerns–see point #2.

    2. The emotions and situations in our dream often connect quite clearly to something that happened DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY or EIGHT days ago. This means that if you had a very emotional occurance today, you would not dream about it tonight. Tonight you would most often just let the topic rest. But TOMORROW night while sleeping, your RIGHT brain would take it out and study what you felt and try to figure out how it related to past memories and experiences. People (mostly females) often dream about exciting/disturbing situations AGAIN a week later (8 days after the original), and sometimes AGAIN a week after that. This means that what you dream today is often related to what happened yesterday and a week ago yesterday. And if you can record or remember those events, you'll notice similarities and patterns.

    3. An average night contains 4 sleep cycles which start with deep sleep and end with REM sleep.

    Deep sleep is when your brain basically rehearses procedures that are new to you, like playing tetrus, or dragging excel windows, or playing an instrument. Without the practice of deep sleep, you don't learn well. This is why it's better to practice 5 min/day than 25 minutes on just Saturday. If you're awakened during deep sleep, your "dreams" will seem monotonous.

    REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is what we usually call dreaming. During the first REM cycle of the night (around midnight) your brain "replay" is very powerful emotionally, and a very literal replay of the scary or troubling situation. Most nightmares appear at this time. During each of the successive REM cycles, the emotion tends to fade into a softer watercolor and become increasingly mixed with images from your past, farther and farther back. So by morning, you might be mildly annoyed at a boy you knew back in elementary school. "Why am I dreaming about him?" you ask. Well, he vaguely reminds your right brain of something you dealt with day before yesterday (or 8 days ago.)

    So if it bothers you that you dreamed about an old boyfriend, consider that your brain might be remembering a way that your past experience could enlighten your relationship with your husband. If you dream about showing up late for a test, or walking naked in public–these might just be images that connect emotionally to two days ago: maybe you felt unprepared for your sacrament meeting talk, or you felt unfairly examined in public.

    4. Everybody dreams–even people who say they don't, and who rarely remember a dream. Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean that dreams aren't doing their work. People who are deprived of REM sleep become horrible bears in their personal life. So if you wake up more cheerful and calm after a good night's sleep, don't worry about not remembering anything…it's working.

    My personal theory is that God set up this brain process, like a physical healing process, to help us clean up the mess of daily life and consolidate memories in meaningful ways. But sometimes he enters and plays an active role in directing us to remember certain things, or envision certain things.

    Most people's recurring dreams stop when they figure out the problem or message associated with them. There are a lot of books on this, and many of them are NOT inspired. But if you're having recurring dreams that you can't figure out–my advice would be to keep recording them and praying about them until the Lord gives you a satisfactory interpretation.

    Please, everyone, know that I don't mean to ascribe importance to every nonsense dream. I have looney ones too that I just laugh about sometimes. I'm sorry to take so long here–but these are ideas that I wish I'd known a lot sooner in my life, so I couldn't help but share.

    Sweet dreams to everyone! (And you can pray for that too…)

  8. Lately I have been noticing how often dreams as spiritual experiences are or are not mentioned. Elder Scott in the April General Conference this year spoke of them and I've been reading books by other prophets who also mentioned them. Yet it does not seem like something most people give any serious weight to, at least in this day and age. I've had sacred experiences in my own life where I know that the Lord still uses dreams to communicate with us just as he did anciently.

  9. People have different spiritual gifts. You dream and therefore you have that avenue open for spiritual dreams like you have described. How wonderful!
    I had a spiritual experience involving my grandmother after she died. It is precious.


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