Conversation with my Great-Grandmother

I don’t dream much. When I do dream, they tend to be vivid and memorable. The other night I had a surprising vivid dream that I’m still thinking about: I had a conversation with my great-grandmother who died six months before I was born.

I’ve always been sad that I didn’t know her. By all accounts she was feisty and courageous–despite her diminuitive size. The first convert to Mormonism in that line of the family, she was an immigrant from Norway, and the story of her family’s journey defines tenacity. I’ve talked with my beloved, feisty and smart- as-a-whip 101 year-old grandma about her mama, and after every conversation, I really wished I would have been able to meet my great-grandma. So I guess the other night I did.

I was walking in back of my grandma’s house where the old chicken coops were, and went into an upstairs room of the barn. It was light and peaceful and I knocked on a door. This really beautiful, vibrant woman answered, and she had the kindest, biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I instantly knew who she was and we embraced.

We sat down at a table, and I said “Now that you’ve died, has your concept of theology changed?”

I don’t really remember anything else. That was it. I don’t know what her answer was. Above all, I don’t know why I asked that question. This was my chance–the chance to have a conversation with this person that I’ve admired my whole life, and I was asking about her concept of theology. That seems weird to me. I woke up thinking “you’re an idiot.”

But maybe that was just as fine a question as any other. I didn’t need to ask her if she was happy–that was obvious. I didn’t need to ask her if she loved me, because I felt it. I guess I was really asking for some wisdom from the other side about those age-old questions that humans have always struggled with. Maybe it was fitting that she didn’t answer me. Maybe the answer is that we try too hard to define the indefinable and just loving your grandma is a pretty good way to go.

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  1. I think it’s a great question.

  2. That’s really neat.

    When my daughter was about four years old she told me she had a dream that she flew to heaven in our minivan and saw Heavenly Father. I asked her if he said anything to her and she told me he said, “I’m happy to see you.”

  3. This is beautiful and profound, Karen. I especially love the last paragraph and sentence.

    I am absolutely certain of few things relative to the afterlife, but I am convinced of one thing: My concept of theology is limited severely, and what I will understand there will be quite different than I understand here. I think your question was spot-on, especially given the stuff that was obvious to you without having to ask – and I think those obvious things were presented as obvious for a reason.

    Susan, I also love your daughter’s answer to your question. Some things really are that simple.

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us Karen. What a lovely story. I think you asked the perfect question.

    Recently I had a vivid and disturbing dream about my deceased maternal grandparents. I was close to them and miss them very much.

    In my dream I came upon them wandering in an empty parking lot, looking lost and forlorn. We made eye contact and then the dream ended without any words being exchanged.

    They weren’t LDS and since the dream I’ve had the strongest desire to get temple work done for them. (Something I won’t be doing for them myself, obviously.) I just want to connect with them again somehow, someday.

    FWIW, a psychoanalyst colleague insists my dream means I feel guiltly about not spending enough time with my parents, who live 2000 miles away and are getting older. I steer clear of dream interpretation, however.

  5. Mike, I would love to help you out with their Temple work, if you need…

    Karen, what a lovely dream, I think it gently answered a lot of questions.

  6. Thanks all.

    Susan, what a great story–btw, not to jack my own thread, but I still listen to the robot songs playlist you made for your kids and sent to me. It’s a go to favorite when I need a pickup. :)

    Ray, I agree. I think we think we know a lot more than we actually do. I also think we make a lot of stuff up….

    Mike, that’s really interesting, and your psychologists analysis is pretty interesting too–although I too don’t really put too much stock in the whole idea of dream analysis.

    Tracy, yeah, I think there were some gentle answers there. :) I also think that it helped to clarify for me what some of my questions are…and 90% of the time good answers depend on asking good questions. Or so I tell myself….

  7. wow I use a lot of emoticons. I don’t notice it so much until they show up big and yellow….

  8. Wonderful post Karen, you got me thinking about what I would ask my grandmother if she appeared in a dream and I have to admit that the most most pressing question on my mind is to get the recipe for the delicious Swedish pancakes she used to make when I was little. I’m not kidding.

  9. Karen H. says:

    Steve, I just emailed my mom to ask my grandma for her recipe from “the old country.” They’re yummy. I’ll email it to you when I hear.