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Of Loss and Messages

_written January 2013_

I know some people have true dreams a lot. I’ve read a number of people who talk about how their gods come to them in their dreams and talk to them.

I can’t remember having clear dreams of my gods, where I know who they are and they address me plainly. Sometimes I have dreams where they take familiar forms (Jareth has shown up a number of times, and sometimes Professor Dark, for example) but off the top of my head I can’t recall actually being told anything. But I suppose being upset and anxious is as good a time as any to start.

My cousin R died yesterday. We weren’t particularly close, but she was the closest to my age out of all my cousins, and she and I have had some health issues in common. Mine was caught early both times, while it was benign; hers was not diagnosed until it was Stage 4 cancer.

This shook me badly, both for the obvious grief and for the triggering of my health anxiety and obsessive thoughts. It was bad enough that I left work early, unable to focus. I spent the rest of the afternoon crying every time a victim died on a crime show. I was, in short, a mess. Amber did her best to take care of me, but there’s only so much comfort to go around in a situation like that.

It took me a long time to fall asleep last night, and, as you may guess from my introduction, I dreamed.

I had come to an office in a strip mall. I had to deliver someone to the proprietor there, she had an appointment. In the dream I don’t remember thinking about who the person was, but in retrospect she did look like my cousin.

I wasn’t sure if the proprietor would see me, but her assistant invited me in as well. The office looked half like it belonged to a massage therapist, with a high cushioned table to treat the patient and various equipment, and half like it was someone’s home, with thick, dark oriental rugs and sheer curtains and incense in the air.

The doctor, for lack of a more specific title, smiled at me as she laid my cousin down on the table. Her smile was warm, and she looked a lot like Cheng Pei-pei, though her skin was quite dark, maybe the color of tiger’s eye in the halflight of the workroom. Her hair was pulled up in a simple, practical style, and she wore a short, black lab coat over a dark shirt and trousers. She covered R in a thick, almost chainmail-looking blanket, covered her in incense, and spoke to her too quietly for me to hear. I couldn’t make out the details through the curtains.

When she was done with my cousin, she helped her up and her assistant took R away. Then she looked at me and gestured for me to come over. I laid down on the table and she covered me with the same blanket. It was so heavy I couldn’t move, and I began to worry that lying on my back would trigger my vertigo, but she told me to relax. I couldn’t tell you exactly what she did; it was a little like a reiki treatment and a little like a pressure points massage and not really like either.

When she was done, she asked why I had hesitated and I said I wasn’t sure I was allowed. She said that I was always welcome, and I cried. We talked, and she sent me on my way.

When I woke up, I realized it had been the Dark Lady. She is not someone I’ve experienced in that way often, and it was startling to realize it. Some of my anxiety has abated this morning, but my no means all. That’s okay. She gave me the distance I needed; she reminded me that I am not my cousin. I can do the rest of the work on my own.

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I'm older now than my cousin R ever was.

Writing about her is harder than writing about an author or public figure you’ve all heard of. Nobody who reads this knew her. Hell, most of my memories of her are when I was a kid visiting my aunt, playing Atari Bowling with her or keeping my grandmother company when she was in and out of the nursing home.

But she wasn’t that much older than me, and she died of cancer. She’d noticed the lump, but didn’t do anything about it until it had spread. She spent a year getting chemo and radiation. Her mother is one of the most giving and genuine Catholics I know, and she didn’t deserve to watch her daughter die. I suppose no parent deserves that, but if anybody I know warranted a Christian miracle, it was her.

I've thought about her a lot since then, since it was years before I got the proper cancer diagnosis and finally got my double mastectomy, and I still think about her when I'm scheduling follow ups, scans, and any other regular health check-ins. I'm a frequent flyer on my insurance; it's easy to get overwhelmed and decide I don't feel like doing anything else. But it's still important.

In her name and in her memory, I beg you, don’t let your health concerns go. If you can, if you have any kind of insurance or clinic or option, please, get yourself checked if you think something’s wrong. A mammogram might have saved her life. It’s very likely one saved mine. Don’t hold off.

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