The Dream
4:34 A.M.
2 December 2006

Last night I dreamed I was walking along the beach at sunset. Every few feet, I'd stop and turn around, looking at the footprints I had left in the sand, watching as the crashing waves washed them away. I walked for miles along the never-ending coast, the vibrant pinks and oranges that tinted the evening sky lighting my way. I was the sole occupant of the beach that night. The gentle rushing sound of the rolling waves soothed my broken heart as I thought of her. I thought it had to be because Nannie had so loved the ocean, had found peace at the seafront. So, as I walked, I imagined that she was walking with me, our hands entwined as we both found comfort from the lullaby of the ocean.

At one point, I stopped to observe my footprints, and was astonished to see two sets. I glanced around me in all directions, confirming that I was indeed the only one there, and my confusion deepened. Finally, I turned around and continued my journey towards the setting sun. After a few moments, I became aware of a presence at my side. I turned to see Nannie standing next to me, just as I had last seen her. Her salt and pepper hair fell limply to her shoulders, her green eyes sparkled with a brilliant happiness I so often observed in her, and a pleasant smile rested upon her face. I wrapped my arms around the form of my grandmother, sure that I was imagining her presence. But as her arms enveloped me in a warm embrace, I knew that she was really with me, and I marveled at the sensation of being in her arms for the first time in six years.

I had so struggled with the pain of losing the person dearest to me; that was the reason for my sunset journey along the beach. I was seeking peace and comfort, knowing I would never find it. I realized I was wrong as Nannie embraced me. She kissed my temple and pulled away, tears staining her cheeks. Hot, salty tears fell from my own eyes as she looked at me, taking in the sight of her darling Amanda, now nearly twenty years old. My mouth opened as I tried to speak, but no words came. She smiled at me, and then I heard her voice for the first time in six years.

"Oh, my Amanda. Darlin', I have missed you so much. I've wanted to be with you so badly these years, as I've watched you grow into a fine young lady. I am so proud of you, Amanda." As she spoke, she withdrew from our embrace and took my hand into hers, the both of us beginning to walk along the coastline once more. "You have been through so much, baby, and I've wanted so badly to be with you. Every time you've cried, I've watched you, tears of my own accompanying your sorrow. Every time you've wished for me to be there, I've had my arms wrapped tight around you."

She paused to squeeze my hand and gather her words. I myself could not speak, so overcome with emotion was I. Nannie took a breath, and she spoke again. "Amanda, I am so sorry that you had to go through what you did the morning I passed. You were so strong, and I wept as I watched you when you woke up to find me. My baby, my darlin', darlin' Amanda… you were so brave, and I know how very scared you were. I know that over the years, you have feared you will forget me. Let me tell you, as long as you remember the little things, the happy moments we shared together, you will never forget me, and I will never be far from your heart. I will be there when you get married to your boyfriend. He is a wonderful man and he will treat you well. I will be there when you have your babies. I will be there as you watch them grow. Through all the challenges you will face and all the obstacles you will overcome, I will be there. Your pain shall be my pain, your comfort my comfort, your joy my joy. You will never have to be alone, so long as you hold your treasured memories of my time with you dear to your heart."

We stopped at last where the sunset ended, and I looked up to see a brilliant staircase, leading up to towering gates where a smiling angel stood watching over us. Nannie moved to stand in front of me and she smiled, pulling me close and wiping the tears from my eyes. She glanced over her shoulder to the staircase and back at me.

"I want you to know how very much I love you, and how very proud of you I am. You have grown up to be a wonderful young woman. As I have told you before, you deserve only the best, so never let anything stand in the way of your goals, hopes, and dreams. You can do anything." Nannie kissed my cheek and held me tight. "It's okay to cry when you miss me, but know that I am there. I am with you in spirit, always, and you can always come to me with anything. I know how much you miss me, but it is okay to let go, Amanda, because I know how very much you love me, and I will never truly leave you. It's okay to let go. I love you, so very, very much."

With those words, Nannie hugged me one last time and ascended the staircase to the towering gates. The angel met here there and, as I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks, led my Nannie, ever-smiling, into Heaven once more.

I awoke, my face wet with tears, feeling more light-hearted than I had in years. When I sat up and looked on my bedside table, a single dogwood flower laid there, a bag of lemon drops next to it, and I knew that Nannie had been with me that night. I knew that she was with me even then, and that I truly never would be alone.