A story of grieving, part 6 of 7

Smiles, dreams and French fries from Jesus

Back in February, the stress in my life was partially about my mom’s death, but it was mostly about having to deal with my siblings—you know—the ones who misspelled my name in the first draft of the obituary. (Pssst. Linda and Pam both know how to spell. They were just jacking with me. Peaceful Readers, say it with me—like Gomer Pyle: Surprise, surprise, surprise!)

The photos and the smiles
My sisters—I mean siblings—asked me to put together the PowerPoint presentation for my mom’s funeral. No problem. It took a long time to go through all the possible photos. My mom wasn’t a fan of having her picture taken. She was notorious for closing her eyes or not smiling, so I had to do some digging. There was a hefty Reject Pile. But the presentation turned out really good in the end. I felt relieved when that was done.

Truth be told, I was annoyed to spend all that time looking at photos of Pam—wearing her Practiced Smile in “family” photos from The Decade of Exile. Did I mention that Pam used to spend hours in front of her mirror “practicing” her smile? At the time, while we were growing up, I thought that was ridiculous. Why did a smile have to be practiced? Shouldn’t it come naturally? Call that Yet Another Red Flag that I ignored.

The dreams
Brandon and I have a nickname for “you know who”—Pam, The Narcissist. We call her The Spider. The three dreams described in this excerpt from Intrusive Thoughts, part 1 gave me important truths that I needed. Two of the dreams showed—vividly—what I was dealing with and the other dream gave me a visual, courageous encounter with my new friend, Closure.

The dream
Let’s learn from a recent dream that my husband Brandon had. It was a warning dream that came right before my sister Pam’s drama started up this spring. Brandon dreamed about a large, furry, brown spider that could talk. It jumped on his back. He could hear the spider’s thoughts. Brandon was looking for me during the dream. The spider was afraid we were going to kill it.

Brandon’s dream held a clue for us. He had this dream Saturday night. I saw my sister Pam on Monday, very unexpectedly, for the first time in nine years because our mom was in the hospital.

The real spider
What did the dream tell us? My sister Pam has brown curly hair. The spider was furry and brown. Most importantly, what do spiders do? They stun you so you can’t move, and then they wrap you up in their web and suck your blood until you are dead. Ewww.

If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist, you’ve probably described him or her as a Blood-sucking Narcissist. There are very obvious reasons for that well-deserved title. (Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie, chapter 3—“The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life”—contains a fascinating case study about a young woman’s spider phobia and what was eventually revealed about her mother and herself.)

I encountered all of the spider’s tactics in my sister that week: the stunning, the wrapping and the blood-sucking. After that customary three-part attack was done, I woke up, finally—from The Nine-year Reprieve. I saw her tactics. There was no emotion or nostalgia clouding my vision. I saw her show. I saw her lies. I saw her seething hatred. I saw her manipulation. I saw her pompous performance. I saw it all—clearly, for the first time. And I drew a very hard line: That Was The Last Time.

The end
After The Blood-sucking Narcissist stunned me, wrapped me up and sucked my blood—figuratively-speaking, of course—God reminded me of the things he’d already taught me, and he gave me the wisdom to do the work necessary to achieve healing and closure. This work included establishing and maintaining firm boundaries—a necessity that I’ve been given the opportunity to practice several times since then. I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote an anger letter to her. Very effective. (Read this post for more information on anger letters and how they work.) Then I fell right back asleep and had this closure dream.

Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017
Journal entry

I dreamed that Pam was sitting to my left, looking happy. She put her hand on my shoulder. I immediately jerked my shoulder away and said: “Get your hand off me. Don’t you ever touch me again. You are dead to me. You. Are. Dead.” I stood up and walked away. And I never looked back.

Early warning
While writing this post, I’ve been reminded many times about a dream I had when I was in elementary school. I was lying down and I was covered head to toe with spiders. They were crawling all over me. It was terrifying. They were everywhere….

T-shirts and labels
When I had that last dream during elementary school, I had no idea what surrounded me. There were two narcissists in the house; but they didn’t get T-shirts made for themselves, did they. T-shirts would’ve been helpful. Something like this: “Best Narcissist in America!” “I’m Important and You’re Not.” “Worship Me or Get Punished.” Or how about this one: “Sit Down and Shut Up. Don’t You Know Who I Am?” Yep. That was my life.

Until it wasn’t.

And I’m the one who’s labeled The Problem Child, The One Who Doesn’t Play Well with Others, The Strange One, etc. That’s fine by me. Especially when you consider the people who are making up the labels.

The narrated dream
Last December I had a dream that was narrated. That was really interesting. Very different. Very important. It felt like God was telling me—loud and clear—“Remember who and what you’re dealing with. Remember….”

Sunday, December 17
Journal entry

I told Brandon this afternoon about a dream I had last week. A voice was narrating the dream and said, “This is your sister, Pam.” A woman I didn’t recognize was sitting down, wearing sunglasses. The voice said again: “This is your sister.” The woman took her sunglasses off and her eyes were glowing white. She was creepy. She was evil. I told Brandon that it felt like a warning dream….

I’ve been reminded of that dream a number of times since then. Very, very helpful. “Remember who and what you’re dealing with.” The who is Pam. The what is evil.

The lead-up
I knew I’d be seeing Pam at the funeral. I’d also be seeing my niece and nephews that I hadn’t seen for 10 years. How would it go? Would it be drama-free? I asked our life group at church to pray for us. They did.

When my thoughts veered off-track into worry, I reminded myself to focus on this truth: God is with me. I knew that he’d show me what to do every step of the way. I’ve learned to avoid traveling on What-If Lane. That’s a dangerous path. I remember the only if that matters.

If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31b, World English Bible

The people who love me
God has blessed me with my small-and-blessed family—Brandon and Logan—and with wonderful friends. They gave me great support during this hard time.

I have one friend today who spent time with my parents when we were younger—Lindsey, my pal from college. She’s the one who woke me up about the sickness in the family I grew up in—the “family” I affectionately call the people in the house. Thankfully, Lindsey flew here from Georgia the day before my mom’s funeral and we enjoyed three days together. We stayed in a nearby hotel for some focused Girl Time. It was very good for me. Thank you, Lindsey!

The call
Guess who called me as we were getting ready for the funeral? My father-in-law. The sociopath. Obviously, I didn’t pick up the phone. He didn’t leave a message. Talk about stress-inducing. Did they somehow know about the funeral?

Lord, help me…. I wrote in my journal: “I prayed that they wouldn’t be there.” Check out what happened right after my prayer.

French fries from Jesus
This encounter gave me a big, sweet Kiss On The Head from Jesus.

Thursday, March 1
Journal entry

Lindsey and I played 5 hands of UNO. She won 3 to 2. It was fun.

Then we decided to eat lunch at Whataburger. The ladies at the counter asked us if we were sisters and we told them we’re friends from college.

A precious, very pretty young lady brought our food to us. When she brought a tray to me, I told her it wasn’t mine because I didn’t order French fries [even though I wanted to]. She took the tray with her and then brought it back to me with the fries. I thanked her for this treat.

I told her that we’re going to my mother’s funeral this afternoon. She told us that her mom died of breast cancer when she was 12. I asked her if she had “a special Auntie.” She told us that her aunt and uncle [—he’s now retired from the military—] raised her and changed her life. Her mom was a single mom. [The young lady] traveled with her aunt and uncle and had a totally different, better life. Her children call them Grandma and Grandpa. She said the Lord was good to her. What a blessing to hear her story!

After we gobbled down our bacon cheeseburgers and French fries, we waited to visit with the lovely young lady again. I hugged her and thanked her for telling us her story. I told her that I’m calling today “French Fries from Jesus!”

God placed us in the right place at the right time throughout the day. Blessing upon blessing….

Coming next: Come back next time to read about the red carpet, the funeral and the library.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Isaiah 43:18-20

Song for Healing: “Make A Way” by I Am They—Logan’s favorite band

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