Last night I had a troubling dream. This dream is not about Bishop Heather Cook of Maryland though the tragic, heart-breaking events that resulted quite appropriately in her arrest no doubt got my subconscious riled up. Be forewarned that this is not a pretty dream. It is a glimpse into the dark night of my own soul.In my dream I walked into a cathedral or church much like the beloved cathedral, which raised me up. In this dream cathedral, the chancel area, where the altar is, was very tightly furnished. I walked up the chancel steps carefully, as I held the hand of a friend who moved right behind me. She was close to me, and extremely familiar, but I could not see her face. She was unsteady on her feet and had a sour smell about her. The church service had not yet begun. We took seats side-by-side in a choir stall. I looked over at my friend, who seemed sad and somewhat disoriented. I couldn’t help but notice the vomit that covered her long draping shirt. I averted my eyes and pretended it wasn’t there, hoping in my pretending that others would overlook it as well. Hoping beyond hope that, even as more vomit spilled out of her, no one would notice.
At one moment, I popped up. “I need to vest,” I exclaimed, feeling happy to remember that the Dean very often asks me to vest and process in, to sit with the clergy. But my friend’s sticky hand continued to cling to mine and, as I looked back at her, I knew I was not going anywhere. Though I longed to be with my colleagues, this one needed me more. The truth was, I desperately needed to be with her, to sit beside her, even in her misery and suffering.
Suddenly (as things happen in dreams) it was time to receive communion. The sanctuary had grown dark, and it was difficult to see. My friend and I rose and walked hand-in-hand around the altar until we came to stand, just the two of us, at a place beyond the altar. A hand appeared, reaching out of a dense fog — out of nothingness or heaven or God only knows what — extending toward us, offering a small piece of bread. I felt something wet against my feet and looked down as the vomit continued to flow. It sickened me so that I wondered for a moment if I would be sick, too. But I wasn’t. A long moment passed as the arm hung in the air, still offering the bread. I realized then that it wasn’t possible for my friend to receive the bread, she was too sick. I will have to receive it for her, I realized, until she is well enough to receive it for herself.
In time, I will know more about what my dream-self is trying to say to my “conscious” self. Oftentimes, I have wanted to deny those parts of me, which I find unacceptable or disturbing or repulsive. It is natural to want to abandon that which is weak or sick or disruptive. But I have found that healing comes when I am willing to make room for that which is difficult, confusing and disturbing. I do not know what, if anything, this dream has to do with Bishop Heather. But I do know part of the disturbance and intense upset I feel around that tragedy is a knowing, not far below the surface, that sickness, danger and selfish carelessness are not strangers to me.