My most disturbing dream

I’ve had a recurring dream, in which Papa somehow comes back to life some months after dying, only to die again permanently several months later. For some unclear reason, his temporary resurrection is not made public to everyone; and we are all aware and certain that it is, indeed, temporary. The details are very hazy to me, but my dream-self experiences this scenario as having been true. In other words, my dream-self perceives this as an actual memory, rather than as a fantasy.

In this dream, I try to explain to Papa and to myself why I am continuing to mourn him during that interim period between his two deaths. In other words, why did I continue reciting kaddish during the traditional Jewish year of mourning that began with his original death, and why did I continue writing every week about my mourning, while knowing that he wasn’t really dead, even though his reprieve from death was temporary?

My dream-self offers several related answers.

  1. First of all, my dream-self explains, Papa was in the USA, and I was in Israel so even though Papa magically came back to life, I never actually saw him in the flesh after his resurrection so he was still dead from my dream perspective.
  2. Secondly, since I knew that Papa’s days were numbered anyway, and since I’d already commenced with my traditional year of mourning, I had to continue going through the motions because his resurrection was supernatural anyway, and our tradition doesn’t account for such surreal circumstances.
  3. Thirdly, Papa really was dead, sort of. In my dream-memory he was somewhat ghostlike, hanging out at home all day and avoiding the outside world.
  4. Fourthly, the situation was too strange to explain to everybody who was reading about my mourning experience on a weekly basis. My dream-self reasons that it wouldn’t have made sense to my readership that Papa wasn’t dead during my year of mourning for him. My dream-self further reasons that I will tie up the loose ends later by writing an additional blog post at some point after my year of mourning has ended to explain the unusual circumstances of Papa’s supernatural resurrection and second death.
  5. Fifthly, what my dream-self doesn’t want to admit to my resurrected Papa is that my identity has become too wrapped up in my response to his death. I’d invested so much mental and emotional energy and time in writing my Skeptic’s Kaddish series that I had become the “Skeptic’s Kaddish”, and if I had publicly revealed to the world that Papa had been resurrected, it would have unraveled my entire sense of self.
  6. Lastly, my dream-self doesn’t even want to tell Papa about my Skeptic’s Kaddish series because he fears Papa’s disapproval. Papa was a very private person and probably wouldn’t have liked me writing about him, and what if he would have felt that I was just using his death to gain attention?

Whenever I wake up after having this dream, I feel that I need to write something about Papa to further expound upon my experience of losing him.

In the real world, I know that this dream is imagined, supernatural, impossible nonsense; I know that it’s nothing more than the concoction of my subconscious mind; but I’m constantly left wondering who David ben Alexander would be if Alexander had not died that day.

64 thoughts on “My most disturbing dream”

  1. deeply enjoyed catching up with this poiece of your writing, David and the comments shared. For me, there absolutely nothing awkward in it, – not even in the occasional sense that on occasion you don’t like admitting that you are that dream-self as well as your waking reflective one. But how close they are. At one point or other I was reminded of a book I read some years back ‘year of magical thinking’ or similar – a woman writing about her year of grieving a parent.

  2. Thanks for sharing not only the dream but also the vulnerable interpretations. I dream quite religiously. Reading this post, I feel the point of those dreams is to increase your awareness of self. Sometimes we do want attention. Sometimes we started something and think we need to finish it lest people talk about us. Sometimes we think that if we contradict ourselves we’ll metaphorically perish. Sometimes we worry that our loved ones will get mad if we tell their secrets. These are all of our truths, as some point or another. I’m sorry for your loss. 🤎

  3. I think it’s wonderful that you have dreams about your dad. The sages say that sleep is 1/60 th of death, so when we sleep our souls actually go up to heaven for awhile. Sometimes we merit seeing our loved ones who have passed on like you did. Unfortunately, most of the time, the dreams make no sense. But it’s still a way that our love ones connect to us.

  4. Hi David,
    Dreams like that are so hard. I lost a baby girl, Josephine, in labour 6 years ago, and used to have dreams like that, too….where instead of being stillborn, she was born alive, but I still had to plan her funeral because I knew she was going to die soon. It’s incredibly intense, and seemed so real at the time even thought it’s bizarre. You don’t know how to feel and it’s confusing.
    It’s amazing what we human beings can survive going through.
    Best wishes for gentle healing for your heart.

    1. Oh, Anna… …

      You know I have to confess – during my [Jewish traditional] year of mourning when I was processing the experience through my “kaddish” writing-praying project, I came across a father who had lost his son and embarked upon his own kaddish journey.

      I shared that father’s mourning experience, and wrote the following:

      Some concepts are hard to wrap my mind around and harder still to put words to, but the story of Steven’s grief over [his son] Jared’s death brought up a dreadful question: what if it had been somebody other than Papa? Somebody other than a parent of mine?

      Thank you so much for sharing, Anna.


      1. It’s nice to connect, and good to know we are not alone in our experience of grief, even if each loss is unique. Blessings, David, and I think it’s great to process grief by writing. Keep sharing!

          1. Yeah, there’s a reason my blog is called Crazy Land! 🤣
            My kids range from 14- almost 3 years old, but we are actually expecting our 9th, a little boy we are planning to name Robert, after my Dad. We were able to tell him that after the halfway ultrasound just 4 days before he died. He was so happy.

    1. I try to look at it positively the way you suggest, Cindy… but sometimes it feels like I’m just… well… Sisyphus, pushing my fingers across the keyboard only to watch them slip off again… like I’ll never reach that peak of comfort.

      I know it gets better – and I would give people the very same kind and wise advice… but, irrationally, it’s hard for me to accept.

      Thank you so much for your kindness.


  5. [Still haven’t quite deleted my blog yet but my new website is waiting in the wings.] Just felt to comment David and to say that my blog ‘A Divine Unraveling’, came about after my mother’s death. There was so much stuff that needed unraveling, it helped to write. They say time heals but what I have found is that time reveals. Reveals things that require paying attention to, such as unfounded guilt, remorse that I could have done better, sorrow for years wasted trying to be the pleasing child, etc etc. My Divine Unraveling has come to a sweet end and now I find myself in a better space in my head with acceptance, forgiveness, and hope all contributing to this. All the grave clothes that bound me after my mother’s death have finally fallen away. It took four years. I might add that Yeshua [Jesus] has helped me through all this, gently taking my hand and walking with me. My faith in Him has been my mainstay. Shalom David…

  6. That was an intriguing account. Dreams are such pure entities, that vary according to the person. I don’t know what yours could mean but the reasons your dream self mentioned are all worth pondering.
    And I don’t think your writing comes across as someone seeking attention. Rather, they are quite educational and poignant, as grief is an ever present element of life we all will have to experience one day.

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