I had a horrible dream Sunday night.
I often have extremely realistic dreams. I may have dreamt of some small, insignificant thing - sitting on concrete steps in the sun, talking to a friend, for example - but when I wake up it actually takes me a few minutes to shake off the feeling of the sun on my skin, and I'm often disoriented a bit as I work through realizing it didn't really happen.
Not all my dreams are that powerful, but many of them are. So when I dreamt that my son Will died Sunday night it really shook me -- to the point that I got out of bed, snuck into his room and held his warm little hand while he snored away on the top bunk, oblivious to the fact that I stood there in tears, thanking God that he was still breathing.
I had been in an exposition center of some sort. There were hundreds of people milling about, and I was happily setting up some sort of display booth, chatting with the other people setting up around me. I've worked expos like that in real life, back when I was a marketing lackey, and while they used to have an air of excitement about them, it was only to a certain extent. I mean, I was out of the office and all, doing something more fun than sitting at a desk staring at a computer monitor, but it was still work. It still meant standing on my feet for eight hours at a crack, infusing a smile into a conversation about something that I wasn't really all that excited to be talking about.
But in this dream it was different. The expo itself felt like it was going to be more about fun, not work, and I had some really cool giveaways planned for my booth. (Maybe I was at BlogHer? Ha!) I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sitting on the floor with my shoes off, putting a display together. I had a name tag hanging around my neck on a lanyard, and I was laughing with a woman a few feet away who was struggling to set up a display in her booth as well.
Then I looked up and saw a good friend of mine, her boyfriend and her kids standing there with stunned looks on their faces and I knew something was wrong.
I jumped to my feet and ran over. "What is it?"
Her face was pale. "Its not good. Someone got hurt."
I immediately knew. "Its one of my kids, isn't it?"
I didn't wait for her to reply. She had been standing at an opening to a long walkway that led to another section of the expo center on the other side of the street. I took off running down it in my socks.
I can remember dashing around people who had stopped walking to take in the view from the windows along that walkway. I remember feeling things on the floor under my feet, realizing I wasn't wearing any shoes. I remember my name tag flying out behind me as I ran.
When I reached the other side, there was a ramp that led down to street level, and I almost fell sprinting down it. There, on the sidewalk, just outside the doors was my boss and his wife.
"I'm sorry. He didn't make it," he said, sincerely upset by what he'd seen.
"Its Will, isn't it?" I cried. He only nodded, choking back tears.
"WELL WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?" I shouted at no one in particular, whirling around, trying to figure out where the paramedics were, where the cops were.
There was an ambulance there, parked on the sidewalk. It was dirty but white, and its lights were on but not the siren. There were no windows in the back, just a plain white door and suddenly I realized my baby was inside that ambulance.
A crowd of people stood around, having seen what happened, and one man stepped forward to fill me in.
"Your boy. He was hurt. Someone called 911 and the cops came. The paramedics were down on the ground, helping him. We thought this guy was one of them. He had on a navy blue windbreaker. We thought he was official."
I stared at this man, not seeing his face. I was sobbing.
"This man...he walked up, and picked up your boy's head and looked in his eyes. Then he said, "Nah, he's not worth it." Then he flipped him over and smashed his face into the sidewalk three of four times before anyone could react. He killed him."
I broke down. I fell on my knees on that sidewalk. The man continued, putting his hand on my shoulder.
"He was going to be OK, your boy. No one knows why that man decided he should die."
Suddenly, I had to see him.
People had gathered around me, asking me questions I couldn't answer, offering me water or a hand or a hug. I physically pushed them away and walked steadily to the back of the white ambulance.
Slowly, I opened the back door. The only thing inside was a small boy wrapped in a white blanket. He was swaddled like a tiny baby - the blanket covering everything but the round of his face. He was lying on his side and I rolled him over and picked him up. His face was bashed, swollen and bloody, but I could clearly see that it was my son. I cradled him to my chest, sitting inside the back of the ambulance, rocking with him and sobbing wildly while my heart hurt.
I just couldn't understand WHY.
"WHY?" I shouted. "WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT? HE WAS A WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BOY THAT EVERYONE LOVED!" It was so senseless. So wasteful. What sense could anyone find in wanting to end his life?
When I woke up I looked at my phone and saw it was exactly 1 a.m. I laid there for a minute, telling myself it was OK - he was fine - it was just a dream - go back to sleep. Only I knew I had to check and see for myself. So I tiptoed in, his room lit only by the hallway light, to find him sleeping peacefully on his side, one hand stretched out toward me with his fingers slightly curled.
He was snoring lightly as I took his little warm hand in mine and thanked God that it was just a dream.