Oil on panel, triptych, nightscape of dog, male figure walking on stilts

Maybe you have a dream in which someone close to you dies, maybe in some horrible way; the next time you see that person you treat them a little differently; the dream makes you realize that you've been taking them for granted. And so now, you let them know in small ways that you appreciate the things they do for you, that you're glad to have them around.The dream is reminding you how important that person really is in your life. It changes the way you think about them, about your relationship - and that's everything. But where did that come from? ... not the dream itself or even the feeling that it meant something, but your willingness to believe what it was telling you and to act upon it.

Perhaps when you were very young you felt alone, you were unloved. Your parents did their best but it wasn't there, your life was isolated, the box was empty. Maybe they had been mistreated themselves, they had experienced cruelty growing up, and now they were so damaged by the things that had happened to them ... so full of fear ... so betrayed ... so full of anger that they could no longer trust love. Maybe they thought that it had nothing to give them, or even that there was no such thing and they weren't even sure if love really existed - and so they fortified themselves against it. At the time none of this made sense, but later as an adolescent something changed. You had gained a certain understanding of what you had known all along and at some point you made a decision: you made a vow to do things differently.

You swore that, even though happiness and love were things you'd never had and possibility were incapable of, that even though it was too late for you, when you grew up, you would never let bitterness or fear stand in your way. You decided that the harsh chain of lifelessness and harm that had come down to you through uncounted generations would end with you. That you would never do to anyone else what had been done to you or perpetuate such a cycle of pain. It would be your gift to the future and to yourself, a tiny contribution to change the course of things for the better. You swore that someday, if you ever had kids of your own, that you would do everything that you could to let them have happy lives, to let them be themselves and to promote their love.

As you grew older, perhaps you had arrived at a place near the end of your life where death had grown gradually more certain - but now, maybe the thought of your gift, more than any other was the thing that sustained you, that gave you solace, allowed you to think of yourself in a good way and to relax and be calm with death. You knew that near the end you could look back and say that your choice had set the tone for all the things you had done in life and that ultimately you were proud of that and sure that you had done the right thing. You knew now that it was never too late, that you could enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that love wasn't a decision you had to make, that you could have said no - but you didn't.

Perhaps your dream was just a dream, but it was also a reminder to do what you said you would, to be the kind of person that made death easy for themselves, that made death feel less wrong.