| Photo by Shane on Unsplash
One of the Covid-19 pandemic casualties is a close family friend, Jim (not his real name). His loss is quite personal because he was well-liked by my family, and he was the husband of my friend and college schoolmate in the Philippines. They met when Jim, who was American, came to the Philippines to study dentistry. Jim and my friend were dentists and had a thriving practice in New York. Their love affair was a sort of a Cinderella story. But that’s another story.
My wife and I saw their children grow up and then ours. They raised two beautiful children who are now successful people in their own right. Jim loved the Philippines, and he and his wife built a large vacation home on one of the tiny islands in central Philippines. He proved more up-to-date than myself with the usual political and celebrity gossip in Manila from his frequent visits. Once, during a business trip, we got together in Manila. During a party with friends, Jim shared some recent controversies he picked up from the dailies and was commenting on them like what a typical Filipino man would do when his wife whispered to me, “Jim, thinks he is a Filipino now.” I thought it was charming and hysterical. That was vintage Jim, a man more at home in the Philippines than back home in New York.
Jim’s other likable traits were his gregariousness and apparent inability to hold a grudge. On the contrary, I tend to brood and struggle with getting over slights or insults. The contrast between us could not have been more obvious when I stopped talking to him and his wife five years ago. It started when I found out that they held a very different political view than myself about the coming U.S. presidential election and what they believed was wrong with the country. I avoided us arguing, but that was the last time I saw or talked to them. About a year later, when they hadn’t heard from me, Jim called to ask about my family and said he wondered why I stopped keeping in touch or if I were upset with them. I gave him some flimsy excuses for my long silence and lamely promised to call and talk soon. It was a lie. I never called back, and my stubborn ego was not ready to forget and move on.
When he passed away in 2020, I was quietly but deeply devastated by the loss. I felt I failed him and missed my only chance to clear the air with him and his wife before he died. It was hard to imagine his family’s terrible suffering, not having been able to be at his deathbed to say their goodbyes.
I did not see the point of calling his wife anymore; instead, I resigned myself to move on, although sometimes I still think how surreal his untimely death was.
The lack of closure over Jim’s death must have been percolating in my unconscious, for I dreamt of him this morning. The dream was not about his love of scuba diving, gossip in the Philippines, or how he got sick. It was about him trying to buy a building that he could invest his money in and open a big dental office. He complained about how property prices have considerably risen lately. I offered to invest some money with him to help purchase the building. Then I woke up. I told myself how I wish I could have told him I was sorry for avoiding him and failing to say goodbye. I forced myself back to sleep, determined to dream about him and find closure over his death.
I found myself dreaming again. This time, I was lucid and willfully guiding the dream. Jim was with a friend whom I did not know. They were sitting around an outdoor table drinking from a beer mug while I stood watching them. He then pushed his untouched mug on the table away as if to say he does not drink. So far, there were no words uttered by any of us characters in the dream. I approached to talk to him, but he gave me an indifferent look. I reached out to hug him, but he was initially reluctant until he hugged me. We hugged for quite some time, and I could keenly feel tapping his back a few times and him hugging me tightly.
Then I said the only words spoken emphatically during the entire dream, “Goodbye, man!” I felt those words revibrate with emotion as I told them. Then I woke up feeling like a heavy rock had been taken off my chest. I finally had my closure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at email@example.com.