My mother died in 2003 at the age of 57. Breast cancer killed her. My dreams began resurrecting her not long after her death. At first, she would return as the last Tracy—the one who was thin and sick and in lots of pain. Her visits seemed to extend this suffering. She never got better, and she never died. I fear like nothing else the illness that never ends until you end. Night after night, I would find my emaciated mother in a bedroom with a glass skylight. In this state, her beliefs were purified to the primal fire. Sun-rays. Flesh. Zoroastrianism is the religion of the terminally ill.
A decade after Tracy's passing (2013), she began returning to my dreams as her healthy self. Some nights would be well; other nights, she would have both feet in the grave. But the nights she was well she always smashed my sleep to pieces. Such was (and is) the intensity of my desire to see as real the healthy mother who raised me, whose bones were strong, whose mind was clear. The ill Tracy, however, always keeps me asleep. I spend hours with her. A whole night with a ghost.
A few nights ago, the ill Tracy suffered a blow. I was with her again in the bedroom with the skylight. But this time, I was aware that she was dead. I knew she was a ghost. My dream logic always presented her as alive. The doctors were wrong. Against expectations, she's still here with us. This was the sick Tracy until the lucidity that dawns upon awakening unexpectedly emerged in the dream. My slumbering self, like my aware self, saw Tracy as what she really is: no longer among the living. And like those exposed ghosts in ancient Japanese stories (kwaidan), she was horrified that I knew her, knew I was communing with rotting bones. I betrayed her. I awoke. That was three days ago. I have not seen her since.