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Where Aspens Grow

It was the spring of 1998 and I remember it well. I had just watched a TV show concerning the main character suddenly losing his mother. When I saw the episode I didn’t think much of it, until I went to bed that night. That’s when I found myself in the middle of a vivid and strange dream.

Photo by Intricate Explorer.

I was at home when I received a phone call from my father, in which he informed me that Mom had died of a heart attack and I needed to come right away. Somehow in the dream I already knew that they were vacationing in Russia, which meant I was in for an overseas trip. I was so upset by the news about Mom that I couldn’t eat and could barely function.

When I got to Russia, Dad was able to tell me what had happened to Mom. They had been taking a bus through the city when Mom fell dead on the floor. It was very sudden and there was no warning that it was coming. While he was telling the story, images of the city came to me.

The bus was down on a road surrounded on both sides by cement walls, with buildings on the top. I remember how blinding white these buildings were, with odd yellow roofs that looked like the golden color of changing fall leaves. When Mom died the crew stopped to take care of the emergency, sitting on the lowered highway for several hours.

This dream was so upsetting that I woke up with a start. Today was the day that Mom was scheduled to come home from a trip to visit my sister in Florida and I knew she had been sick. I immediately got dressed and went down to the train station to make sure she got off the train. She was very relieved to see me as she was suffering from a respiratory illness and really didn’t want to take the city bus home alone. As we went home, I told her about the dream that brought me to the train station and she wondered if I picked up on her illness, but we didn’t think much of it after that. I blamed it on the TV show I had watched the day before and dismissed it for a few years.

Three years later, Mom had heart bypass surgery to fix three blocked arteries. The illness she had on the day I picked her up was actually the first symptom of the heart condition that would plague her for the rest of her life. Again, I had to wonder if somehow I was picking it up and that caused the weird dream. I dismissed again it after that.

Fast forward to October of 2005. Mom decided to use part of her inheritance from Grandpa to take a cruise around the Pacific, and she brought Dad along. The last I heard from them they were up in Alaska near the Aleutian Islands and Dad was suffering from what they were certain was severe seasickness. I remember thinking it was odd because Dad was in the Navy and never suffered from it before.

A few days later, I received a phone call while I was sleeping. Mom was trying to call me and got the answering machine. I tried to figure out what was going on and put the pieces together. When I got my sister in the chat I asked her quite bluntly if Dad was dead. She confirmed that he was, but she didn’t give me any details, saying that Mom wanted to talk to me about it. Dad suffered from severe heart disease and I was certain that had killed him.

This sudden event resulted in a trip across the Pacific Ocean. I met the ship in Hong Kong, where I was allowed to use the rest of Dad’s ticket to accompany Mom on her journey and help her deal with the death. When I got aboard the ship she told me what had happened in detail.

They were on the Kamchatka Peninsula, where they were taking a bus out to see the Avachinsky volcano. The road was very bumpy and Dad was knocked out of his seat, but he never got up again. He was likely dead before he hit the floor and no amount of CPR brought him back. I guessed that the heart attack actually happened on the ship and was mistaken for seasickness, and not being treated, the damage to his heart eventually burst and killed him. There was no bringing him back.

I felt a chill when Mom described the place where they stopped to deal with the emergency. The bus was driving up a narrow river channel surrounded on both sides by gray volcanic ash washed down from the mountains. At the top of the ash wall were aspen trees with trunks so white that they were almost blinding in the fall sun. Topping them off were the yellow autumn leaves.

The only thing I got wrong was who died. In the dream it was Mom, but I think this is probably because the man in the TV show I watched before I went to bed lost his mother and I knew Mom was sick at the time.

I have no explanation for the rest of the dream. When I had it there was no talk about cruises around the world and certainly not anything about visiting Russia. Grandpa was still alive and Mom had no inheritance to think about traveling the world. And even if there had been talk of Russia, where did I get the riverbed description from? Why was the cause of death specifically a heart attack on a bus with the victim dropping dead? To this day I can’t tell you. It remains one of those mysteries that I’ll never be able to explain.


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