Within my heart is the dream of Samantha, where she will always remain because she died May 10, 1995 before I delivered her. And because she was stillborn and I never saw her eyes open or heard her take a breath or make a move, other than within me, you might think that I would miss her less than if I’d had some time to spend with her, other than in my womb. You’d be wrong about that.

Our dreams for our future are real. We’ve invested ourselves in our dreams and our goals – what are we without them? Who are we without our hunger for what comes next? People are not trees that endure the weather, prosper or wither through no will of their own. People have a vision for themselves. Dreams.

But most nights, my dreams are literally just that. Dreams.

Like last night when my 17 year-old daughter Samantha was sitting at the breakfast table and we were having one of those trying conversations you have with your teenager. I set orange juice and Special K on the table, but Samantha didn’t take any.

“Come on, come with us. It’ll be fun,” I said.

She swung her shiny brown hair away from her perfect seventeen year-old face and said, “Nah,” in that really detached way that teenagers have perfected over the centuries. I remember her skin was flawless. Her teeth were straight and white. She had on a faded short-sleeved tee shirt and low-rise jeans. I could see her bellybutton.

“You don’t know what you’re missing. Just…will you please be reasonable?” my husband said.
I didn’t really expect her to go along with our plans, whatever they were and it wasn’t terribly important. At least I don’t think it was.

But I can’t be sure because none of this really happened.

In real life, I heard the dog padding around on the bedroom floor. In real life it was the middle of the night, dark outside, and I got up from bed, foggy.

Having breakfast with Samantha, I gradually understood, was not real. The dog’s need to pee was.
I swung open the screen door and as the dog darted out, I took in a shot of cold air. I recognized the feeling. I’d had it before. It was the What If. What if she hadn’t died? She’d be driving. Checking out colleges. Giving us a dose of teenage rebelliousness. I could go on a very long time, but I don’t let myself do that anymore.

Instead, I plant a tree in her memory and hope that it will outlive me. I hike up the Santa Monica Mountains and lose myself among the wild flowers, oak trees and Toyon bushes. I will listen to all the sounds around me, the birds, the wind rustling the leaves, the voices of friends. I seek solace and know I will find it. And I dream.