Two years ago I lost one of what I would call my three nearest and dearest friends, who I'll call Hannah for purposes of this story. We met in secondary school, stayed in touch through uni, and remained quite close throughout while going out, going on holiday together, complaining about men, shopping, all the things one does. She knew everything about me and vice versa. At 26 she died very suddenly of an unexpected illness. I was heartbroken and still am. Worse yet, her coffin was closed at the funeral. I'm a British woman of Irish extraction so I'm used to wakes like my grandparents and some aunts and uncles have where you can see the body and say goodbye. Hannah came from Middle England, so none of that. I wanted to see Hannah and tuck a note into her coffin, touch her body, maybe give her a goodbye kiss, but I couldn't. As a result, it kind of didn't "seem real". Part of me felt like she simply moved away and told no one.
About six months after her death I had a wonderful dream where Hannah simply came by my flat early in the morning and we had coffee, went out for brunch, messed around, and mixed our own cocktails and watched Project Runway and things like that. Throughout I was going on and on about my new boyfriend, what I think about my job and the colleagues that I hate, telling stupid stories about things that have happened, and so on, but when I asked her how she was doing she would just reply "Oh, things are fine" or "Nothing much going on with me" or something like that. She was wearing a specific elbow length, knee length floral sheath dress she'd liked in life and she didn't have shoes on - she was barefoot. When I asked her why she was barefoot she just said she didn't have any shoes.
I woke up at 6 am to a hangover and a load of things to do at work and cried. Later on, I puzzled over the whole dream. I'm not (wasn't) a superstitious woman but I do tend to think these things mean something, you know?
I didn't tell anyone about it until recently, when I went over to dinner at her childhood home with her parents and brother (they are delightful people). That evening I pulled the mother aside and told her about my dream and she gasped quietly. She nodded, took me upstairs, and gave me an envelope to look at. Apparently, they had someone at the funeral parlour take photos of Hannah in her coffin in the chapel of rest before it was closed for the funeral. Her family had not looked at them.
I spent half an hour in that upstairs room, unable to open the envelope until I finally forced myself to. I was shaking all over. But there she was - my Hannah, lying in the coffin. She looked at peace. Her face framed by her lustrous black hair on the pillow cradling her head. Her arms were at her side. She was wearing the same dress she had on in the dream.
Hannah had big feet (about 9.5) and long toes that she was quite self conscious of and she was desperately uncomfortable wearing fashionable, girly shoes. And there those feet and toes were, up against the tufts of satin lining at the bottom of the coffin. I burst into tears.
I had closure then. I know that Hannah had come to visit me and let me unload, and let me tell her all about the things she's missing. I feel so much better now that I know that she's still there somewhere. I feel that it's only a matter of time before she comes by again and I get to tell her all about every new thing that will unfold. Hannah is not a "was", not in the past - she's simply around the corner or in the next room now. This is so immensely comforting.