John Lennon, Turtles and Dreams
Turtles were always my son Devon’s favorite animal. When he was a little boy in Hawaii, on the delightful island of Oahu, I would often take him to Sea Life Park or the Honolulu Zoo. In either place, he would want to stop and watch the turtles. I can understand watching turtles that are swimming. It is strange that they can swim at all, being round like a plate or a Frisbee with four little paw-like things sticking out that don’t look like they could propel anything through anything, let alone water. In reality turtles are graceful and fast; they can swim sideways and are surprisingly agile for something so boxy looking. You can watch a turtle peek a sweet nose out of the water and take a quiet breath, almost as if it were an afterthought, or they didn’t need it. Or they are just checking on the temperature or looking around or something. Devon also liked to watch turtles that were sunning themselves, doing nothing, and I would get bored, although Devon found it fascinating. Devon often found potential in animals, people, and events that I completely missed.
Devon went on to become a certified scuba diver, a dive master and started a scuba company, Dive Concierge. He was enchanted by the world underwater but always, his favorite animal-ok, reptile-was turtles, and he was thrilled whenever he got a chance to swim with them. Hence the hundreds of pictures that he took of them. Before he died, never knowing that he was going to die but saying, like we all do to emphasize how much we like something, “If I die, spread some of my ashes in Turtle Cove on Kauai.” And so we did just that.
About a year after Devon died by drowning-the irony of that-my husband and I visited New York City around Christmas time. We walked throughout the city seeing as much as we could of Manhattan during the holidays. One of my favorite spots has always been Strawberry Fields, in Central Park. Strawberry Fields has a mosaic with the word “Imagine” in the middle. This is a tribute to John Lennon-across the street from the Dakota building, where he lived and was murdered. Here is where Devon comes in: my husband and I were standing near “ Imagine,” trying to take a selfie with it. I didn’t realize the significance at the time but there was a group of vacationers from Japan taking photographs, just as we were. In Hawaii there is a large population of Japanese and many of our friends, many of Devon’s first friends, were of Japanese heritage. And of all things on this earth here was a young Japanese woman who had, you will never believe this, a turtle! It was December, it was cold, it was a big city, and who carries a turtle around? What was the point of it? Where did she get it? What was she going to do with it? Instead of being amazed at this, I was cold and annoyed and I just wanted to get my photo of the center of the “Imagine” mosaic and move on, but she kept putting that damn turtle in the middle of the mosaic. She wouldn’t stop doing it. There was only one turtle so it wasn’t like turtle races or anything. Why did she laugh so hard and why was she so insistent on placing that turtle in front of me? The young woman and her friends finally moved on so that I could get my picture. We left to look at other delights of New York City, and I forgot about the group of people from Japan, the turtle, and I forgot to Imagine.
A couple of months later, when my grief was clouding everything again, my son came to enlighten me in a dream. Devon was off to the side, in profile. I rarely dream of him but when I do, I am never able to see his face full to the front; it is always his profile, as if seeing him straight on would be too much. As the time in Central Park replayed in my dream Devon watched me, making sure I understood. Mom, he said to me silently. Mom! This is my burning bush, how could you not get this? I placed vacationers from Japan, not Hungary or Africa. Remember Hawaii, many of my friends and my first teacher were all Japanese! A turtle, ME, for heaven’s sake, he seemed to intimate. Mom! I was there, with you, in New York City. I planned this whole thing. I am with you always. Use your Imagination! Did I really have to come back and explain this?
With that I woke up. I had such a sense of peace and wonder when I awoke that I had to lie there a while to process everything. Did I really dream that? Did I just see my son? Did I really just get a message from the other side? Yes; yes, a grateful yes to all of those questions. It is difficult to explain the intense feelings that ensued. With this gift from Devon I am absolutely sure that those that have died are still with us. That there is everlasting life, that we go on. That my son came to me with purpose and intent.
Even more incredible? I looked up the meaning of turtles in dreams and here is what it says: “A turtle is a symbol of longevity, endurance, persistence, and the continuation of life (sometimes against incredible odds).” How about that? Continuation of life. Devon had to contact me twice in order to get the message across. He had always been patient with me.
I will miss my son for the rest of my life. Some days are more bearable than others. I loved him from the moment I found out I was pregnant with him and our relationship will continue until my last breath on this planet, and then it will go with him in the place where he is now, I am sure of it. I am sure of it for me and I am sure of it for you, for all of you that will read this and even those who will not, I am sure.