Sifting through old digital files for content and ideas for a new, dog-themed Kindle Vella book project (more on that in an upcoming post), I stumbled upon several gems, positive reinforcement for saving writings even if I can’t imagine any future use for them.
One saved document nearly knocked me off my chair as I read it. The details for the file in Explorer – title, date created, size – meant nothing to me.
I titled it The Cycling Accident Dream (July 9 2012). Curiosity piqued, I opened it.
I’d had a vivid dream, one that shook me so badly I felt compelled to record it before the details were lost.
Soon, I forgot about the dream, as almost always happens. It would have been lost forever had I not created that Word doc.
In hindsight, maybe that would have been better.
Because as I read through the doc, I got chills. Beck in 2012, I worried that the dream might be a forewarning of something bad happening to me.
Turns out, it describes, with eerie detail, something bad that did happen to my brother, Tim: a bicycle accident that killed him in October 2020.
pre·mo·ni·tion | prē-mə-ˈni-shən
1 : previous notice or warning : forewarning
2 : anticipation of an event without conscious reason : presentiment~Merriam-Webster
According to Wikipedia: “Precognition is the psychic phenomenon of directly seeing or experiencing events in the future. It is sometimes treated as an example of the wider phenomenon of prescience or foreknowledge, to understand by any means what is likely to happen in the future. It is distinct from premonition, which is a vaguer feeling of some impending disaster. Related activities such as predictive prophecy and fortune telling have been practiced throughout history. Precognitive dreams are the most widely reported occurrences. Usually, a dream or vision can only be identified as precognitive after the putative event has taken place. When such an event occurs after a dream, it is said to have ‘broken the dream.'”
And according to the Sleep Foundation website, dreams must meet several criteria to be classified as precognitive, including:
- You must record or tell others about your dream before the dream scenario is fulfilled in real life.
- The dream must have a significant number of unique details so that it is unlikely to be fulfilled by chance.
- Any dreams that are self-fulfilling prophecies or that could be influenced by existing knowledge are not premonition dreams.
Check, check, and check.
I don’t know if the proper word for my dream experience is premonition or precognition. They both seem to fit.
Here’s exactly what I wrote back in 2012.
[I drove from New Meadows ID to Kirkland WA yesterday with the dogs after a two week vacation. I slept pretty well last night, but was tired this morning. After catching up with work mail, I took a nap. What follows is what I remember of a very long, vivid and detailed dream.]
I’m in charge of a small group (family?) of people and we’re going to board a plane or ship to go somewhere. I make sure they’ve got their documents, but realize I don’t have my own. I tell the person checking people in that I’ve got to go get mine but in the meantime to take care of the group.
I realize that my house is only minutes away by bicycle, and it would take much longer to drive. So I ride.
As I’m riding, I can’t get my left foot’s shoe into the clip-less pedal. I keep trying, and I just won’t go in. I think that this is really odd because it’s my left foot that I take out of the pedal the most, at stop signs, unlike most people who use their right foot at stops.
Just after that thought, I ride off a short flight of stairs – 4 or 5. I have the sensation of flying over my handlebars, tucking my chin in and hitting/rolling off the back of my head.
Next thing I know I’m lying on the ground, motionless. My mind’s working, but I don’t move. (I can’t remember thinking I was paralyzed; I didn’t seem distressed that I wasn’t moving.) I’m lying on my right side, sort of curled or hunched.
I notice a waiter off in the distance, like at an open air restaurant with tables on the street. I wonder why he doesn’t notice me, come help me. I wait patiently for him to do so. I don’t speak or cry out; not sure why but I also don’t feel distressed about all this. I’m calm, simply waiting for someone to notice me and help me.
Suddenly someone is nearby. It’s not the waiter. I know it’s a man but I don’t know why I know that, as I don’t have any sense of hearing a voice or seeing the person.
I’m happy that someone is helping me.
He starts poking and prodding around my face. If he took my helmet off, I don’t remember that. He examines the right side of my face; I sense that there’s damage, but the prodding doesn’t hurt.
Then he examines the left side of my face. He touches my cheek and something moves, causing me to moan although I didn’t have a perception of pain. He examines some more. I start to cough, a sort of deep-in-my-chest rumbling that doesn’t distress me but it distressed the man. I sense he wants me to vomit, and he sticks his finger down my throat to make me vomit; I’m more upset that I’m going to vomit (I’ve always hated vomiting) than I am about a stranger’s finger in my throat. With his hand in my mouth and finger down my throat, I take a breath through my nose and am astounded that I can get air that way. On his second attempt, I vomit. He seems relieved, and I realize my coughing sounds make him worry I had something stuck in my throat and couldn’t breathe.
At this point the dream starts to dissolve as I’m being moved to an airplane to be flown to a hospital.
[What is odd about this dream – beyond the length and detail – is that I can’t think of anything that happened to me in recent days that would have planted this particular dream seed. I woke up disturbed that instead, this was a déjà vu sort of dream, but the accident is yet to happen. That’s why I’m writing this down – just in case it does come true, or maybe to ensure that it doesn’t.]
The detail of it! So strange.
At the time, I didn’t have a term other than déjà vu to describe the sense that the dream was foretelling an event. Déjà vu (meaning, already seen) refers to the experience of being somewhere or seeing something that triggers a sense of memory, of having lived the experience before. My dream definitely wasn’t that.
I don’t know a lot about my brother’s accident. What I was told by another brother is that he was cycling, turned his head to talk to his partner riding behind him, hit a curb and flew forward off his bike. His head struck a rock, knocking him unconscious.
A bystander who saw the accident and happened to be a doctor rushed to help, stabilizing him before he was flown by medevac to a nearby hospital.
I have no idea if the good Samaritan doctor tried to get Tim to vomit at the scene, or if an EMT or anyone on the ER staff did. I have no idea if that’s even something a doctor would do in that circumstance. It seems crazy. But I have no idea where those details in my dream came from, as I’ve never had such an experience or known of anyone who has. I’m not prone to wild imaginings.
Despite wearing a cycling helmet, Tim suffered massive injuries to his face and brain. He never regained consciousness. Six days after the accident, with no hope of recovery, he was taken off life support and several of his organs donated.
Making this experience today even more eerie: as I was sifting through my computer files for old writings and stumbled upon The Cycling Accident Dream, I was listening to Greg Maroney, an artist whose music I streamed endlessly those days Tim’s life hung in limbo. The songs are ethereal. They helped me cry and they comforted me. I don’t know why I chose to listen to Maroney tonight, I just did. But his song Reverie has, since that awful time, been keenly bound in my mind with Tim’s passing.
Like most people, I dream a lot. Most are enjoyable in the dream state, a few are nightmares. I forget 99 percent of them before I’m fully awake and out of bed. A few remain upon awakening, but if I don’t record them – write them down – they’re generally forgotten within a day or two. I can think of only one other instance where I had such a vivid dream that after waking I wrote it down. That one ended up being the epilogue to my book. It was about my father and came while I was nearly done writing my book about him and his test pilot colleagues at Boeing. In the dream, he was reassuring me in a very test-piloty way (he had passed away four years earlier but in my dream, appeared standing in the cockpit of an airplane) while also gently reminding me I’d forgotten to include a certain type of airplane in the book. That dream made total sense to me, and wasn’t predictive of anything.
I’m loathe to do any more “interpretation” of my bicycle accident dream than simply recording this entire experience – reminded of it in 2022, ten years after writing it down and 18 months after my brother’s death – here in this blog post.
I certainly don’t want to believe that my dreams may predict awful events occurring to people I love. That would make me fear sleeping, and dreaming.
I will, though, be more inclined from now on to record any especially vivid, detailed dreams that stay with me long after waking. Good dreams and bad. You just never know.
Feature photo: taken this morning during a walk with the dogs, fresh snow on the ground, sun breaking through clouds and tree limbs, a dream-like scene made more so with a photo editing filter.