A Special Father’s Day Story

by Nikki Mark

Sometimes when I dream, I can feel my spirit traveling around the world while the rest of me lies perfectly still in bed.   

It’s hard to describe in a way that sounds rational, but as my body stays warm under the covers, some other part of me soars over foreign lands, swims in magical turquoise blue oceans, and spends much of the night with groups of people I seem to know and love.

Every once in a while, as I’m flying around, I’ll come into contact with someone I distinctly do not know, who repeats a simple message multiple times until I wake up and write it down.

This is one of those dreams, and it took place a year or so after Tommy passed away. 

The date was April 12, 2019. Earlier that day, I had driven with my husband from Los Angeles to Coachella, California to attend The Coachella Music Festival. My parents lived in nearby Palm Desert, and we decided to stay with them that weekend. When we arrived at their home close to midnight, we tip-toed inside, went straight to the guest bedroom, and promptly fell asleep.

At that time in my life, I was deeply grieving. The one-year mark of Tommy’s passing was less than a week away, and needless to say… every day was hard.

Fortunately, I found solace in surprising places—including my dreams at night.

Sometimes in my dreams, teachers would infuse me with their wisdom in all kinds of creative ways. Other times, Tommy would stroll by and lift my spirits with the flash of a smile, a quick wave, or even an enthusiastic “Hi Mom!”

Every now and then, my dreams would introduce me to someone I was sure I had never met before. Then, six–to–twelve months later, I’d meet them in real life. These experiences were so surreal, I actually wondered if I might be psychic.  

All I knew for sure at the time was that my nightly dreams had become an important time and place of healing for me, and they often made life easier and more interesting during the day. 

In the middle of this particular night at my parents’ house in the desert, my dreams were at it again.

A stocky teenage girl with short, dark brown hair approached me before sunrise and said, “You know that Tommy’s special, right?”  

I had no idea who she was, but wanting to be polite, I smiled and nodded.

A group of other young teenagers, including Tommy, were standing slightly behind her, engaged in their own conversation.

She inched closer to me. 

“Tommy’s sooo special,” she repeated, as if she was telling me something I didn’t already know. I was confused as to why she thought so highly of him, and I started to feel uncomfortable.

Tommy is special to me, I thought to myself. But all parents think their kids are special. I was concerned that if she didn’t keep her voice down, she might insult one of the other teenagers standing around us.

As I studied her face, however, I found myself admiring how outgoing and brave she was. After all, she was young. She didn’t know me. And it couldn’t be easy approaching a mother who had lost a child with such an enthusiastic message.

As if I hadn’t properly heard her the first two times, she pointed and smiled before saying for a third time, “I’m telling you, Tommy’s very very special.” Her voice grew so deep and powerful that it woke me up with a jolt.

I looked at the clock. It was 5 a.m.

With my eyes closed, I grabbed my dream journal that I had placed next to my bed, and scribbled into it every detail I could remember—including what this girl looked like, what she had said, and what I thought about our exchange.

As I lay in bed waiting to fall back asleep, I wondered who she was.

Is it possible we knew each other in another lifetime? Or could she be a new friend of Tommy’s in the spirit world?

Believe it or not, these were actually my thoughts in that moment.

The person I was before losing Tommy would never have conjured up such questions. But when tragedy cracked me open, my dreams began exposing me to possibilities I couldn’t ignore.

I eventually fell back asleep… and by the time I reawakened a few hours later, my mind was blank, and the conversation I’d had with this teenager was barely a vague memory.

I rolled out of bed, took a deep breath, and strolled into the dining room, where my parents were waiting for me to join them for breakfast.   

I knew this visit would be difficult. After all, it wasn’t easy being grandparents who had lost a grandchild. They were trying to be supportive parents to my husband and me, while also figuring out how to cope with their own grief at the same time.

As we sipped coffee and started catching up, I suddenly became distracted by a miniature black chalkboard sitting on a cabinet behind my father and to his right. This chalkboard was a replica of the kind you’d see in a French bakery with the special soup of the day scribbled on it. It had been in my childhood home back in Los Angeles for as long as I could remember—but I didn’t know until that very moment that the tchotchke had survived my parents’ move to the desert a few years earlier.   

As my father continued talking, my eyes darted back and forth between him and the chalkboard, until I finally cut him off and asked, “What’s that?”

“What?” he replied, turning to look where I was pointing.

“What’s that written on the chalkboard?” I continued. “Why does it say, ‘Tommy Special?’”

Just as I said those two words aloud, I realized they sounded exactly the same as they would if I had said “Tommy’s special.”

“Oh, that,” my dad said with a chuckle. “Tommy wrote that last year when he visited us over Father’s Day weekend. He wasn’t the most humble child, as you know, and he made himself the special of the day. I never erased it, and never will.”   

I flashed back to the teenager in my dreams and felt a light bulb turn on inside of me.  

I stared at my dad, who didn’t have a spiritual bone in his body (that I knew of) at the time, and said, “Dad, earlier this morning, a young woman in my dreams kept telling me that ‘Tommy’s Special.’ I didn’t know who she was, or why she kept saying that. But now, a few hours later, I look over and see ‘Tommy Special’ written on that chalkboard. I’ve never seen any writing on that chalkboard my entire life until now.” 

His eyes widened and he struggled to make sense of what I was saying.

I ran back to the guest bedroom, grabbed my dream journal, and showed my parents the notes I had taken.   

“Woah!” my mom reacted with a smile. She got it.

As a chill spread throughout my entire body, I snapped a picture of the chalkboard, and then promptly dropped the subject. After all, my husband was sitting next to me, and he already didn’t know what to make of my endless stream of dreams. 

The topic of conversation at the table quickly changed, but I still sat there quietly realizing that the teenager in my dream wasn’t gushing over my son at all! She was simply emphasizing the two words, “Tommy’s Special,” so that when I woke up and saw them written on the chalkboard, I would make the connection and deepen my faith that a spirit world exists, and that we can connect with it.

The possibilities filled me with hope and boundless curiosity. So I share this story for the benefit of any of you searching for either one. 

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