This is a story only a few people know. But it has been a year now and I think I am ready to tell it to anyone who is willing to read it.
Early in the morning, June 1, 2011, I had a vivid dream. I don’t ever remember my dreams, but this one was too incredible not to remember. It was probably 4:30 AM and I received a phone call from my father. He said that he was in jail and that it was bad and that he didn’t think he was going to be making it out this time. At the time, my father had been bed ridden with encephalitis, at home, in hospice going on 2 months. He had not been able to talk in more than a sigh or a painful grunt for at least 3 months and it had been over a year since he had been able to fully complete his thoughts and convey the exact meaning of what he wanted to say. Aside from that fact that this was the first full conversation I had had with my father in over a year, the dream was odd as my father had never been in jail (that I know of), and I could vividly feel holding a real phone, and hearing his voice as if it was right there with me in the room.
At 8:30 AM, Steve Fulton (my brother) called and told me that I better get to my mom’s house quickly because dad was not doing well. As I arrived I noticed that the hospital bed side bars and the way he curled up in the fetal position on the mattress must have seemed exactly like a jail to him. Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain that slowly takes away the sufferers ability to perform voluntary and involuntary actions. My father’s body had become a prison cell. I was lucky to see his chest rise and fall one last faint time and feel his energy (whatever you might believe it to be) in the room for a short time before it was gone.
Neither my mom, my brother, or my sisters remember having the same dream that I had, and I have not had a vivid dream like it since. Sometimes I feel guilty that I was given this one final gift from my father, but it proved to me that even though his body was failing, his soul was not. I don’t know if he was saying good bye, or trying to get me to change what had been a pretty awful work and life situation at the time. What ever his intentions (or my minds made up intentions), I decided it was the literal and figurative “wake up call I needed”.
Since that day I have dedicated myself to improving and or changing every aspect of my life: How I work, how I treat myself mentally, how I treat myself physically, what I eat, who I communicate with, how much time I spend with my family, and especially how I treat other people. I am far from perfect in any of these areas, but I am trying every day to improve. I know I was lucky to have had a good relationship with my father as so many people I know did not. Every day, when I wake up, when I am running down on that strand, when I am working on a programming problem, or when I am simply talking to a family member or a friend, that vivid phone call dream comes back into my mind. It doesn’t make me sad any more to think of it, but it makes me happy, and excited for the future.
We only have a short time to make our mark on the world. You don’t have to be a superstar to the world or a hero to the masses, but you can be a superstar to your friends and family and a hero to your children. It’s never too late to make your mark, no matter how small a mark it needs to be. Just treat people the way you want to be treated, and let them know if they are special to you. That was the gift I was given in that dream but your everyday actions can have the same effect on the people you work with, play with and even just casually see on the street.
So, in the words of Bill, from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Be Excellent to each other”.