‘Are We Sure She’s Dead?’

Last night I dreamt about Olivia all night. I dreamt Heather dug her up and was holding her. She looked fine. No decay. She was moving. I have this dream often. I always think, “Wait, are we sure she’s dead? She’s moving!”

Everyone in the dream tells me it is totally normal and that she is dead. But last night she talked. She said she loved me, Jude, Charlie, Ruth, and Heather. “Are we sure she’s dead?! She just spoke, for crying out loud.”

“Yes, that’s normal.”

In the dream, they put her in a big cold room to freeze her, for some reason. There were other children there too. One by one the children began waking up. They were fine. After all the kids were alive, Olivia started breathing. Over the following days, she started eating. She was growing. She was alive.

Dream Awakens the Emotions

I woke up feeling like I never slept. I spent the entire evening with Olivia, again, like the old days, watching her do things everyone said were impossible for her to do and being amazed by her determination, strength, and beauty. She had brought so many others to life. That is what she did.

Today I made breakfast for the family, helped clean up, did yoga and pull-ups, and did voice practice. I went outside for a run and there were four baby birds on the sidewalk. Two were still breathing. I lost it.

Triggers Abound

I picked them up and put them on the grass, together, so they were touching. I don’t know; maybe that will bring the two living ones some comfort for their last moments. I wish I could take care of those birds, touch them with my skin. I wish I could touch Olivia again.

At the pool this weekend, I saw a 14-year-old girl with Downs Syndrome. She came right up to me and stared in my face. I don’t know why she did, but all I could think was, “We were ready for that. We were ready for the wheelchairs and the care-taking. We were ready to give up our lives.”

Now we “have our lives back,” but we don’t want it. We want Olivia.

There are more important things than “doing well,” than “success.” We found one of them. Heather and I do not want “success” anymore. We want life.

This is an excerpt from Nathan’s book, DANCE AGAIN. Check out the book and Nathan’s website: Nathan Peterson, Singer Songwriter | Official Website

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Nathan Peterson

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Nathan Peterson has been creating music as Hello Industry for two decades. After four album releases and numerous iterations of Hello Industry’s live show, including their fully classical Black and White concert, Nathan has stripped everything down to only a guitar, his voice, and a song. Nathan is currently celebrating the release of two solo albums and two books — So Am I: Life, Living, and Letting Go and Dance Again: Grief is Healing — about the life and passing of his daughter, Olivia, as well as his latest Single Release, Masks: a song about finding togetherness in the midst of covid. During Nathan’s 20 years of writing, recording, and performing, he has created a body of work which invites our culture to rest, here and now, in the midst of the storms of life. Nathan’s words and voice invite us inward, toward our own Center, where our fear is the loudest; where our strength and hope are their brightest. Born in Chicago and raised in Germany, Colorado, and the cornfields of Sycamore Illinois, Nathan now lives with his wife and 5 children in Chicago.

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