I dream of dead people. They speak to me.
My daughter said my gift was useless. Not much help to anyone.
I can’t deny it. It’s true.
I’m not exactly sure why I have this gift, if that is indeed what it is. To sing like Carrie Underwood would have come in so much more useful.
I’ve written about this oddity in the past, in books and in columns. I even tried to give the gift away to a fictional character I created in Mother of Rain.
Even so it remains with me.
I wake with a start, usually a word or a visual in my head.
This most recent awakening came with a name: Miriam Shepherd.
I knew two things about Miriam Shepherd: She was in trouble and needed help.
I was trying to get to her, to help her when I woke from yet another troubling dream. Seeing how it was only shortly past midnight, I woke Tim up, which was a pretty funny incident itself, seeing how he thought I was some intruder attacking him. We (meaning me) giggled for a good long while about his waking up. When I was sure he was completely awake I told him about Miriam Shepherd and how she was in some trouble and needed help.
But the thing is, I told Tim, I have no idea who Miriam Shepherd is or what kind of trouble she’s in. I don’t know anyone by that name. I’ve never heard of anyone by that name before. So I reached for my cell phone, typed in Miriam Shepherd into Google and read Tim the results:
Miriam Shepherd, 22, and Derrick Baines, 32, were found dead on a property in the 7200 block of Base Line Road in rural St. Anne at 8:47 p.m. A car was parked in the garage, and the bodies were found nearby. Police said foul play does not appear to be a factor in their deaths.
Shepherd was reported missing by her family on Jan. 29 and Baines was reported on Tuesday. The last sighting of the pair occurred on Jan. 29 when police said a friend helped Baines get his silver Plymouth sedan out of a ditch. Neither were injured. Police had a tip the pair had been staying at a hotel in Iroquois County but were unable to locate them.
They discovered the bodies at the Base Line Road address while following up on a tip.
Like I said, it doesn’t appear that this gift of knowing, if that is what it is, is useful.
Miriam Shepherd, 22, was dead before I ever learned her name.
And no. I had not read her story, had not listened to news reports of her missing and/or dead. I had to look up this place where she lived and died. I’d never heard of Pembroke Township or Kankakee County before. Turns out it’s in Illinois. I’ve since learned it’s a wide spot in the road in Northeastern Illinois. A rural community where half of the working-age population is unemployed.
I imagine unemployed people feel pretty useless a lot of the time. Perhaps they have a special gift that never gets utilized, which makes them feel all the more useless in a society whose value for people is determined primarily by money and fame and surgeon-produced beauty.
Miriam Shepherd lacked all of these. The only time Miriam Shepherd made headline news was as a missing woman turned up dead. Truth be told, she probably went missing long before January 29th.
But for some reason I may never understand or know, she came to me in my dreams, afraid and in danger.
I couldn’t do a thing for her except listen and pay attention.
Perhaps that is all we ever really need from one another.
Perhaps that is the most overlooked gift of all.