I had a strange, awful dream. The kind you force yourself awake from and when you do, you find yourself with real tears on your face and pain in your heart. I had to write it down. Dreams are strange and this one cut between scenes like a movie. As dreams often do, it doesn’t make much sense to anyone outside of dreaming.

A group of us were this town to volunteer. We heard there had been a shooting recently. I told a friend what I had heard of it from the news. I remembered one detail distinctly—the glass on the pavement, gleaming like crystals below the windows.

We gathered in the parking lot, opening our lunches. On the pavement, I caught the light from tiny crystals of glass where I crouched and I shivered. This is where it had happened, I thought, looking up at the building. I hadn’t recognized it.

Inside, we were visiting patients. Down the hall, I could see into one room. There was a figure, stretched out, prostrate and stiff as a log on his couch, wrapped carefully in a heavy afghan blanket. I noticed his face looked frozen like a painting. I turned and whispered to a friend, “you can see, people here are very sick.” I gathered that the shooter had had a neighboring room. He had spent time with that man down the hall. They had been friends.

We stood around his couch. I bent over, grabbed a light blue marker and began to fill a blank space. Everyone hovered, watching each word I wrote. “The longest eyelashes.” Someone else said, “I don't think he has eyelashes.” “He does”, I responded. We were writing things that were beautiful about this man.

A woman opens a letter. I look down at the couch to see two big dark eyes on the roundest most beautiful baby boy, wide-eyed and curious, staring at me for a moment, then resuming his play. His mother erupts into gasps and strained moans beside me, “Oh Goood! Please let it not be true! Please let it not be true!” Her anguish pierced me to the core. On that piece of paper she had been holding, I see the words, “Condition critical.” I read no more. I am horrified and heartbroken. It all makes sense. I am standing in a memory, a glimpse of the past I am allowed to witness though I wasn’t actually there. This perfect little boy in front of me would deteriorate over his lifetime into the paralyzed log man, the man whose face looked like a painting, one of the abstract ones where the features look melted and misplaced, frozen in some indistinguishable expression. As a real face, it is horrible and grotesque.

I wondered now, was the shooter driven out of his mind by the kind of anguish caused by deep love for a suffering friend? And how much did this paralyzed man now feel the loss of his friend, unable to express any of it?

When I woke, I ached and prayed. Jesus please come back. This world is so broken, so heart-breaking, so unkind.