I saw my father a further four times after he died.
The first time I dreamed of him was the night after his passing. Until his minor stroke at the age of 58, Dad was robust physically - neither particularly athletic nor muscular, but he was in good shape. When he died ten years later, the pancreatic cancer had yellowed the skin which was now hanging from his frail bones. His eyes were dark and sunken. As I held his hand during those last few days, I wept for the loss of the man he used to be. How could this old man, wasting away so quickly, be my father? Our parents are forever strong and they are immortal.
In the dream, Dad was lying in a hospital bed. He was peaceful, bathed in a warm white glow, but he was clearly in pain and he barely stirred under the sterile white sheets. His skin was still discoloured, and his face remained thin.
I had the same dream on two more successive nights, and each time I forced myself awake, my grief almost unbearable.
On the fourth night, the dream changed. Dad was no longer in bed but was standing, fully clothed and wearing the leather jacket Mum complained he never removed. He looked well; he had gained weight, and his face had filled out. He smiled and held out his arms to his side, and although he did not speak I knew he was telling me, 'I'm ok.'
I didn't dream about my father again until much later - perhaps months passed before I saw him. Sometimes I hear his voice. He calls out my name - just once - and I know what it means.
In whatever shape or form, real or imaginary, he is still with me, and I draw comfort from that thought.