The American psychologist and physician Alfred Adler saw dreams as preparation for action, so I was rather mystified when, about 35 years ago, I dreamed that God instructed me to, “go, search for me in the place where my mother died.” I had no idea where exactly on this globe Mary, the mother of God, might have passed, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t in the States. And I had no idea what, if anything, I was supposed to do when I got there.
So, though the dream was vivid, ecstatic, and intense, I believed at that time I may not have been called to take it literally. My wife and I had two young children, and we were living in our first house, on a shoestring budget. We had no money to spare for much of anything, especially a sudden overseas trip.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago. My wife and I are retired, the kids are long since moved out, and our budget has opened back up. I often recalled the dream, and then my nephew got engaged, and he and his bride-to-be decided to have the wedding reception at her family’s apple orchard in Turkey. As I contemplated the trip, I recalled with a start reading about the possibility that the Virgin Mary may have died in Ephesus, where she had journeyed with St. John. In addition to attending a wedding in the central part of the country, was I also supposed to visit Ephesus?
There were some concerns: as much as we love our nephew, Turkey is very far away, and the COVID-19 pandemic was in full bloom. Nevertheless, I committed to the trip, leaving my dear wife behind.
Arriving in Turkey, I stayed in Istanbul for a while, as well as Kayseri in Cappadocia. Both were stunningly beautiful, as was the wedding reception. But I was running short on time and gave serious thought to cutting my trip short and forgoing Ephesus. But I decided to continue on.
I was hoping for, but really not expecting, something revelatory to happen in Ephesus, and I kept recalling Paul’s words in his letter to the Hebrews that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1-2). But in visiting Mary’s reputed resting area, interesting as it was, I got nothing, other than learning from walking through the area that whoever lived in Ephesus in the first century AD must have had a physically demanding life. The area is very hilly — and hot in the summer. I returned home a little disappointed. Was the whole thing for naught?
Unexpectedly, the “click” happened after my return when the brother of a dear friend of mine died suddenly. The funeral was held at the Church of the Assumption just a few blocks away from a twenty-four-hour hamburger joint where I worked during high school as a car hop. Waiting for the mass to start, I received a very special grace: I felt God inviting me to remember my going to the worship service here on those very early Sunday mornings after I’d completed my work as a car hop at a hamburger joint right down the street.
I’d often worked the Saturday night shift, finishing about 4:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. I would wait at the shop for mass. While I was always tempted to forgo mass and catch the first bus home, each Sunday morning I felt drawn to the place – and because this is the way my mind works, I knew that since I felt that way, I also knew that it must mean something. God asking me to remember those times was similar to reminding an old friend of a great experience once shared; the simple act of remembering is enough to regenerate the joy of the experience.
And then THE CLICK: “Go, search for me in the place my mother died.” I was currently sitting at a funeral in a church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The death of the mother of God is interwoven with her Assumption. It was then and there I understood that all along the invitation in the dream was not to go overseas to one or another site where Mary might have died. It was an invitation to come here, this place my heart recalls from so long ago that I, as a teenager, searched for God: the Church of the Assumption.
It was the theologian Soren Kierkegaard who suggested that, even though life must be lived forward, it is understood backwards. Thirty-five years ago a dream urging me to go searching for God propelled me to keep me looking for Him — a grace in itself. But God, who delights in being elusive, wove together two graces separated by thirty-five years, this grace and the grace of understanding that while I keep looking for God, God long ago found me.
I am a retired social worker. My wife and I have been married forty-nine years and have three children and four granddaughters. I write to three men in prison through a pen pal program and am also a Eucharistic Minister to the home-bound. I am an amateur pianist and do piano recitals every two years at a local college. The most rewarding use of my talent was to provide music for a service held every year for families and friends who lost someone to homicide, suicide, or accidental death. It was by doing that I learned the meaning, and value, of “releasing an eye-drop of comfort into an ocean of grief.”
Tim Mcguire, “Time Warping With God,” An Unexpected Journal: Mystery 6, no. 1. (Spring 2023), 175-178.
 “Source of Søren Kierkegaard quote,” University of Iowa, accessed January 24, 2023, https://homepage.divms.uiowa.edu/~jorgen/kierkegaardquotesource.html.