I was 4 years old when I was haunted by the dream of a bear in my closet. He came out at night and I knew he wanted to bite me which is why I insisted on wanting the light on. I knew the bear wouldn’t come out if the light was on. I never saw him but I knew he was there.

My mother asked me why the bear was in my closet and I remember wondering how she could be so stupid. “He wants to eat me!” I told her angrily. She tried to calm my fears by allowing me to have my light on, but I woke up in the morning and the light was off so I figured the bear lost interest in me and went somewhere else.

The bear was replaced by a vicious black dog who entered my dreams on a regular basis. In the dream, I was standing at the top of the stairs and listening to the critter who was running across our kitchen floor. It was linoleum so you could hear the click-click of toenails. Then I saw the yellow eyes of the dog as he raced up the steps growling and leaped at my face. I screamed in horror and raised my arms to protect my face but I woke up before he reached me. That dream recurred many times and I finally decided I would punch that dog in the mouth if he appeared in my dream. Finally, after several days of peace, the dream found me once again listening to the growling and clicking of toenails on the linoleum floor. Not this time, I said to myself as the yellow eyes rushed toward me and as he leaped at my face, I swung at his mouth and immediately woke up before my fist reached his teeth. I felt relieved knowing I finally had the courage to defend myself, and I never had that dream again.

I was ‘dream-free’ of vicious critters until we moved from Williamsport to the west end of Union County where my dreams came back with a vengeance. There was a huge python-like snake who would enter our living room and try to pull me toward the back door but I made him let go by hitting his head with my fist. Next came the dream about a tall ogre with long arms who tried to pull me upstairs but I was able to stop him by punching him in one eye. I wasn’t comfortable with the snake or the ogre and I wondered what dream was going to happen next.

The “White Light” dream occurred when I was 13 years old and it marked the end of my inner fears inherent in all my past dreams. The dream began as I stood outside my bedroom staring down the hall at the door which opened into an office room. I watched as this ghoulish devil-like figure rose upward from the floor and stood about six feet from me. He was muscular and wore only a pair of shorts as he stared at me with a sneer. He started walking toward me and a voice to my right said “come in here.” In reality, the door on the right opened to a storage closet, but in my dream, it opened to a small room. I stepped inside and immediately became a tiny white light among thousands of white lights that filled the room. They were all living particles just like me and it was a comfortable peace that I never felt before.

However, I could feel the devil-like figure walking past the door. After several seconds, a voice said “you can go back to your room now.” Suddenly I awoke in my bed and feeling that same peace and safety.

To this day, I look at the White Light dream as a spiritual awakening that changed my life. I use my “white light” in mediation periods and it gives me a constant sense of security. The “fear dreams” ended.

Fast forward to 1997 as I’m standing beside Burke, my youngest son, who is asleep in a hospital bed and he’s dying due to his long struggle battling cystic fibrosis (CF). Suddenly he shouts “The light! The light! It’s blinding!” He opened his eyes and smiled and said “That light!’ There were tears in my eyes but I smiled back. I knew what the light was, but I simply said “it’s OK” because I knew he was safe and the light was there to reassure me that he was “going home.” He died a day later.

This Old Codger doesn’t subscribe to any religion but instead believes we are all “Children of the Light” who are here to help and learn from each other regardless of any religion. Call me a crazy Old Codger, but I’m a child of the sixties who still believes the essence of life is to help others with an emphasis on love, peace, and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I can still swear as good or better than any sailor when I’m angry but to me, it means I’m still learning.

So …. I encourage all of you to “Lighten up!” (And Mrs. Codger says “In more ways than one!”)

Bob Derr, The Old Codger, lives in Selinsgrove

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