As a child and throughout my life, I experienced a recurring dream and every time it dauntingly unfolds during otherwise peaceful slumber, I wonder why. In this dream, I was summoned to an event – a live show or so it seemed. I was informed that it would be positively engaging and inspiring. However, rather than being an exhilarating experience, I found that it was complete subterfuge and I had been altogether duped. I had been deceived by over-zealous locutions and instead found myself constantly harangued with problems and at times even feared for my very life. Today, I cannot help but view this as a metaphor for my existence here on this isolated planet called Earth. Was I so bedazzled by the light and myopic on the other side that I truly believed this road trip called life was going to be a virtual vacation? Was I so naive that I believed life would be an affable and fun learning adventure? What was I thinking? “You’re just a sniveling, ungrateful brat.” That’s what my adopted father often said and most likely, my Father in heaven as well. They might very well have been right but I must conclude that I was not sufficiently prepared beforehand for this excursion into the physical realm. I can envisage the conversation that must have ensued before my soul entered that tiny, helpless baby’s body. And I can almost recall my teachers and guides saying: “You’re going to love it and you will learn so much. You will have a bit of an abstruse start but an affluent family will eventually want you and an inimitable bond will bloom with your adopted mom. You will enjoy the company of many friends and lovers throughout your life. You will attend college, marry a dashing young man and give birth to a blissful baby daughter. You will have a second amazing child and recommence college later in life to assume a bustling career as a journalist. After retirement, you will write many books and become an established author.”So there I was basking in the warmth and security of the other side, and sojourning on Earth sounded so enticing that I lunged headlong into it. I did not jump; I leaped wholeheartedly through the veil into life with all the intoxication and gusto within my being. Too many children with nowhere to go had arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Taft. They quickly filled the upstairs’ rooms of the foster home and I was shuffled into a cubbyhole of a room – once the kitchen pantry - with no more than three feet from the bed to the door. While it was not as airy as the attic, at least I could awaken and jump out of bed without slamming my head on a slanted ceiling. I learned early on that one must be grateful for even the smallest of amenities.“What... what is that? Music? Rousing from a deep sleep, I bolted upright in bed, my tiny, malnourished frame barely distinguishable under the thin, well-worn covers. I brushed the light brown curls away from my face and leaned backward – just a little.“It can’t be. There’s no television in here. What is that?”In the upper corner of the room at the foot of the bed, a television screen hung precariously of its own accord. It displayed a man – a handsome dark-haired fellow – singing in falsetto what seemed to be a canticle. The mellifluous and mesmerizing lyrics washed over me and seemed to reach into the depth of my being. Even though he did not look like the angels I saw in my Sunday school books – no halo, no wings, and no pure white gown - I thought he must be one. Astounded, I lay back down and stared incredulously at this miraculous yet enigmatic, impossible vision.“I must still be asleep,” I thought. “This can’t be happening.”I rolled over onto my side – one way and then the other, and onto my back again. I pinched my arm, sat up and lay back down.“Surely, it will go away now,” I imagined.But it didn’t. Eventually, I succumbed to the magical sound – wrapped in the warmth of the enchanting music emanating from this most unconventional source. The tiny room I slept in was no more than an old pantry, just off the kitchen. The melody – soothing and sweet – penetrated my soul and eventually, the vision slowly dissipated and I drifted back into peaceful slumber. The following morning, I related to Mrs. Taft what had transpired during the previous night.“You must have been dreaming,” she said bluntly. “Children dream strange things sometimes.”“It was not a dream,” I persisted. “I was wide awake, honest!”“Don’t be silly, child. Now go and get dressed,” she demanded, eyes wide amid her pudgy face. “We’re leaving for church in half an hour.”I raced back to my room and yanked my dress – the only one I owned - off a hangar in the closet. I loved Sunday school and could not wait to hear more tales about Jesus. If a child could truly have an idol, He was mine. I simply adored Him – I think because he was so magnanimous and loving to children. I had not seen a lot of that in my short life. My days in the Taft’s home were primarily spent playing with other foster kids in the two-story house in Hamilton’s far west end or sticking close to Mrs. Taft, playing with my Raggedy Ann doll while she cleaned the house or did the laundry in the musty, semi-lit basement that was accessible through a covered hole in the kitchen floor. On warm summer days, I gravitated to the screened sun house in the back yard. My imagination ran wild as I savored my time alone there imagining Jesus sitting with me – telling me inspirational stories and of course, how much He loved me. I cherished those times recalling how the Lord spoke so compassionately with the children and even set them up on his lap while he told them stories. Then I’d wonder what Jesus would be doing in Hamilton, Ontario? Did he really have time for me and if so, why did I feel so overwhelmingly alone, even when the house was full to capacity with so many unwanted kids?I barely remembered my parents and siblings – all of whom were wrenched apart when I was two years old. My first memory was of a cramped room with several windows where half a dozen cots were laid out all around me. As a toddler, I had no comprehension of our impoverished lifestyle. Instead, I was more than happy to clamber up on a cot and fearlessly jump from one to the other giggling with glee. In my 40’s, I found this house and wondered what it was like to live there with eight other people. Apparently, it was quite atrocious. Over the years, I learned that my family was chronically poor. My parents, Ellen Pearl and Harvey White, were heavy drinkers and got into many altercations. During one of their more intensive rows, the neighbors called the Hamilton Children’s Aid. In one night I was divested of family and whisked away. At the children’s aid I stared frightened and spellbound up at a long wooden staircase and then precariously climbing them to a darkened bedroom. Laying in bed that first night, all was deafeningly quiet – no yammering siblings or squabbling parents. I envisioned monsters popping out of every shadowy corner. At five years old I lived with the Jansen’s, a Leave It To Beaver couple in a lovely ranch-style house on the shore of Lake Ontario. Their only child – a boy – was seven. As one would expect, they loved their son unconditionally and of course he could do no wrong. One day, the boy discovered me playing in the open garage with my Raggedy Ann doll in a baby carriage his parents had given to me. Obviously incensed that I was treading on his sacred territory, he ripped the carriage from my hands and tossed it across the driveway. One wheel bent outward, with its spokes splayed, bent and torn out of place. The canvas cover hung precariously to one side and looked like it had been run over. Mrs. Jenson was furious. “How dare you ruin something so nice that we gave you,” she hollered. “You are a most ungrateful child.”I rocked on my heels and wished I could meld into the woodwork or dissolve into space – anything to get far away from that ugly scene. As much as I protested, it was pointless. Their son was their pride and joy. I, on the other hand, was an unwelcome interloper and a huge nuisance in the boy’s previously charmed life.As the chill of winter set in, it brought mounds of fresh snow to the otherwise lush Ontario landscape and the lake froze over with shafts of ice jabbing at variance into the shoreline. I caught a cold, could not attend school and remained bedridden for days. My chest burned as I tried to breath and coughing was painful. Mrs. Jensen called a doctor, who came to the house to examine me. Imagine, doctors who made house calls!“She has pneumonia,” he pronounced with apathetic indisputably. “She’ll need regular shots of penicillin.”And there were many – far too many! The needles poked into my bony behind and became more and more excruciating over time, but I took comfort in collecting all the little rubber-topped bottles that once held the penicillin and used them to pretend-feed my Raggedy Ann under the soft down blanket while I lay so many days in bed. One morning, Mrs. Jensen tip toed into the room and drew back the curtains. Unrestrained spring sunshine poured in as she moved to sit on the bed beside me. I struggled to prop myself up, my tiny lungs laboring to take each breath.“I’ve got some bad news, I’m afraid,” she began. “The doctor says you’re not getting any better and you have to go into the hospital.”I eyed her with more than normal childlike discernment. “I’m not coming back, am I?”It was an immediate response. Even so young, I innately knew that I’d been enough of a discordant element to this otherwise close knit family and had overstayed my welcome – if I had ever really been.“No, I’m afraid not,” she replied sheepishly and turned away so as not to look at me. “We live too close to the lake and the humid air is not good for you.”Right. There was always a reason, I thought as hot tears poured down my cheeks.“Now, I’m going to pack your things,” she continued with disaffection and opened my miniature trunk.She laid a few pairs of underwear, socks, two tops and two pairs of pants – my life’s belongings – neatly folded inside, along with my best friend - Raggedy Ann. The trunk, which was a mere twenty inches by perhaps twelve and lined with a rose printed cloth, now sits in my apartment – a sentimental reminder of my tumultuous early days.While I hung precariously on the brink of life and death under an oxygen tent in the hospital, I managed to entirely miss my first year of school. I often heard the word tuberculosis but did not understand it. One day, I awoke and became cognizant of a petite woman standing at the end of my bed. She wore a light gray suit jacket with matching skirt and hat, and looked rather regal for her tiny stature. Light brown curls framed her delicate features and bright blue eyes stared at me through the plastic. In my weakened state, I soon closed my eyes. When I finally opened them again, the wisp of a woman had disappeared and became just a faint memory - like a ghost that visited unannounced in the night. Years later, a photo from my sister would confirm that the ‘wisp of a woman’ was my birth mother.I eventually found myself back at the Taft’s. It was not family but for the meantime, it was home. School was difficult because I never fit in and many nights, I sobbed into my pillow wondering if I was meant to forever be alone. Then after that strange vision in the summer of ’56, I met my adoptive parents – Vera and Ray. Was it a vision of hope? It certainly seemed so. Looking back over six decades, I now realized that despite the way I perceived my life could or should be here on Earth, there must have been other elements that I was never told. Or perhaps I chose not to listen. I did not hear my guides and advisers when they said I would experience both elation and sorrow – that my life would brim at times with great joy and at others bring deep-set emotional pain that would rip my heart in two - that I would shed a bucket of tears over my lifetime and eventually crumple into a ball, frazzled, depleted and completely broken. Nope. I don’t remember hearing any of that. If I had been so enlightened, do you think I would have stepped out of the comforting light and all-consuming love of the other side to become marooned in the darkness of this world? Not a chance! So what happened? Was I misled? Or was I so trusting and dupable that I truly believed life would be an awe-inspiring, uncomplicated and effortless excursion. Or perhaps midst the joyous counsel of my guides, I was so rapt by their words that even when I learned those unsettling things, I completely ignored that part. Perhaps they said those painful episodes were vital to my spiritual growth and the more I suffered, the greater would be my reward as stated in a poem by Robert Browning:“I walked a mile with pleasureShe chattered all the way,But left me none the wiserFor all she had to say.I walked a mile in sorrowAnd ne’er a word said she,But oh, the things I learned from herWhen sorrow walked with me.”It took the better part of my existence to unravel even a few of life’s mysteries. As I traveled along this unpredictable earthly highway, I learned some of the answers to life’s enigmas and so can you, if you listen to your own heart and learn the lessons that sorrow provides. Life truly is an adventure but it is not for the faint of heart. It takes a brave soul to venture here.