The first time was when I was 14. All I remember about the dream is that I was lying on my back, possibly in someone's arms, and I looked up into someone's face. I've never seen this person in my life, but I felt the strongest, purest, sweetest love towards this person. The feeling was so overwhelming that it woke me.
The second time was a year later. I was still living in Panamá at the time. I don't remember the exact sequence of events in the dream, but at one point a member of the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) broke into our apartment via the front door. (We used the back door almost exclusively, so that I subconsciously associated bad things with the front door.) I know there was some sort of confrontation. At some point we were down on Barnebey Street, in front of the house, behind a barricade of sorts. I was refusing to fight the PDF, because it is against everything I believe in to take another human life. But then they killed my father, and something within me snapped. I grabbed a gun and started whaling away, Rambo-style, with complete disregard for my own safety. I was consumed with pure, raging hatred, so intense and all-consuming that my subconscious woke me up before I could do any harm to myself. I was trembling when I woke up.
Before I get to the third time, I'll briefly mention the times I'm not counting. I'm not counting the falling dreams. I'm sure we've all had dreams where we're falling and suddenly wake up with a thud in bed. Those don't count because it's the falling sensation, not an emotion, that woke me up. Likewise, I'm not counting the series of experiences I had junior year in college. Two or three times I felt an evil or other-worldly presence about me, so I opened my eyes. I saw a black amorphous shape hovering a few feet above me, a black so black that it was most definitely absence of light. I was paralyzed with fear. I could not move; I could not scream. I lay there, staring straight up, struggling to move a limb or utter a sound. Only my mind and eyes worked. And so I did the only thing I could: I closed my eyes and prayed with devout intensity. I would open my eyes and it was still there. Eventually I felt a release: felt that the ominous presence was no longer there, that I could move and whimper, and when I opened my eyes again saw that the black thing was gone. Some would say that I was in a semi-conscious state where my mind was creating dream images that I confused for reality even though my body was still asleep. Others will say something else, and I tend to side with the latter. (Some friends still kid me about a "direct portal to hell" in my room that year.) Anyhow, this small handful of experiences, all confined to my bedroom in Stone dormitory during my junior year of college and never occurring anywhere else, don't count as instances of strong emotion waking me up, even though I have never felt such paralyzing fear as that.
That brings us to the third instance of being woken up because of strong emotion: this morning. I had been having a series of dreams that seemed to take place in my grandmothers' and aunt's house in Panamá. Some of the details of the house changed to accomodate the particular dream, but it was pretty clearly that house. (I had three or four dreams in that setting this morning.) The final dream occurred shortly after my friends (I know JC was there, and maybe Tommy and I don't remember who else) and I were kicked out of a certain room/apartment because the occupants were going to bed. Next thing I remember, I am in bed myself, waking up. I look at the clock, wondering what time it is and why I am waking up. The clock's digital face glowed a pale, luminous green, showing "2:01 a.m." I got up and walked into the hallway. The only lights on were the fluorescent lights in the kitchen, glowing faintly around the corner from the end of the hall. I went to the kitchen. My mom or aunt, I'm not sure which, was standing by the sink, facing my direction. There was another figure standing between us, facing away from me. "Look who's here," my mom/aunt said to me (in Spanish, of course). The other person turned to face me. It was my grandmother. She looked directly up at my face. Her face was smiling and radiant. I looked deep into her blue eyes. I had forgotten my grandmother had such beautiful blue eyes, her eyes having been clouded over by cataracts for so many years. I glanced up at my mom/aunt, and started to ask "How...," knowing in my dream that she had passed away. My mom/aunt gave a look that seemed to say, "I know, just go with it." So my grandmother and I walked out of the kitchen side by side, into the dining room towards the front porch. She said something. Suddenly the feelings started to well up. I couldn't hold them back. I could feel a wail coming from deep inside me, struggling to break free and be heard. I wanted so much to hear what she had to tell me, but I was completely overcome by grief. The purest, most heart-rending grief, pouring out from the depths of my soul. And that's when my subconscious woke me up.