4: Find Your Rainbows

4: Find Your Rainbows

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Find Your Rainbows

God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us—in the dreariest and most dreaded moments—can see a possibility of hope.

~Maya Angelou

I always enjoyed the magic of seeing a rainbow. I was mesmerized by the vibrant colours and the allure of the promised pot of gold at the end of it. Truth be told, I never realized there was much more to rainbows than what meets the eye.

But rainbows can also be a sign. They have the ability to be a sign of hope as well as a gateway connecting us with our precious loved ones who have passed.

My difficult journey of loss started when my beautiful daughter Maddie was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was only twelve. She began the greatest battle of her life. With incredible courage she fought as hard as she possibly could, but after three years, her warrior body was ravaged beyond repair. Knowing she would soon die, Maddie’s mission became to take care of us as we dealt with her impending death. She used her precious energy to ensure we would not suffer after she was gone. Her father, my husband, had lost his battle to ALS when she was only six. Although only a child then, she was like an old soul, sensitive to the grief and struggle Stephen’s death had brought to our family.

At age fifteen, she courageously proclaimed her gratitude for the life that she had. She told us she was not afraid to die. Her final message to us was, “I love you but you must promise me you won’t be sad when I’m gone. I will be okay.” She truly became our hero. Soon after that brave conversation, Maddie passed away in my arms.

I didn’t believe I had the strength to go on, but I had to for the sake of my eleven-year-old son. I searched in vain for answers. Why Maddie? She was so young and so kind. I was debilitated by grief and I needed some kind of continuing connection with my daughter. I begged her to send me a sign, to assure me she was okay.

The messages started to come right away, first to Vicki, Maddie’s best friend. Vicki kept all her friends’ phone numbers on little sticky heart notes on her bedroom wall. The day after Maddie passed away Vicki entered her room and found a sticky heart note that had fallen off the wall and was lying by the bed. She flipped it over and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Maddie’s name and number on the note! She couldn’t believe it. Maddie was saying goodbye to her. The next day she put the heart in Maddie’s casket, her way of letting Maddie know that she understood; they would stay connected.

Then one day my niece Teela sent me this e-mail: “After Maddie left us I had a dream. I saw her in a rocking chair. I asked her what she was doing here; she was supposed to be dead. She told me it was a mistake! She hadn’t gone anywhere and was still with us. I sat down and put my head in her lap and cried. She just repeated over and over that everything was going to be all right, that it was a mistake, she was still with us! She sent this message to help me stop being so sad.”

Although I tried my best to be positive, I had a few emotional meltdowns where I would question myself and my decisions. What if I could I have done something different to save Maddie? On one particular occasion I came across an old homemade Mother’s Day card from Maddie. It read, “Mommy, I can’t think of anything you could have done better. You are the world’s greatest mom!” It was as if she somehow knew these words would one day heal my wounds.

On the first anniversary of Maddie’s death, our family and friends gathered around her grave to celebrate her life. We released 100 coloured balloons into the sky. Laughter and small talk filled the air till we heard a gasp, then more gasps. Someone pointed upward; we looked up and followed the balloons’ path in the sky. We were stunned to see two beautiful rainbows above us. It was a cloudless sunny day, so where did those rainbows come from? We watched the balloons dance up and through the rainbow archway. It was as if heaven opened its gates to receive them. After all, the cemetery was called Gates of Heaven. I knew Maddie was sending me a sign and I could hear her voice whispering in the wind, “It’s okay Mommy, I’m okay.”

We have received many letters and stories from people about dreams and signs they’ve received over the years from Maddie. She is still held close in all their hearts. We lovingly named this phenomenon “The Magic of Maddie.”

Recently, Maddie’s beloved dog Winston, a neurotic roly-poly Pug, passed away. He was old, diabetic, and had been having seizures. He was in distress so my son Derek and I took him to the veterinarian’s clinic and were with him when he took his last breath.

I couldn’t bear going straight home without Winston so I asked Derek to take a walk with me. It was a hot summer’s day so we headed to the beach. I kept telling Derek, “I need a sign.” I needed some comfort.

Derek consoled me, “Mom, it’s alright. Don’t worry. Maddie will take care of Winston.”

I was too upset to listen. “Derek, we need a sign, I wish Maddie would send us a sign, like she did last time!” I looked up in the sky, expecting to see a rainbow, but all I saw was the bright afternoon sun.

Derek was patient but hungry and went to a kiosk to buy French fries for lunch. Then we sat on a blanket by the water. I lay back on the blanket and looked up at the sky. My heart raced at what I saw. I tapped my son frantically on the shoulder. “Do you see what I see?” I exclaimed in shock.

Derek’s head followed my gaze, his French fry frozen in mid-air. “You mean that big rainbow above us?” he said. He saw it too. Thank God! I was not losing my mind! I stared at the rainbow for the longest time, wanting to memorize every detail. Without a doubt it was a sign from Maddie. She was saying, “Got him, Mom. Winston is okay too!”

I’ll never look at a rainbow the same way again. They are powerful symbols that affirm our bonds cannot be broken, not even in death. The universe is always sending us signs. No matter how difficult life gets, these signs, like rainbows, are gifts that remind us we never lose our connections to the people we love. Keep your faith, open your heart and look up, way up. Find your rainbows!

~Sharon Babineau

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