22: Not Just a Rainbow Story

22: Not Just a Rainbow Story

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Not Just a Rainbow Story

Even your past pain can be a blessing to someone.

Hopelifters are willing to reach back and pass hope on.

~Kathe Wunnenberg

The day after my friend Nancy’s twenty-five-year-old son was accidently struck and killed by a train, her younger son was at our house, listening to music with my kids. We were all in shock and to make things even worse, it was Mother’s Day.

It rained that day, but when the sun came out for a moment, I looked for a rainbow. From our deck we have a good view of the Vermont hills, and it’s a perfect spot for sighting rainbows. I saw one that day.

“Guys,” I yelled into the house. “Rainbow!” My family is used to this — I’m a big fan of rainbows and I want everyone to enjoy the miracle. “Get out here!”

It took a while for the teenagers to come down and onto the deck, and by the time they did the rainbow had grown, almost to a full arc. My son was quiet, taking his cues from his best friend who had just lost his big brother. We stood on the damp deck and as the colors brightened a second rainbow appeared above the first one.

David’s pale and confused face began to take on the glow of the rainbow. “Maybe it’s a message from Kevin,” he said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Why don’t you call your mom? She should be able to see it from your house.”

I brought him the phone and as he dialed I felt the weight of grief where he was calling: his house was filled with neighbors, family and friends, all sharing their overwhelming shock and grief. It was possible that Nancy wouldn’t even hear the phone ring. But she did, and he said, “Mom, you should go outside. There’s a rainbow.” And then he was quiet. After a while he said, “I can hear her running down the driveway.” And then he said, “She’s crying.”

Of course she’s crying, I thought. He hung up and we watched the rainbow as it peaked and then slowly began to fade. I hoped Nancy might think the rainbow was a message from Kevin. Maybe it would bring her just a little shimmer of light during this unspeakably dark time. Maybe it was a visitation, a smile from Kevin who had been a sweet, happy, and extremely friendly young man. Perhaps it was his way of saying, “I’m okay! It’s beautiful here on the other side. Don’t worry about me.” The miracle of a rainbow as a Mother’s Day gift was perfect.

The rainbow had almost finished fading. But then something awful happened. As we watched the last of the colors disappear from the sky, we heard the unmistakable sound of a train whistle in the distance. I grimaced and shut my eyes, trying to picture the rainbow instead of the train, and wishing with all my might that I could have prevented David from hearing it.

We were all silent until I finally said, “Maybe don’t mention that part to your mom. You know?”

He took a deep breath. None of us wanted to think about trains. “Of course I won’t,” he said.

“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” I told him.

“I’ll be okay,” he said, and we all went back inside.

During the next few weeks, as I visited Nancy, I kept thinking about that train whistle. Maybe I should have told her about it. A little voice kept saying, “You have to tell Nancy about the train whistle.” But why would I do that? She liked the rainbow. She posted a photo of it and said it brought her a bit of joy on a horrible day. Telling her that we heard a train whistle would ruin it, maybe even ruin rainbows forever. But the voice persisted.

I had many opportunities to tell her, as I saw her often, but it never seemed to be the right time. I mean, how does one say, “You know that beautiful rainbow that you saw on Mother’s Day? The day after Kevin died? Well, I heard a train whistle the exact moment the rainbow disappeared.” I didn’t want to say anything about trains to her. And yet, I finally did, using those exact words.

Nancy was at my house and we were watching the kids play lawn games. I felt the timing was right so I told her. I expected her to cringe, maybe even look at me with confusion and say, “Why would you tell me that? Why would you go and ruin that for me?” Or worse, “How dare you mention a train whistle?”

I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

Nancy took my hands and her eyes grew shiny. “This is exactly what I was hoping for,” she said. I must have looked confused because she squeezed my hands and continued, “Don’t you see? The train whistle means the rainbow was definitely from Kevin. Now I know he’s okay.”

As she hugged me and thanked me again for telling her, I silently thanked the voice inside that made me say the words I didn’t want to say. I was so sure my words would only bring more pain, and instead they ended up being a relief. As Nancy and her family continued on the long road of grief I offered my gratitude for this moment, for this little rainbow of grace.

~Lava Mueller

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