Early in the mourning process, we try to avoid things that can trigger painful memories. But after being together since 1969, I found that nothing is predictably safe. Even the weather is a minefield. Rainy weather is the worst.
Our first date was November 5, 1969. It was raining. After a football game and pizza with our friends, we sat in his car and talked. I remember watching the raindrops hitting the windshield and the sound of the rain on the roof of the car. That being a cheap date and a way to have privacy, we spent a lot of time on rainy nights that fall in the car, often in front of my house. We would sit out there as long as possible. I remember my dad flashing the porch light to let me know I needed to come in before he came out to get me.
Our first camping trip we experienced a Texas deluge. Our tent was an old parachute with a long pole in the middle, staked down tightly all around. It was perfect in Texas because it was tall and light, allowing lots of air while keeping out the insects and snakes. The last day, the rain came gushing down. We hoped it would blow over quickly so we could load the car, but it only got worse. The weight of the rain caused the parachute to slowly collapse around us until we were huddled near the center pole with the fabric closing in on us. Butch drove the VW Beetle into the tent so we could pack the equipment and then shoved the wet parachute into the compartment above the engine in the back. As we drove toward home, the engine reached temperature. There appeared to be smoke coming from the back and it looked like the car was on fire. We jumped out and ran back there to save what we could and found ourselves laughing hysterically as we stood in the pouring rain watching steam coming off the parachute.
The stories of us and the rain go on and on. In the last years, we were only off work together every other Sunday. Rainy Sundays prevented us from doing yard work so we would snuggle on the double recliner, watch movies and take naps. It was raining the day of the celebration of life when we all said our last goodbyes.
I notice rainy Sundays are very melancholy days for me now. Recently, I awoke to the sound of the rain falling outside. As I opened my eyes they fell on a great photograph of him that his niece enlarged for the foyer of the church that now hangs in my room. He is laughing and looks so happy and contented. The memories flooded in, with the sadness and sweetness all jumbled together. All at once I heard him, or God, or some combination of them say, “The love is under the pain.” The sadness lifted slightly so that the memories felt more like being with him that a reminder of being without him.
Our loving feelings for them, and everyone else, lie deep within us. When we try to skim along the surface to avoid the sadness, we lose the love, too. We lose the best part of them and of ourselves. There will never again be a version of us that does not include the pain. Our work is like that of the oyster. The pain is an irritant that is permanently located at the center of our being. Layer by layer, day by day, something beautiful is created. We are promised by those who have gone before us that there is a shiny version of us waiting in the future. As we become us without them, we are transformed into that pearl of great value so that we can light the way for others.
It’s just hard to believe in the pearl, when all we feel is the painful grain of sand wedged in our hearts……………..