Two Sundays ago, I took part in a celebration… of grief and hope and something way bigger. It’s taken a while for me to find the courage to speak the beauty of the rainbow ahead.
On 24th December 2012, my brother (in-law, but real brother in all ways that count) lost a long battle with brain tumors. He left a huge hole in the space he once filled. And oh, how he filled it, that lion among men, true “patriarch” with wisdom and courage and the easy confidence of a true gentleman.
We gathered on “his” hillside to drink a toast to Willy, with an ache in our hearts and a sense of vast, raw loss. A family come to grieve together, the hurt still raw a year down the line, on an early summer day filled with bright sunshine and quiet beauty.
And no, the rainbow wasn’t there. But in my mind it shone bright and clear. Little Amy, Will’s granddaughter, was with us. Just a week old, the beautiful baby girl slept on, oblivious to all. Born a week earlier by ceasarian section, her due date had been…24th December. A sign, I believe, of hope, a gift of life in grief, like a precious rainbow ahead, shining through the tears.
It was a painful, poignant moment for me, a mirror of my own long journey through pain and loss and grief. I lost my husband, Will’s brother, Gary, also to cancer, sixteen and a half long years ago. And I learned something yesterday – actually a few somethings, which humbled me a little but also made the rainbow ahead a little brighter for me.
Lastly, I learned that there are wounds that never heal. We heal. Standing on that hillside, the loss of Will large and poignant, I felt the other pain, the losing of Gary as fresh and raw as if it had been only yesterday. I realised that my today, strength comes not from “losing” yesterday’s pain, but from living around it. It will be there always, real and lasting, as much a part of who I am as the hope and the joy and moments that are to come. “Getting over it” means forgetting it. “Getting though it” means acceptance – an acknowledgement that it will always be there in some part of me, that it will surface here and there and make me ache a little with the loneliness of it.
Hope defines the rainbow ahead.
I was reminded of my tribute to Gary which is included in the “Heartscapes” anthology, and the moment of acceptance it brought me. Looking back, as I read it once again, I’m reminded that acceptance is hope. This is a truth that exists far beyond the pain, an acknowledgment that the gift of love outweighed the pain of loss. If I could choose, I’d go through it all over again. No matter how great the storm, we can always look to the rainbow ahead.
“Yes, the way was hard, sometimes. And so often you would thank me for the little things. And you would tell me you were so glad you had found me and that I had touched your life. But, looking back, I see that if I did, in some small way, touch your life, it was because you loved me. And, in giving me the joy of loving you, my life was touched, and healed, and changed. Though the ache in my heart is as great as the space you filled, still I can be content. Because, for just a little while, I held in my hand the most precious gift of all. And I know, in a place much deeper than the sadness, that if I’d known what was to come, I’d have done it anyway.”
To my family: Rainbow Ahead – Hang in there!
Heartscapes – True Stories of Remembered Love is available at: