Bittersweet Rainbow

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A long pilgrimage began in a small, quiet village in New York State several years ago when five participants made a bittersweet journey to familiar childhood places in the Granite State. It brought together one elderly, widowed grandmother and her younger daughter who was the mother of fraternal pre-teen twin girls. Keeping them company was their younger sister who found the long trip quite uneventful and became weary as the hours ticked by.

In the trunk of the car, surrounded by suitcases and wrapped with great care in a car blanket, was a small heavy-duty cardboard box. One solitary label indicated its contents which were of great significance to the passengers. Bound for an overnight stay in their summer home, the family had a chance to prepare to revisit past summers and recall events that had made them memorable—or something forgettable.

In the backyard a small, shabby metal shed held a treasure trove of memories and objects; the girls uncovered the red wagon which they used to carry light weight wood containers willed with ruby, ripe strawberries from their vegetable garden. Nearby on the floor lay the tattered tail of a paper kite that had become entangled in a green mesh butterfly net. It was missing its wooden handle and the mesh was no longer useful to the hunter of winged prey. Close to the door were four fishing poles of varying sizes and a much used tackle box that they and their caring grandfather carried every summer day to their favorite fishing spot at a nearby lake.

When daybreak arrived the next morning, it brought chilly rain and dreary gray skies with ominous thunder close by. The persistent feeling that a day that should be memorable would be washed out, lowered the family’s spirits, but the length of their visit was short and the mission had to be underway as soon as possible.

In the early afternoon, they all set off with heavy hearts. Grandma drove cautiously along the winding, unpaved road to the lake and pulled over near a three-plank bridge which spanned a narrow inlet. When the car trunk was opened, little sister was chosen to unwrap the box and carry it to the secluded resting place. The grieving visitors crossed the bridge and walked hand-in-hand to the water’s edge as their loving tears flowed. The girls paused on the bank and gathered a bouquet of flowers, which they tossed into the chilly water.

A significant moment in time had arrived. The box was opened and each mourner scattered a handful of ashes and watched as they peacefully floated, before being carried away by the current and the wind. Grandfather’s wish for a final resting place at his favorite fishing spot had been granted by his close-knit family.

The rain had almost stopped, and only a fine mist fell over the carpet of lavender water hyacinths and ivory water lilies. A pale summer sun struggled to break through the branches of trees that lined the dedicated place. The family turned away for home, and there in the distance a brilliant rainbow arched across the lake, like a benediction. Their journey was complete, and they found consolation in the great wisdom of a Native American Indian: “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”

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