Galion, OH 10/31/11
The handsomely suited man with a touch of grey showing at the temples of his already light colored hair smiled grimly and nodded to me. “Angie,” he said cordially as he passed.
“Eric” I nodded, returning the same grim half-smile and nod.
Being known on a first name basis by the local funeral director is not an accomplishment for which I have ever aspired. Nor is it a reality I would choose to retain moving forward. I would hope the next time I see him so many years have passed that he may remember my face but not my name or the horrid year my family has endured to warrant such a painful familiarity.
Crossing to his wife, my cousin Glenn made eye contact with me. I took notice of the intense blue eyes, the facial similarities to those in our gene pool. I was struck by the depth of strength evident in this man. “I’m going to take Missy home and meet you at the church. It’ll take about five minutes to get back out there.”
“Okay, see you then.” Was all I could manage to say, as I glanced to a similar set of blue eyes, set within an ashen face towering high above my 5’9″ structure. Brother Jon. 6’9″ in height. With Jon, mom and Jon’s daughter, Charity AKA, “Bella,” I walked nearly silent to the vehicle I was driving. My fathers Hunter Green 1999 Honda Passport.
Jon lit a cigarette and mom let him sit in the front. Jon’s legs were of course too long to be comfortable in the back albeit a four door SUV. I could smell the nicotine in his Fortuna cigarette as he cracked the window. It surpassed the thick scent of rain in the air. I thought of how different various brands of cigarettes seemed; yet how similar they would all always be. Jon spoke of the hail we had been getting shortly before we left the funeral home. I turned on the wipers to thwart the droplets still falling, sporadically.
Within moments, we were pulling behind the Galion Alliance Church on Portland Way, just up from the Mark A. Schneider Funeral Home across from McDonalds, in Galion OH. Galion, OH, home of the Galion Tigers. Jon took a long drag on his Fortuna. I cut the engine and looked in the rear view mirror as I imagined how many cars might be parked here the day after. I thought about the grocery list Mom, Bella and I would fulfill and all of the things they would need to do, to help me make as many things as we could between the time we could start and the beginning of the funeral the following day. No sleep for me. Far too much weighing on my soul.
Glenn’s white van pulled in to our right and I turned the key to roll up the passenger window. It was still sprinkling and looked like more rain was on its way. Jon walked in with Glenn and we all braced ourselves as the alarm gave a fit. Glenn disarmed it.
Within a half an hour, admiring the masculine valor and inner strength that was a man I hardly knew, I had a deeper love and connection to my cousin I had met so seldom in our adult years, whose father was my fathers brother. Uncle William departed this earth by the method of his own design in 1989. Glenn and his sisters, Carrie and Candy were very deeply loved by our Johnson family but unfortunately never frequently in contact with many of us.
When we arrived at Jon and Moms, dropping Jon off, we all went inside to get a change of clothes for mom. Jon gave me some strips of glass to make a frame. Bella carried the Ale 8 bottle that held the preserved roses Jon had been holding for me from our first family funeral of the year, from July. It was about time I took them home. The bottle was dusty. I decided I wouldn’t clean it. I made smart remarks about stopping the rain on the porch from rolling off to keep from getting me drenched as I stepped onto the driveway and into the jeep. I wondered about the next days weather and thought about what I might wear. What had I worn to the calling hours, or the funeral from July. The weather November 1 would certainly be much different.
Next step was Bellas house for her clothes for the funeral. Mom and I talked and laughed a little. I wondered if she would like to wear a pair of my sandals in lieu of the dingy worn out pink plastic flip flops she was wearing. I planned the menu over again, to remember what I needed to pick up. I thought of something else and we made mental note to not forget it.
Pulling away from the curb, the clouds seemed to part and the sun came out. The sprinkling rain continued to fall from the sky. I couldn’t help but think of the rain as if it were tears from the heavens. I had the window cracked, letting in some of the cool, damp air. It beat running the heater to defrost the windows. I hated the wired up mess that it was. (still do) Dad had never taken the time to fix the blower so had a toggle run directly from the battery. Last time mom was in the car her feet and her bag rested on the wires and like a moron (mow-rahn, as Dad would call it) I lifted the toggle up, pulling the knob off the device, which was a (another term of dads) ‘son of a bastard’ to replace.
I looked in the rear view mirror and thought about having brother, Chuck put back the fuse Dad griped about him keeping out for the rear defrost and wiper. The wiper would not turn off, unless you unplugged the fuse. He was supposed to pull it out, wait and put it back. Dad was ticked when he just left it out, but of course wouldn’t say so to Chuck. The poor kid tried.
When we made our way back to the main drag, (Harding Way) we seemed to all at once notice a brilliant colored rainbow ahead. We followed Harding Way to the East, snapping photos from our cell phones. Driver included. (Don’t tell the police!) The cycle was almost hideous. Glance at the phone, back to the road, snap. Save. Glance. Road. Snap. Save. Glance. Road. Snap. Save. Zoom. Glance. Road. Zoom. Glance. Longer glance. Double rainbow. WOW.
The remarks from the car of positive and negative, were fluid. I think I cursed more in that few minutes about the “damn cell phone” and the effin’ zoom, effin’ raindrops on the windshield blocking what could have been good shots. GD wipers blurred that shot etc… than I had cursed in months. I was a little disappointed in my backslide to foul language. I had been doing so very well. I was by no means a Christian but I had my own kind of faith in God. I kept an open heart, or at least I tried to.
This past year had been by far the worst I had known in my life, for many reasons. I had stopped praying. I had stopped thinking about God and His plan. I was just hurt. Dispirited. I had by no means lost faith, just closed off myself to the connection to my own spiritual path. That was fine, as I always say, I’m no bible beater. I don’t and never have gone to church. I don’t and never have believed in the words of the bible. Sure they are pretty like any good book, but I don’t see things as many people see. I don’t preach. I try not to judge. I live by the golden rule and do unto others as I would have done unto me. I try.
That’s about as much as could be said on the matter of my religion, but with death riding shotgun in your life for as long as he has been my constant companion you start to rethink things and if your heart is open at the right time, you see the sign that moves within you like no other.
The remarks in the car continued. I watched carefully as we passed other cars, tried to keep an eye for stray animals and pedestrians as we chased the end of the rainbow, realizing we weren’t far from the pot at this end of it. It seemed we would pass under the rainbow at any moment.
“It looks like the end is in the field on the other side of those trees,” Mom exclaimed jubilantly.
Road, Car, Glance. Snap. Save. Glance. Road, Snap. Save.
“Oh wow,” I said seeing clearly that there was a double rainbow coming up from the golden field of corn. I love fall days. I love sunshine. I love rainbows. I love butterflies and birds and shapes in clouds. I appreciate life; always have. How have I lived so many months with my blinders on?
“That’s Candy’s rainbow. The rain was heavens tears crying for our sorrow. The rainbow is the light that was Candy shining down and telling us she is okay now. Not to be sad.” Moms tears welled over onto her cheeks as I glanced at her and she reached for my hand which was now on the middle console between us. She gave me a squeeze as we drove under the rainbow that now had disappeared into the clouds that had suddenly enveloped the sky again. We had seen the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I rarely drove Millsboro Road for sake of pot holes and pits in the pavement. I could always hear Dads voice in my head, griping about the tax dollars and the mother effin commy bastards who ran ODOT. I had failed to turn down Gelsenliter to hit 309, so wound carefully down Millsboro to 314 and turned left to 309. Once we came around the curve, leading very closely to 309, Bellas silence in the back was broken with animated excitement,
“Oh, look! LOOK! It’s the other end of the rainbow!” My blood started to race as cell phones were fumbled for, and we started to try to take more photos quickly before we passed by this end. Faint from our position now we could clearly see that while the refraction of light curving down to the right in Galion, it was refracting in a slope to the left in Ontario. This truly was the other end of the rainbow. It was a double rainbow on this end as well.
“We chased it. We chased Candy’s rainbow from one end to the other,” Mom cried out, as the Glance. Snap. Snap. Glance, Zoom, Snap repetition from fifteen minutes prior, returned.
I carefully turned right on 309 and kept my speed low. I rolled down my driver window and started as quickly and carefully as possible, with more cars coming every moment to watch and take caution of, Snap, Save. Glance, Snap, Save. Snap. Save. No time to glance. Snap. Save. Snap Save. Cars had passed, and we were now a ways past the rainbow. I glanced at the last picture I was able to take before I would have had to turn half way around to get the other end.
The F word flew from my mouth in rapid succession. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, and couldn’t quite look long enough, hard enough. What was this message to say? Was this the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow? Is this a message from Candy? Our other family members in heaven, Or God himself? .
I squealed like a little girl and bounced in my seat, as I continued my “oh EFFF EFFF EEEFFF EEEFFF” exclamations, with no regard as to how inappropriate such language was in light of the obvious miracle I had just captured with my cell phone camera.
I showed the picture to mom and then Bella. They were equally as enamored by the sight. I handed the phone to mom, “Send it out. Send it to everyone. Tell them all what this is, what this came from,”
Attached in a picture message was a clip from the song, “Climb” by Miley Cyrus. A photo I had just taken from my phone of a brick building with a white cross on the front and on a steeple above it. The rainbow stretching clearly through the sky above. My message read:
‘HEAVEN’S CRYING… POURING DOWN THE RAIN AND OUR NEW ANGEL SENT US A DOUBLE RAINBOW. (TO LET US KNOW SHE IS OKAY?) WE CHASED IT FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER AND ONE END WAS A FIELD. HARVEST GOLD… THIS WAS THE OTHER! GOD BLESS OUR NEW ANGEL IN HEAVEN! R.I.P.CANDY SUE JOHNSON-CLARK”
Pullng into Aldi, I re-read the message I had dictated to my mother. The song played. I hit send. A profound sense of time and reality washed through me. A deep and indelible mark of mortality came up to flutter my teary eyes closed and my breath to catch in my throat. I choked silently on emotion. Tears spilled down my cheeks; sorrow and beauty all at once.
This year. This year has been too damn much for me; for my whole family. In our family and our close friends, we have suffered one major illness or loss after another. How much more can one family endure? What was the count? Eleven? Twelve? I couldn’t recall.
What was clear was that I had left work one ordinary evening in October of 2010, full of a sense that something was about to happen and life would never be the same for me. I used to wait on something to come along to make life different. I was always so introspective; waiting for something to happen that might put the pieces together, make it all come clear; make sense. I used to think in terms of that great movie of life, where there would be a subtitle to say “one year ago”, or “one year later” after something really traumatic and painful.
After the year I’ve been through, suddenly that subtitle doesn’t sound so appealing anymore. Life is what happens in the time the subtitle skips. As hard and as painful as every breath we take can be, we simply must keep living. (Whether we want to or think we can, or not.)
In the wake of tribulation and despair I have to speak truthfully that it has been many times, one simple thought that gets me through…
Fact: “There’s not always light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes there’s just night and another really long ass tunnel, but somehow we get through.” I recently told my father “This past year, there’s been nothing but night after night after one damn long ass tunnel after the next, and there seems to be no end in sight.”