Late in the afternoon, we all drove over to Mayfield Cemetery to visit Rebecca’s gravestone, two years after her death.
“She’s not here,” Kat said quietly as the kids headed back to the car, for once not making a race of it.
“I know,” I said.
“She’s in her preschool. She’s at New Jersey. She’s everywhere we are. This… is the last place she is,” Kat said.
Misunderstanding her meaning, I shook my head. “No. The last place she was, was in our home. In her home.” My voice cracked on the last words.
Kat didn’t correct me. We stood silent, holding each other, feeling the stiff rivers of pain running through each of our bodies.
The cemetery groundskeeper rolled slowly by in his SUV, giving us the “we’re closed” look. Kat nodded at him. The SUV rolled on.
I took some pictures of the mementos friends had left earlier in the day. Flowers. A rainbow-colored spinner. A small plastic Rainbow Dash toy. We nestled the figurine into the earth next to the stone, in hopes that it would stay safe through a summer of mowing. I whispered a few words to my absent daughter, barely voicing apology and love and regret past the tight bands of sorrow in my throat.
We decided not to go to any of the kids’ favorite restaurants for dinner, not even Rebecca’s. We drove instead to Chagrin Falls, to eat at Jekyll’s Kitchen, our first visit since its reopening. After dinner, we got ice cream at Jeni’s and walked down the stairs to the falls. We showed the kids where I had formally proposed to Kat, one icy March afternoon almost two decades before. Carolyn was incredulous to hear that we’d jumped a closed gate to do it. Joshua climbed over rocks and logs down on the river’s bank, falling once and then warning me about the moss on the rocks. “The moss is very slippery,” he informed me solemnly. “You have to be careful.”
On our way home, the clouds were underlit by sunlight which I guessed was reflecting off Lake Erie. As we turned alongside the interstate, I spotted columns of rain off to the north, dark beneath the darker clouds.
I had a sudden hunch. I turned off the direct path home, working north and west in a stairstep fashion.
“Why are we going this way?” Carolyn asked.
“I think your dad is stormchasing,” Kat said.
“Rainbow-chasing,” I replied. “I just have to get us between the rain and the sun.”
Soon enough, a light sprinkle fell across the windshield. Just as I turned west onto Cedar Road, the sprinkle intensified to a light rain. Ahead of us, the setting sun turned utility lines into threads of golden fire.
“If there’s a rainbow, it will be behind us,” I said. “Kids? Is it there?”
A rustling of movement, and then: “Oh my God!” Carolyn exclaimed.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Burger King across from University Square, and there it was: strong and bright at the horizon, fainter at the zenith, paralleled by a still fainter cousin. Well, would you look at that—double arches over Burger King, I thought, wryly.
The rainbows flared and faded as rain and clouds and sun shifted places, the slow dance of color and light. I watched it all unfold, feeling anew the ache of regret that I hadn’t been able, hadn’t thought to try, to give her one more rainbow. She would have loved this so much, I thought sadly. Just as her sister and brother are loving it, right now.
“This is a sign,” Carolyn said. “It has to be.” I smiled softly.
Two years. Two rainbows.
We love you, Little Spark. We miss you.