Between the Rain and the Sun

Published 8 years, 1 month past

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 rainbowShe 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.

Comments (15)

  1. I am still so sad and sorry for your pain.

  2. beautiful, both the sentiments and the photo

  3. It’s a sign she’s watching over you now and knows you love her. xoxo

  4. I’m sorry for your loss Eric.
    I have followed your tweets for the past several years and just like last year I find myself crying at your message to your daughter.
    Great photo.
    See you next year.
    (Father of 3)

  5. I want to say something, but I have no words. Even when there are sad moments in this post, I feel the final message is love, endless. My feelings are with you and your family.

  6. God bless, Eric, Kat and Rebecca’s siblings. No doubt Rebecca is dancing in heaven through the clouds, sad only at those moments when she can’t protect you against missing her.

  7. Have been following your account since last 2 years. Seems like Rebecca was like my own daughter. may God bless you and your family. Love- father of two beautiful daughters (2 months and 6 years)

  8. My thoughts are with you all.

  9. So sorry for your pain … Little one is with you, every day..

  10. Eric, what a beautifull piece of writing. Thank you for this.

    And what an amazing double rainbow – She would have loved this so much made me think of the photos of Rebecca’s wonderful smile. I bet she would have!

    Can only imagine how much you must all miss her x
    Sending you love & hugs.

  11. Eric:

    It’s fairly remarkable that you wrote this today, after what happened to me today.

    I’m a software engineer, so you know what most of my workday is like. Well, I was lost in thought trying to solve a problem and picturing in my head what was going on. And I had one of those weird “disconnect” moments. “I wonder what Megan is doing right now.” Megan was my daughter, whom I lost back in 2008. She’d be 25 now. She’d probably have been in Med school; she’d planned on studying neuroscience. But that’s obviously not where she is and what she’s doing. The reconnect was jarring. And I hate it when it happens.

    Not sure where I was going with this, except to say that I thought, once again while reading a post of yours, “Eric would understand, because I understand him.”

    Thanks for being willing to share your struggles. I hope you don’t mind that I pray for you and your family from time to time as you come to mind.

  12. Beautiful writing, and an amazing tribute. You & Kat have persevered something that obviously no one wants to be faced with, and so the strength to push through is inspiring. But further more, to so eloquently share the details serves as a reminder to everyone that reads your blog: focus. Just try to focus on what really matters. It’s after 1am; I’m fighting back tears & the urge to wake my kids up …

  13. Like you and JohnB I lost a daughter too. Her name was Amanda. So I connected with you at the NEO Word Camp keynote you delivered last Saturday.

    Now I read your latest post and realize I heard you just 4 days after that post. I am amazed you were able to share your story so eloquently. Thank you. I really appreciated your take on designing for humans, and I understand just a little be more your depth.

  14. Hi Eric,
    I have been reading your posts since right before you lost Rebecca…I think of you and your family often, and wish you all peace. This was a lovely post — thank you again for sharing of yourself and your grief story so generously.

    My friend lost her only son almost seven weeks ago – he was just 24 and died in a car accident. I have known him since he was still a bean in his mother’s belly, and he was very dear to me. We all had a lot of hopes and dreams wrapped up in his remarkable life. He touched all he met in a way that I think you would find familiar. Like your Rebecca, he had a twinkle in his eye and a way with people. He did just this with another friend’s daughter last December. The two met and connected and adored each other — turned out they had the same birthday — birthday twins they called themselves. When he turned 24 she turned 5. The conversations we had with her to tell her he was gone were some of the hardest in my life. Now I am worried about her … wondering how to help her grieve in a constructive way. She tells people about him and says she is heartbroken. I wonder what your experience with your children has been as they grieve their sister. It is of course very different as Rebecca was such a huge part of their lives. I am thinking about taking my friend’s daughter to the cemetery to visit him — I guess that is why I was struck by this post in particular… I want her to know that there is a place she can go to visit him, but I am not sure if that is the right thing for a five year old.

  15. Hello Eric – I am struggling as I type because my reading journey of the last 17 mins or so has taken me from a google search about multi- threaded operating systems to the presence of a sequoia-strength girl named Rebecca, and her strong and bright family. I feel like no level of empathy can be adequate for me to comment, so I will just say that you and your family will forever be in my thoughts and prayers, and I wish for you warmth and peace.

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