Who doesn’t marvel at a rainbow?
While digitally scanning ancient family slides, I ran across a picture that is etched in my memory – a strikingly beautiful rainbow against a dark sky. Not just any dark sky either – the sky over Patrick Henry Village (PHV) near Heidelberg, Germany. It must have been about 1969. My dad always had a camera handy, and he shot this ‘bow in gorgeous contrast against that dark sky and, if you squint, you can see the second rainbow in the shadow. I remember seeing it “live” and I remember seeing it on this slide, many times since.
It was one epic rainbow.
As I pondered rainbows I thought of the Biblical narrative of Noah, and the rainbow that symbolized God’s promise not to ever destroy mankind by water. Whatever you may think of that theology, the rainbow, if nothing else, is a symbol of hope and life and a future of promise. The colors are painted from the memory of our existence, of the things that challenged us, made us stretch, caused our faith to expand, humbled us with the might of the storm that comes before the colors.
I think of our friends the Prathers. Brad and Rochelle became fast friends soon after Diana and I were married in Washington, DC. Between 1984 and 1987 we were nearly inseparable. We hung out together, broke bread, laughed and cried as one. The four of us were good for an all-night Trivial Pursuit marathon, complete with Magic Cookie Bars. We got snowed in together, went to church together, ate Chinese together, and, when the time came, we dropped Jeremy off for them to watch while we hurried to the hospital to deliver Jennifer. It was with bitter-sweet good-byes that we saw them fade away. But they never really faded – they, Brad and Rochelle, are a bright and shining blue band in our rainbow of existence, a gloriously bright spot in a dark sky. When I was in rehab at Siskin, Brad called me, from many miles and years away, and his colors were as bright as ever.
We landed in Charleston, SC, a land “flowing with milk and honey” as I promised Diana. But there were giants there, too. And through struggles and challenges we met up with Mitch and Debra Kessler and forged a bond that took us through some interesting times. Their daughter Erika and our Jennifer became tight, and we picked up where we left off with the Prathers – eating, drinking, laughing, and loving with a new color in our ‘bow. With the Kesslers we expanded to include others, and the Floras and the Salems came alongside, and the Phillips, Kent as our Pastor and his always-lovely wife Brenda, and Gary & Laura Stripling. Those were powerful days, eight years of change and growth and challenges as we enjoyed the milk & honey and watched the giants fall. And recently I was reminded of the hues those folks, Tom & Leann & Gary & Laura & Kent & Brenda & Marci & George and all the others added to our life experience as I stumbled upon them again after all those years – rich colors and shades of fire, reds and oranges.
Charleston faded like a rainbow on a hot summer day, and we found ourselves in the Tennessee Valley – truly God’s country, if He ever found himself needing one. And here we found more giants than honey. Here we came to know family, flesh and blood, and all that entails. We were, oddly enough, strangers in an even stranger land, though Diana was a native. Gone all those years, “you can’t go home” became our mantra. Of course, child of the world as I was, and viewed as a Yankee interloper (ahem, for the record, I never lived above the Mason-Dixon line), it took time to find our bearings and time to become a part of the gentle and resolute rhythm of life in the Valley. But we became a part and brought our part to bear as well. My first good friend was Casey, and still a good one to this day. We made other new friends, new connections, and painted new colors into our rainbow of life with good people like the Cross’s, the Branums, the Hayes, and many others (my tired fingers say stop – please, no offense if you were not named) and met a bold man of the faith Tim Millsaps. And our time in Tennessee became rich and colorful, brightly tinted with the gorgeous green hues of family and friends and faith.
And, lest I forget, through it all our lives were painted with the always changing, constantly variable palette of our kids. Jeremy was there at the start, Jennifer arced across the sky in DC, Jamie and John appeared, like after a warm summer storm, in Charleston, lighting up our sky with an array of color never imagined by any artist of note. As we have shifted in landscape and geography, they have always colored our lives with unimaginable hues, always bringing wonder and majesty and delight to the calm after the storm – and they are no stranger to the storm! They adapted to our pilgrimages and became brighter from the experience, never fading but always bringing hope and promise from their combined experiences, always adding a rich range of violet to our otherwise dull lives.
And here I sit today, nearly thirty-seven years from the beginning of the journey that has spanned many states, even more friends, and uncountable episodes of faith. We see a new sky today, a new arc of color after the storm. And we find ourselves experiencing ever newer shades in the color wheel. Our newest beams of light, the Rodgers and Ken & Michelle, and Dale & Sharon, our new friends from the Gulf, the Greenes, and many others, now color our lives with the shifting and shimmering vagaries of light and shadow, much like that rainbow over PHV in 1969. And I am reminded, no, we are all reminded, that life will never be destroyed by flood, that there is a God who loves us, that life is always new and fresh and colorful and bright and fascinating.
At least, after the storm, anyway.
Because a rainbow is elusive, ethereal, a vapor of color that is at once here and beautiful and vibrant and breathtaking. And at once gone. All these folks, the Prathers, and the Floras, and the Branums and the Greenes, and the others, have come into our lives and will evaporate like a rainbow – not for good or ill, but because that is what rainbows do – and all I ever hope for, all you ever hope for, is the gold at the end of that rainbow. Without wanting to wax mystical, I will end this little ramble with this. I have stood in awe at the colors displayed in my life, watched in agony and joy and in victory and defeat as the arc came and faded, always just outside my grasp. And all that made it bearable, all that made it magical, all that made it fun, all that made it worth living and enduring for sits here with me at the end.
If you know me well, you know where this is headed. I promised you a pot o’ gold, and here it is.
With the kids all grown, the traveling mostly finished, I hope to enjoy my pot o’ gold. All you who have colored my life in unimaginable hues – thank you. And if you ever follow the ‘bow to the end, you will find me sitting here at the end of my rainbow in Soddy-Daisy with my own pot of gold, the one who has watched the intense spectacle of life unfold with me.
While we never know how long the gorgeous arc of brilliant colors will last, I intend to enjoy every last shade, every fading hue, all the colors in the spectrum with my wife, my life, my gold at the end of my rainbow.
And I hope you find your pot of gold, too.