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Friday, December 23, 2011

A True Christmas Story

I shared this story once before but I've been asked to share it again...

In these uncertain times, there is comfort in remembering and celebrating the traditions of Christmas.  This special season gives us an opportunity to reflect and be grateful for simple things, such as family, faith and home.

It seems more important than ever for us to know that God “speaks” to us today. So I feel compelled to share with you a new chapter in the strange and wonderful Rainbow Story that began in April of ‘07. Many of you may remember the beginning of this story from last year:

My cute, tender-hearted and glamorous 83 year old mother, Eileen, went ”home” to heaven on Friday 4-27-07 after a very brief illness. Mom was known as the “go-to” person for prayer in our family. At the funeral, many people came to the front of the chapel and shared stories of answered prayer, some quite remarkable.

Mom’s favorite passage in the Bible is Psalm 91. She recited this prayer of protection for her family every day. Her favorite verse was Psalm 91:11. “He will give His angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways.”  That same verse was on a picture right outside the ICU door at Florida Hospital. Psalm 91 was the preselected reading in Mom’s church at the regular Sunday service 4-29-07, two days before the funeral. The number 91 has appeared in various places throughout the year. Coincidence? I think not!

On Friday afternoon, the day of her passing, as many friends and family were telling wonderful “Eileen” stories in my sister Mary Ann’s kitchen, I looked up toward heaven and said, “Mom, are you hearing this? Isn’t this amazing?” At that exact moment, a family friend who lives across the lake called and told us all to run out side. There, before our eyes, was the most glorious rainbow. As long as I can remember, a rainbow has been Mom’s sign from God that “Everything is gonna be alright.” We all had goosebumps and grins as we stood there in the brief sun shower.

Since then, rainbows have been turning up everywhere.

*There was a rainbow on the TV as we turned it off the night before the funeral. 

*Mary Ann’s personal assistant’s daily inspirational message on her computer for May 1st, the day of the funeral, included a large picture of a rainbow.

*My 6 year-old grandson, who knew nothing about the story (and usually draws rockets and robots), drew a picture for me of, you guessed it—a rainbow.

*The following Friday, May 4th, my husband Chips ran inside as he arrived home from work and asked me to quickly turn on the radio. We listened to the most delightful rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. We went out and bought the CD and played it non-stop for days.  

*A few days later, I was looking for a Mother’s Day card to send to my Dad, sisters and brother. To my surprise, Hallmark offered a musical card with a rainbow picture on the front. When I opened it, the song inside the card was none other than the one that we had been listening to non-stop. I had a goosebump experience in the store. Coincidence? I think not! 

* On Mom’s Birthday, May 25th, some of the family was at the beach for Memorial week-end. A beautiful rainbow appeared in the morning over the ocean.

* June 1st, at a concert, rainbow flags waved over us right above where we were seated in a packed auditorium.

Many more rainbows have appeared over the course of time, usually on or around our birthdays. For instance, in January of ‘08, while we were in St. Augustine to celebrate Janice’s birthday, we walked out of a store, and there it was, her rainbow peeking out from behind a cloud. We had just been talking about the rainbow story.

The best chapter, so far, of this wonderful story happened to Mary Ann last December ‘07. At that time in her life, everything that meant “home” to her had been somewhat disrupted: Her law firm was going through a difficult and emotional transition and she was facing the teardown and remodel of her beautiful waterfront home that held so many memories. Many other things were unsettled and most of all, this would be her first Christmas without Mom.

In the midst of all the chaos, Mary and Pat decided to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary, which was 10 days before Christmas, with a getaway trip to California wine country. They had some Marriott vacation points that were about to expire.

I need to back up a bit and tell you that when Mary was a little girl, Mom would occasionally give her an early Christmas present if she was upset about something. She was the youngest of the girls. So, in the beginning of December, we told her to expect an early Christmas present from Mom. Of course, we didn’t have any idea what that might be.

Back to Napa Valley— On the last day of the trip, the actual Anniversary, after visiting the last winery, Pat decided to take a different route back to the hotel. After turning the car around and heading up the hill, there in all its glory, was a magnificent rainbow in the blue sky. There was no rain anywhere that they could see. Pat said, “Now I’ve got goosebumps.” They snapped a picture before the rainbow faded. Mary was crying when she called from her cell phone to say that her present from Mom had arrived. She was beginning to feel that “everything was gonna be alright,” which is the rainbow message. But that is not the end of the story.

They decided to make one additional stop before leaving the area and chose the winery where the rainbow had appeared. The first thing they saw as they entered the building’s lobby/gift area was a limited edition print of a gorgeous rainbow over Napa Valley. Major goosebumps this time. Needless to say, they bought the picture. Coincidence? Certainly not! But that is STILL not the end of the story.

The day after Christmas, we were all standing around in Mary’s kitchen talking about the 2 California rainbows, so she brought in the picture for us to see. I looked at the limited edition number at the bottom of the picture (which no one else had noticed) and I was momentarily speechless. It was number 91 (out of 100 prints). Psalm 91, remember, was Mom’s favorite scripture passage. Tears and more goosebumps. We felt like we had been sprinkled all over with pixie dust.

Think about it—God had to line things up perfectly. In California, if Pat had not turned around, they would have missed the first rainbow. If they had not stopped one more time, they would have missed the second rainbow, the picture in the winery. If just one more or one less person had purchased a picture before they got there, the limited edition number would not be significant. Out of 100 pictures that were printed, what are the chances that they would get number 91? One in 100!  What are the chances that the 91st rainbow picture would be on display in this particular winery moments after a rainless rainbow appeared in the sky directly above. One in a million, maybe. I can almost hear Mom talking to God now—”And can you make all this happen on their anniversary?”  

I can’t explain how all of this has made the loss of Mom less painful and the reality of God more tangible—but it has. I can’t explain why God chose to reach down from the top of the universe, wrap His arms around us and give us a present wrapped in a rainbow—but He did.  

My wish for you this Christmas is that your heart is filled with hope and childlike faith to believe in a God who speaks to us, who takes care of us and gives us rainbows and pixie dust. 

Merry Christmas,

Becky and Chips

Mom, I hope you don’t mind that we shared the Rainbow Story with our dearest friends and loved ones. Now, it’s their Christmas present also, in a way. So now, whenever they see a rainbow, they will know it’s a gift God and a sign from Him that “everything is gonna be alright.”

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