The Promise

by | May 12, 2014 | Promise, Promises

The rainbow is a beautiful symbol – but it only comes after the rain.

God’s covenant, his promise of a new beginning, was a rainbow which came after an awful, terrible time, the flood that destroyed most of mankind.

My awful, terrible time was when my dad died. He was a strong man, the central pillar of our family. When he fell, we had a choice. We could fall with him – or we could hold each other up.

It wasn’t a cut and dried a choice as it might seem. My dad came from a generation of men (several generations of men) who didn’t easily show their feelings. So, while we were always cared for and loved the words were rarely spoken. Physical contact was more likely to be a slap on the backside than a hug (but that might say more about us than our parents.)

So, when it came to helping him through his last weeks and helping each other through the aftermath … well … it was awkward. I remember sitting by his bedside as he slept with the back of my hand against the back of his hand. I wanted to be holding his hand but we didn’t do that. I remember when we switched the machines off and my brother leaned back against the wall. He slumped to the floor and cried on his own. Sure, we were all dealing with it, but we didn’t really know how to help each other.

Well, we learned. Because, hopeless as we were at expressing it, we did love each other. We learned to express it. We learned, for the first time since were kids, to hug each other, to kiss, to say, “I love you.”

We’re not the family we were when Dad was here. We’re different. The differences are good. We’d have the old way back if only we could. But the differences are still good. Instead of our mainstay, our support, our dad, we now have more, smaller supports. We have more of each other.

The day after we buried Dad, Mum, my brothers, my sister and myself all went to the graveside for a family moment. We hadn’t yet learned our new dynamic. Mum and my sister cried (as women are allowed to do,) one brother busied himself impatiently looking at nearby gravestones and my other brother just stood there looking lost.

We had no cohesion. It could have gone any way. Then the cold, sleety rain that had been such an appropriate part of his funeral came back.

“Time to go,” I ventured.

We gathered our broken group together and made a desolate procession towards the cemetery gates.

Then the rain stopped and a voice in my mind said, “Look back.” The last thing I wanted to do was look back. “Move on,” I told myself, “Get us out of here before we fall to pieces.”

“Look back,” the voice said.

“Mum,” I said seconds later. “Look.”

The rain had blown on, past the cemetery hill, leaving behind a covenant, the promise of a new beginning. Over the ground where my dad lay – and nowhere else – sat a rainbow.

David McLaughlan


The Promise