Below is a short story…
“Grandpa, I’m soaked,” whined the boy as the brief summer shower relented, leaving them as quickly as it came. Rain drops danced from one leaf to another in the forest canopy above them as snatches of sunlight glistened through the drops, glowing like a thousand diamonds.
“We’re almost there,” smiled Grandpa, stroking his grandson’s damp hair. Within a few minutes they reached an opening in the woods and walked out onto a large rock. The sky opened above them and they could see the mountain range sprawling for miles before the cliff face on which they stood. A rainbow appeared as sunlight trickled through the clouds. As they admired the view, Grandpa asked, “Do you know what rainbows are?”
“Sunlight shining through rain drops,” replied the boy, remembering his science lesson.
“And what are raindrops?” asked Grandpa, pondering the beauty before them.
“Evaporated water that collects and condenses in clouds, eventually falling,” responded the boy.
“You’re feeling quite scientific today, aren’t you?” replied Grandpa with a wink. “Did you know there are different layers of meaning in everything?”
“How so?” asked the boy.
“Well, raindrops for instance. You gave me the literal, factual answer. But there is another way to understand them. Storms represent hardships and sorrows in our lives; the tears we shed when we lose someone we love.”
The boy thought of Grandma’s funeral last month. The church, the choir, the graveyard – taking a shovel of dirt and helping them toss it onto her casket placed in that deep hole. “I see,” he said quietly.
“Rainbows are God’s smile,” continued Grandpa. “When we go through sorrow and grief, God’s warmth and beauty are always waiting on the other side of the storm, somehow shining through the drops to bring us a little grace from heaven.”
“Then why do rainbows look like frowns?” asked the boy.
Placing his arm around the boy’s shoulder, he answered “It’s because we’re upside-down and can’t see the smile correctly.” He then laid on his back on the rock, directing the boy to do the same. With their feet toward the woods and their heads on the ground, they looked back at the rainbow.
“Now it looks like a smile, Grandpa!” exclaimed the boy.
“That’s because we have our heads on the ground. Do you know the word humus?” When the boy shook his head, Grandpa continued, “It means dirt or earth. Remember how you said the rainbow looked like a frowning face?” The boy nodded and Grandpa continued, “That’s because we had our heads up too high. When God made humanity a long time ago, he made us from the dirt of the ground, from humus. But we often think we are stars shining in the sky. The word ‘humble’ comes from humus. It means to be on the ground. When we humble ourselves before God and others, when we let go of control, of wanting to be better than others, of thinking badly of others, and we see ourselves as the most dirt-like of all people, then we stop being upside down. We begin to see God smiling through all people and all things.”
“Do you always see God smiling?” asked the boy.
“No,” replied Grandpa. “Sometimes the rainbow looks very much like a frown, and some days it feels like the rain will never stop,” he said, tears collecting in the corners of his eyes. “But,” he added after reflecting a moment, “there’s another rainbow that stretches from earth to heaven. Inside of it is a wonderful stairway.”
“Is Grandma on those stairs now?” asked the boy.
“Yes,” replied Grandpa.
The boy became worried. “But Grandpa,” he said quietly, “that’s a lot of stairs. Grandma is old. What if she needs help?”
Laughing, Grandpa reached out and took the boy’s hand. “Those stairs are different,” he said. “With every step you take, instead of getting a little more tired, you get a little bit younger. When you reach the top, you are stronger, brighter, and more beautiful than anyone here can imagine.”
A break in the clouds allowed a bright sunbeam to pierce the green tree canopy below. The boy asked, “What does it mean when a sunbeam shines through like that?”
“We all have so many worries, sorrows, troubles, and cares in this life. They are like clouds in our mind,” said Grandpa. “But sometimes, when we go to church, read our Bible, or go for a walk in nature to clear our mind, heaven breaks through and whispers, ‘No matter how chaotic the world is around you, don’t forget I have a rainbow for you. Don’t forget your true home. You are merely passing through here.’”
“I think I have felt that, Grandpa.”
“Good,” he replied. “Sometimes it is excitement. Many times it hurts.”
“Why does it hurt?”
“Because it is a deep longing, a calling to a more solid place while we dwell in our world of shadows. That is why God smiles at us through things like rainbows. If we saw His unveiled face smiling directly at us, we would die from broken hearts, overwhelmed with joy.”
“How could we die from joy, Grandpa?” asked the boy.
“That is something I cannot explain,” he replied. “It requires us to keep our heads on the ground until the answer comes.”
They laid there watching the rainbow until it faded away — like the years since that moment. The boy wiped a tear from his eye, remembering his Grandpa’s words, as he placed a shovel of dirt upon the old man’s casket. Somewhere nearby, a rainbow stretched into the heavens, carrying a youthful, radiant soul into his eternal homeland.
Photo by Maxime Daviron