It’s Not The Rain That Kills You

Heaven would tell you that it’s just a little rain. And it’s not the rain that kills you, it’s the pain of wanting to control the sun. Tessa Shaffer

The weather used to determine my mood when we lived in Oregon. People say it’s the rain that makes living there challenging for Californians, but for me, it was the gray skies and the intermittent drizzle. The state of weather that begins in November and often stretches into June or early July.

In the early years, the few weeks of sunshine we’d get every February would lift my mood and carry me through March until we could escape for spring break. But as the years went on, those sunny days became a reminder of the gorgeous spring days I was missing in California, a source of irritation even, as if the weather was toying with my emotions on purpose. After too many gloomy days in a row, I would try to will the sun into appearing as if my dark mood could force the clouds to part and disappear. When Jimmy started college in California, I moved gratefully back to the sun feeling like Pig Pen escaping the perpetual cloud of dust over his head.

That connection between the weather and my mood was severed the night Jimmy died. It was pouring outside as we sat around his bed, playing Bob Marley and telling stories about our sweet boy. The rain added to the illusion that I could freeze time and keep Jimmy there, breathing peacefully, no longer fully present but not gone yet either. We were cocooned together, hanging on to him and each other, safe and warm, surrounded by the sound of water hitting the roof and tile path outside his window. There was only this room, this space, this time, our boy, being together, walking him home.

Rain and dark cloudy skies at night outside a window. the handles to open the window are visible on the right side of the photo

It took a year of record rain and cold weather stretching well into May for me to notice the missing connection. Normally, as the days grow longer and the light begins to return, my body begins longing for the warmth of the sun. The blue skies draw me outdoors, encouraging me to take long walks with Buster to look for wildflowers. I sit at the kitchen counter working and watching the light fade later and later each night.

Now, on hard days, the blue skies aren’t enough to lift my mood, and on hopeful, softer days, the dark skies only make the world more beautiful. The colors in the garden seem more vivid, and it’s easier to look up and watch the vultures, swooping and diving, as they search for food.

Maybe it’s because I’ve realized I can’t control the weather any more than I could stop the freight train of cancer that rolled over my son. Or that no amount of sunny days can change the wretchedness of the outcome. The beauty of our last year together lives in what passed between us, not what was happening outside. Our words, the laughter, long walks, Jimmy’s funny observations are what made the days bright and beautiful. How lucky I am to have had this boy, this relationship, this life with him for 21 years. To have a deep enduring bond that nothing — not rain nor wind nor sleet nor the swirling winds of grief — can destroy.

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