Sending Rainbows

Photo from Eric Rolph at English Wickipedia
I was twenty-six when I met Anita, who was a breast cancer survivor. She had a daughter the same age as mine, a miracle baby born after aggressive chemotherapy treatments that normally rob women of any hope for children. We were also the same age, something I hadn’t expected. Because of the cancer, I’d assumed Anita was older than I was, not that she looked older.

We soon became friends, mostly talking about our daughters or decorating or clothes. I was frequently overwhelmed with being a stay-at-home mom, living far away from my extended family. Anita always reminded me to be grateful I was alive to raise my children. Anita’s reminders helped me so much during the sleepless nights and tired days of raising a baby and a toddler.

We both wondered about the possibility of death and whether there really is a life after death. During this time, Anita lost two of her good friends—the only other women in the state who were in their twenties and had breast cancer. Of course, she worried that the disease would take her as well, but she drew inspiration from the faith of her friends.

One of her friends, also a mother, made scrapbooks and wrote letters for her children before she died. She prepared her children for her death by telling them that whenever they saw a rainbow to remember that she was up in heaven watching them. When this friend passed away in the hospital on a stormy day, her family looked out the hospital window to see a big, beautiful rainbow spreading across the sky. Her family knew it was a sign that life goes on after death and that she was closer than it sometimes seems. This story really touched Anita and she told it to me at least three times during the many times I visited her.

Soon after this, Anita found a lump in her lymph gland, and had to endure weeks of uncertainty while she waited for the test results. During this time, I tried to reassure her that it might not be as bad as she feared. Maybe she would hear good news.

Unfortunately, the news was as bad as she feared. She ended up having to go through another round of aggressive cancer treatments.  Our congregation rallied around her family, providing as much support as we could. Still, she and her family suffered, even with all the prayers and meals and babysitting we could provide. I tried to be as much a part of the service as I could.

Anita was different after the second set of treatments. She was weaker and still hopeful, but more inclined to prepare for the worst. She and her husband tried to live life to its fullest, taking their dream vacation and saving for a nicer home. They moved from our neighborhood, but Anita still kept in touch with me. I kept praying for her, that she could stay free from the cancer.

Over the next few years, I heard mixed news about Anita. Sometimes I’d hear she was doing well. Other times, I’d hear that the cancer had spread. Finally, I heard that her cancer had spread to her brain, and we all knew that the end was near.

One day, I turned on the TV. I didn't usually watch the news, but I watched it that day. It was February. The weatherman said that there were rainbows all over Utah that day. He said that it was really unusual for there to be rainbows in the winter. I stared at the TV, trying to remember ever seeing a rainbow in February. I couldn’t recall that ever happening before.

The next day, I found out that Anita had died. I really believe that the rainbows were a compensating blessing from Heavenly Father. He didn’t give her what she prayed for and wanted most—to live to raise her daughter. So he answered another prayer for her. He sent rainbows to remind her family that her death was not the end. Her spirit still lives, and they will see her again.