Aunt Pru was my namesake, my mother’s sister, and she died of lung cancer fifteen years ago this month. I’m remembering her. Our powerful relationship through the years was mostly good, but we had serious confrontations, too. This story is about the mystery unfolding for me at end of her life.
Aunt Pru was a master gardener, and her yard showed her loving efforts with loads of colorful flowers.
The day she left on a rainy Saturday, my seven year-old son, Joey and I drove over to her house that afternoon to say goodbye. I shared a memory about how my cousin and I sang the folk song, “500 hundred miles’ as a duet when we were young, and how Aunt Pru loved to hear us sing it. I wondered whether or not my cousin and I would sing it for her one last time, at her deathbed.
“How many miles to Heaven?” Joey asked me. I still don’t know an answer.
Heading down the hill toward San Rafael, we felt enchanted to witness a massive complete rainbow that extended across the sky, and it seemed to end above my aunt’s house.
She was unconscious when we arrived, and I sort of remember singing with my cousin. I do remember taking my aunt’s hand, saying, “There’s a rainbow over your house right this moment. I want you to get on it.” She passed away later that day, and we still feel her loss.
As I drove to my teaching job the following Monday morning, I was thinking of Aunt Pru, missing her. I also remembered about how much I love lacey old-fashioned white iris and their delicate beauty. I earnestly wished to see some of those beautiful iris on my commute, but didn’t see any, so I thought no more about it.
Five hours later after teaching my last class, I stood at the art room sink, cleaning up after students. One of my students burst into the room, holding an entire blue iris, complete with roots, that he plucked out of someone’s yard on the way to school. He walked over to me and handed it over without any explanation.
In church the following Sunday, my rector gave a sermon. He started it by saying,
“The goddess of the rainbow is the iris.”
Everything lined up for me when he said that. The warm presence of life, the flow of cosmic energy I do not understand. I don’t have to understand.
Truth does pass all understanding.