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  • Drew Dotson

Always a rainbow

When home between hospitalizations in late March, I heard a song that resonated with me. As my anxiety about COVID-19 and transplant steadily escalated, I kept wondering why life couldn’t be easier. The song, “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves, is about believing things will improve despite the storms that enter your life. In those unnerving days of vulnerability and despair, the lyrics reminded me that, though my feelings were entirely valid, they were also transient.

When it rains, it pours, but you didn't even notice It ain't rainin' anymore, it's hard to breathe when all you know is The struggle of staying above the rising water line

Well, the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blowin' But you're stuck out in the same ol' storm again You hold tight to your umbrella, well, darlin' I'm just tryin' to tell ya That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head I listened to the song many more times that night, sometimes with tears in my eyes, as I vacillated between feelings of sadness and empowerment.

In mid-June, I was home because Ramón was in the ICU and I had yet to strong-arm my way back into the hospital. For the first time since February, I made a quick trip to the store. Not only was I overwhelmed by the thought of going in public given the virus, but it was especially daunting because an errand seemed like a task normal people would do – and my life felt far from typical.

Moments after entering the store, I heard the familiar notes from “Rainbow” wafting down from the overhead speakers. As the words reverberated throughout the store, I felt confident I would be okay.

Last weekend, my parents and I journeyed to Michigan to visit Ramón’s family and spread his ashes. The day we arrived, my mom and I browsed in some cute shops near our hotel in Holland. She noticed me staring longingly at a pair of rainbow earrings and bought them for me. On Friday morning, as we got ready to head to the marina for the scattering of ashes, I decided to wear my new earrings. I debated whether I should choose a happier day for their coronation, but I reminded myself that today is always the right day to do something to bring me joy.

As we neared the marina to board the boat, the sky grew increasingly dark. Sitting in the passenger seat of the rental car, I turned to my dad and expressed my desire to see a rainbow. About 30 seconds later, my mom announced from the backseat, “Look, Drew. There’s a rainbow.” She hadn’t even heard my wish, but she spotted a rainbow beyond the trees. As I reveled in that moment of peace, I reached up to my new rainbow earrings and rotated them in a complete circle. I knew I would be okay.

The weather changed dramatically throughout the boat ride. One moment the sky was dark, and moments later it was a beautiful shade of vivid blue. One moment the boat was cruising smoothly, and the next moment we encountered surprisingly large waves. And, one moment it was raining, but soon after the sun was shining. Though I didn’t know it, at one point there was quite literally a rainbow over my head. Despite being unaware of its presence, it was there – like always – signaling that I will be okay. The flight home carried with it a certain level of finality. Though Ramón was in my suitcase on the flight there, I was returning to Atlanta without him. As we encountered some rough air, the pilot came over the loudspeaker: “We’ve been in contact with air traffic control, and they say there’s just no smooth rides to get there.” Amen, pilot. Amen. We got where we intended to go, even though the flight was far from smooth.

Ramón’s ashes are at rest in Lake Michigan, but he is very much present in each moment that reminds me the rainbow is there – whether it’s in my purview or not.



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