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A Heaven-Sent Rainbow Answered Her Prayer

It was our ritual. My twin sister and I would spend summers together at the beach with our kids. Every summer. Until this one.
A Heaven-Sent Rainbow Answered Her Prayer

It was our ritual. My twin sister and I would spend summers together at the beach with our kids. Every summer. Until this one.

The bridge was usually such a welcome sight. After a two-hour drive from Pennsylvania, I finally saw it appear on the horizon, the final landmark before reaching the sandy, house-lined strip called Sea Isle City, a beachfront town at the Jersey shore.

In a few minutes we’d be there for a one-week vacation of fun in the sun. But this time the bridge didn’t seem so welcoming. My husband, Marc, and our three children were quiet as the car rumbled along. I knew my brother-in-law, Bill, driving down with his three kids, must have been thinking the same thing, How can we be here without Sue?

Every summer growing up, my twin sister, Sue, and I went with our family to the Jersey shore. We continued the tradition with our own families, coordinating our vacations. This year was supposed to be the first time we all stayed together under one roof, a beachfront three-story wood-frame townhouse with ocean and bayside views that Sue picked out herself.

But one day five months before our trip, I got a call from our closest friend, Terry. “Donna, Sue had a stroke,” she said. Sue didn’t survive. Impossible, it seemed, because my sister, only 41 years old, had always been so full of life.

Now I couldn’t imagine the shore without her.

Yet we were determined to go through with our plans.Everyone was pretty quiet when we arrived at the house. Instead of being filled with excitement, I was filled with dread. Where would I find the strength to get through the week? With a heavy heart, I carried bags of groceries, linens and suitcases up the stairs.

The weather outside was perfect, so we headed down to the ocean. I plopped down in one of the chairs and asked myself: How many sandcastles had Sue and I built at the Jersey shore? How many waves had we ridden? How many miles had we walked along the water’s edge, having long talks about boys, college, husbands, children, sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings in a way, I think, that only twins do?

That evening things got even harder.Long after everyone else had gone to bed, I sat on the couch in the living room. Sue and I had planned to stay up late this vacation, chatting. There’s no reason I still can’t talk to you. “I miss you, Sue,” I said aloud. “The last five months have been hard.” I talked to her as if she were sitting right across from me. Told her about how since she’d died my faith had tossed and turned like the waves in the ocean. Finally, I couldn’t talk anymore. And the only response I got was the distant sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline.

Please, God, I prayed, bring us through all of this.

I was getting dinner ready the next evening when the wind chimes out on the porch started to ring crazily. I looked out the window. In the distance, dark gray clouds rushed toward shore. The sky turned nearly black. Then, a sudden bolt of lightning zig-zagged across the ocean. The thunderclaps were so loud we could feel them vibrating through the house.

“Remember that storm we had last year?” Lauren, my oldest, asked. The Fourth of July storm, I thought. Yes, I do remember…

Last summer on Independence Day we’d all met on the beach to watch the fireworks together. We oohed and ahhed at the shimmering copper weeping willows, the fiery red pom-poms, the tinsel-like rockets that whistled through the air. Then I heard some more distant rumbles. Thunder.

The storm hit just as we arrived back at the house. It got ugly outside, real fast. But Sue didn’t think so. “Let’s go out on the porch and watch the storm,” she said.

“Are you crazy?” I asked. What was out there to see? She laughed and dragged me by the arm outside.

“Don’t you love it, Donna?” All I saw was the rain coming down in sheets, and flashes of lightning. “Look how big the waves are!” Sue shouted, pointing at the white-capped swells. “You can see them from here!” To her, the ocean wasn’t rough; it was powerful. The lightning wasn’t frightening; it was majestic.

Now I watched another storm. The rain outside and the turbulence in my heart as every memory tugged at me seemed to collide. Sue could find joy in a storm, watching the ocean, listening to the wind. I listened to the raindrops drumming on the roof and thought about how much she wanted us to have this vacation together with our families. Why couldn’t I find healing in the memories, just like she had found beauty in a storm?

“It’s dying down,” Marc said. Sure enough, light once again began to stream in through the windows. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head. A thought I had to act on. “Billy, why don’t you look for a rainbow?” I asked.

Billy got up and headed to the window overlooking the bay. “No rainbow,” he said. Then Billy ran to the porch to look out over the ocean. “Cool!” he shouted. “It’s huge!”

All nine of us scooted away from the table and rushed onto the porch. Billy wasn’t exaggerating—an enormous rainbow arced across the horizon. “Wow!” Bill’s oldest, Stephanie, exclaimed. “I’ve never seen one like that.”

“Me, neither,” I said. We all stared, amazed at how bright and beautiful the rainbow was. Just then, a second rainbow appeared just above the first. Identical to the first. I couldn’t believe it. Not just one rainbow—there were twins.

Something lifted from me at that moment. That devastating thought of Sue being gone. The Bible says a rainbow is a promise from God to keep the covenant. The twin rainbows were a promise. My memories now had their own power of healing, each one reminding me of something wonderful about my sister. I wouldn’t want to lose a single one of them, just as I wouldn’t want to forget this double rainbow in the sky. Each memory was a way for Sue to be with us, forever. A reminder of God’s promise of eternal life.


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