Rainbow sends me a Rainbow

As a child growing up in a violent, alcoholic household, where abuse was considered the "norm", I learned very early on to forge strong bonds with the animals. In fact, I THANK GOD for the animals, for if it weren't for them, I don't know how I would have every gotten through all of those painful, torturous years. they provided me unconditional love, an unbiased ear to listen, and LOVING physical contact. The gifted me with an escape from the violence that swept through our house like a hurricane. Again, THANK YOU GOD for these lovely creatures.....each and every one of them is a gift.

Sometimes, I wonder exactly WHO was saved....lost and then found....Rainbow or me?

Rainbow came to me five months after a failed suicide attempt, and four months of hospitalization. I returned home in November of 1995 and my frail emotional state was even more shattered by my cat, Snowy, passing away. My days were consumed with grieving Snowy, and I prayed to God to take my pain away. Rainbow did just that. Sent to me from God, as a distraction from the pain I was feeling.

The story of Rainbow is miraculous. The story of his death, even MORE so. My loss of "Bo" has left a hole in my heart so large that I often wonder what can fill the void and WHEN it will happen. In an effort to heal my broken heart, and in tribute to his wonderful existence, I share his, no, OUR story...with love in my heart and tears in my eyes.

Rainbow came to me during the blizzard of 1996, during record low temperatures and snowdrifts reaching six feet or more. The first time I saw him, I literally gasped in horror....he was a full-grown cat, weighing no more than five pounds. His skeleton could be seen under the dull, matted coat of fur that hung from his body. His eyes bulged from sunken sockets and it looked as if every movement caused him pain. His eyes were lifeless. The emotional pain I felt looking at him was overwhelming.

I made omelets of eggs, tuna and milk, which he would refuse to eat unless I went in the house. I would place the food in the far corner of the yard (nowhere NEAR the house) and he would firmly hold his stance and not move a muscle toward the food until I was clear out of sight. I provided bedding with food and water, and he supplied me the gratification of helping him.

It was six months before he came close enough to me to touch him. Those days were funny, because he would allow me to gently pet his head and then his ears would go back and he would attack my arm, leaving me with the task of putting the "daily bandages" on. My hands and arms looked like road maps....but the funny thing was that I never, EVER, got mad at him! I just simply understood that time would allow him to realize that I would never return his actions with physical abuse or loud angry words. I completely understood his lack of trust in people, for I, too, came from a place that taught me the same principles. Sometimes after biting and scratching me, he would look at me as if he EXPECTED me to hit him....and that never happened.

Getting him to the vet was at the top of my priority list, and when I decided to do it, the receptionist asked me what his name was...I had never named him because I wanted to get to know the "real" cat behind all of those defense mechanisms of mistrust. All I could say was "His name, for now is MY STRAY". Then, as silly as this will sound....I wrote MY STRAY on a piece of paper and looked at it...I then noticed that this word could be broken down into MYST-RAY...and a "ray of mist" produces a rainbow. RAINBOW!!! That was to be his name!! And what a wonderful, beautiful name for such a wonderful, beautiful cat!

Nine months had now passed, and our bond grew by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. I often thought about bringing him inside the house for good, but my conscious got the best of me...the outside WAS his home...it was what he knew and was comfortable with, and it would be selfish of me to take that from him. Every moment I spent outside, Rainbow happily followed me around, tail up and ears forward...approaching me with a thunderous purr! I gardened a lot and often just went outside using "gardening" as an excuse to spend time with him. I often just held him on my lap and hummed or sang Amazing Grace and listened to him purr in loving response. During the days, while inside, he would often sit outside the sliding glass door and curiously look in.....watching me for hours at a time! When I would gently open the door and offer him to come inside, he would quietly walk away. My inside cats, Sunny and Misty didn't know WHAT to make of him...often when I would come inside from "gardening", they would press their noses into my clothing and hands in an effort to track his scent.

One day, Rainbow decided that his "wild" days were over and the thought of being a "housecat" seemed interesting. I eagerly rolled out the red carpet, and from that point on, Rainbow quickly became "one of the family"...finding comfortable napping places all over the house...my bed being his favorite. He absolutely LOVED my physical contact, and would always approach me if I entered a room he was in...it didn't matter if he was sleeping or not....he would see me, and happily trot toward me with a thunderous purr, which could be heard in the next room! I am sincerely telling you that if a cat EVER smiled, Rainbow had that look on his face every time he approached me! That look on his face is one that I will never forget....it was such a unique look! The mere sight of me evoked those wonderful purrs, and I loved each and every time I had the pleasure to listen to him "serenade" me. Of course, much of this "serenading" was returned with my humming or singing Amazing Grace! He had become so tender and loving that Sunny and Misty no longer had a problem with his being in the house. Our dog, Bungee, was quite affectionate with Rainbow, and Rainbow seemed to tolerate his frequent "licks" on his head! I had my first baby in July of 1997, and I can honestly say that Rainbow was the first cat to "accept" and love her....he would lay down next to her while she was napping on the couch, and quietly snuggle next to her and then fall into a slumber himself. I'm certain his purring soothed Caitlin into a deep, comfortable sleep! I have many pictures of this, which are cherished memories to me.

The change was completely remarkable. When I think back to the very first time I saw him, he was the epitome of WILD...and now, thinking of him, the only words I can think of are LOVING, GENTLE, and MIRACULOUS.

Rainbow taught me a wonderful lesson of just how much one is able to change. I often hit difficult times now and think of HIS strength and level of change. He overcame what was life as he knew it...wild, untrusting, unloving and harsh...and transformed into what can only be summed up in one word....LOVE. He WAS love...everytime I looked at him, I found myself smiling...he radiated love for me that has been unmatched b any animal companion I have ever had (and I've had many). I will always love him...in his death I think amazingly, I love him even more. I know that Rainbow was a gift and a miracle sent to me from God, and I will always cherish the (almost) three years we had together.....

                        **************RAINBOW SENDS ME A RAINBOW***************

It was mid-October 1998 and a cold snap ripped through our area. I was surprised that Rainbow decided to go out that day; he usually just relished the warmth inside the house, finding warm sun spots to nap in...or even better, my bed with the unmade covers...a great way to find "just the right wrinkle" to snuggle in. My sister came to visit for the day and during lunch we found Rainbow sitting outside the glass door, patiently waiting to come back in from the cold. He greeted my sister who gave him a quick pat on the head and he made his way toward me in his "usual" way.....purring like thunder! Of course, I smiled....he always made me feel tremendously loved! I pet him lovingly and as he walked away, my sister and I began discussing what a loving cat he had become. His life was the topic of our lunch conversation. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the last time I was to see Rainbow alive.

That evening, after putting our baby to bed, I "clinked" the cats bowls together (their signal that "its time to eat".) Sunny and Misty came running, but there was no sign of Rainbow. I thought that was really strange, because Rainbow simply adored his food! "He must be outside" I thought to myself. I thought perhaps my husband let him out, so I headed to the deck to shake the cat food box, clink the bowls together some more, and call him. This was my routine for close to three hours. At that point, I asked Stephen to let him in when he got to the door, and he agreed.

I went through my normal routine going to bed. Sunny and Misty followed me upstairs; the only missing part of the puzzle was Rainbow. I was troubled by this, but convinced myself that he must be on hot pursuit of a mouse, or something. while brushing my teeth, Misty entered the bedroom and as I left the bathroom, she came running out of the room...puffed up and looking very spooked. I couldn't make sense of what happened to her! To make matters even worse, NONE of the cats were with me on the bed that night, and this was highly unusual. My mind raced, but I just couldn't figure out what was going on. It took me a long time to fall asleep that night.

The next morning, Stephen's alarm went off at 5:00 and my eyes darted opened. Rainbow was not in his usual spot at the foot of the bed, and I immediately started fearing the worst. Sunny and Misty were nowhere to be seen. "Did you let Rainbow in last night?"...I almost yelled out of sheer panic. "No, Patty, he never came to the door." OH, GOD, WHAT HAPPENED?!?

I stepped out onto the back deck; the outside light still on for him. My heart sank, and I could barely find the strength to call him, but I did. Over and over. No answer. Nothing. The quiet, cold air of the early morning made me shiver. I stared at the sky, not knowing what to do. I decided to pray: "DEAR GOD, I BEG OF YOU TO PLEASE LET RAINBOW BE OKAY. PLEASE, GOD, PLEASE!!!" At that VERY instant, a huge shooting star blazed the sky from one side to the other. It literally lit the sky for about three seconds. While it was beautiful, it was at that VERY moment that I realized that Rainbow had passed. It was God's way of saying "Yes, Patty, Rainbow IS okay...he is with me now."

I quietly wept, holding my head in my hands, not knowing what to do next. I decided to get a flashlight and find his body. Crying, I searched the entire outside of the house, and yard. I continued into the cornfield and under the big pine tree that he use to sleep under, so long ago. No sign of Rainbow. I knew it just was NOT like Rainbow to be in the road (after getting hit by a car two years earlier), but I decided to drive up and down my street. I could barely see through my tears and it wasn't until I reached the end of the street that it suddenly dawned on me...."Oh, God, he was NEVER outside! He is in the house somewhere!" My heart sank even further. (Still, to this day, I honestly can't say WHY I didn't figure this out sooner.....)

I quickly drove back home and my husband was getting ready to leave for work. I brought the flashlight upstairs to a spare bedroom begging God to let this all be a mistake.... I searched the room, and he wasn't there.

As I approached my bedroom, it felt like I was trapped inside of a cruel nightmare. I entered our bedroom thinking to myself "Patty...WAKE UP....WAKE UP!!!" I got on my knees and swung up the bedskirt. I was purely a defense mechanism of my mind to deny what I would see next.....there was Rainbow, under the bed, curled up in what appeared to be a comfortable position of sleep. "Oh, MAN" I thought to myself...."he's just sleeping! How silly of me to think he was dead!" I walked to the other side of the bed, where he was, and shone the flashlight on his face, as I called his name....his eyes were open, as his body lay still. It wasn't until I touched him that my world came shattering down....he was lifeless. Rainbow was dead. Rainbow had gone to the Rainbow Bridge.

My eyes bulged from their sockets as I gasped and held my hand over my mouth. I ran downstairs, and found my husband in the garage, ready to leave for work. I could barely speak the words that come next. "Stephen, Rainbow is dead....I found him under our bed." I HATED myself for saying it! I could no longer hold the pain in. Stephen ran up the stairs to me and led me back into the house. I thought I would collapse. My sobbing changed to uncontrollable, loud cries, and Stephen handed me a towel to muffle the miserable noises of my despair. (Our baby was asleep, and we didn't want to scare her.) He opened the front door and asked me to stay outside, so he could get Rainbow's body. I stayed on the porch, reviewing our entire three years in my mind.....my body shook uncontrollably.....I put the towel over my mouth as cries of despair escaped my mouth. My soul hurt....badly. I was sitting on the concrete of the porch, body slumped, head to knees, rocking back and forth....I felt as if I would die.

I composed myself as best as I could, and found Stephen in the garage...picking up the shovel to dig Rainbow's grave. My heart sank when I saw the box laying on the floor of the garage. Stephen brought the box to the back deck, and went to the far back yard to dig Rainbow's grave. I kept looking at the box and burying my head in my towel, sobbing. I finally found the strength to pick up the box and carry it next to the grave that was being dug for him. I stared at the box, and finally opened it...and there was my Rainbow.....curled up in a peaceful sleeping position, with a serene look on his face. My body shuddered when I picked him up and placed him on my lap. My tears rained down on his body, and I pet his silky, now wet, gray and white fur. Out of instinct, I did just did what I had done a thousand times before....I began singing Amazing Grace....choking on the words. Over and over, I sang "our song" and rocked him for the last time. I was devastated when Stephen stopped digging and it was time to let him go. "Oh, God...what happened to Rainbow?! I would do ANYTHING just to hear him purr one last time!! Just to tell him that I love him and always will!! Just to feel the warmth of his body!!! Just to see him once more gazing at me lovingly!!! OH GOD!! Please don't make me let him go....PLEASE!!!"

There was nothing left to do, except release his body to the earth and pray that his soul was aware of the fact that I will love him, always.

The next day, still wrought by emotional pain, I had no choice but to go to the grocery store for some necessities we were completely out of. My sister was over to help me out and let me grieve. She took care of my daughter, Caitlin, when and if I needed to cry and be alone. I told her I had to take a quick trip to the store.

The sun was shining...completely opposite of what I was feeling that day. There was not a cloud in the sky and the weather channel reported no rain for days. None whatsoever.

At the store, I rushed to get the things I needed. My eyes were nearly swollen shut from crying so hard.....my heart and soul ached. I completely "lost it" when I heard the store radio playing "I see your true colors shining through, I see your true colors, and that's why I love you. So don't be afraid to let them show. Your true colors are beautiful, like a RAINBOW..." There mere mention of "Rainbow" sent me over the edge, and I was mortified that I could not keep my composure in the store!

Driving home, as embarrassed as I am to admit, I found myself actually "talking" with Rainbow. There I was, balling my eyes out, choking and sobbing and literally begging to him out loud: "Please, Rainbow, PLEASE send me a sign. Let me know you are okay...I NEED to know you're okay and safe and happy. I NEED to know that you still know that I love you! I DON'T wish to bother you, but Rainbow, PLEASE! I need to know that the shooting star yesterday morning wasn't just a coincidence....I'M SORRY that I am so desperate......but I beg of you, Rainbow, if you can....PLEASE RAINBOW!!! Send me something....ANYTHING!!"

I honestly thought I was going crazy. When I entered the house, my sister noticed that I was crying more and tried to console me. I meekly told my sister what I had done. She told me I was simply grieving....and to go ahead and do whatever I needed to do. I asked her to unpack the car for me, so I could sit at Rainbow's grave. I sat down, and apologized to Rainbow for my behavior.....

WITH GOD AS MY WITNESS, what happened next is 100% TRUE...

As I sat at Rainbow's grave....darkness flooded the sky. Clouds swept in, as heavy rain came down for approximately two minutes. I ran in the house, switching on the weather channel. There was no mention of rain....none. As quickly as it happened, it was over.....within three minutes of the start of the clouds and rain, the sun was shining brightly once again, as if nothing ever happened.....

I was sincerely perplexed....was THIS my sign? It really WAS kind of out of the ordinary! I stood at the glass door and stared out toward the freshly dug grave. My sister looked at me and smiled, but I still wasn't convinced that this was "it"...

My husband walked through the door and yelled for me to come look out the front.....

I knew what it was before I even saw it....there it was...a HUGE rainbow streaked the sky! I stepped outside onto the porch, and serenely watched the rainbow until it faded away. My heart somehow felt lighter, and with knowing smile, I thanked Rainbow for the "sign". I will never, EVER believe for a second that this occurrence was a coincidence. The FACT was this: RAINBOW HAD SENT ME A RAINBOW!!!

As miraculous and amazing as he was in life, he was even MORE so in his death....never ceasing to amaze me....THAT was my beloved Rainbow!

I love you, Rainbow.......I'll see you when my time comes...and then we will be together, forever.

Pattyann Herbert

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