My little girl and I stood that December evening on the edge of the bay and watched the sun surrender to the angry clouds clustering upon the horizon. The light of midday soon dissolved into premature dusk, painting the blue above a sullen gray. On the opposite side of the bay, just beyond the Golden Gate, we saw what the gray foreboded. It marched steadily past the bridge and across the water, a wall of wet swallowing up everything in its path, and in minutes, us as well.
“We better go inside,” I said.
“No, let’s watch. It looks neat,” she said.
“But, we’re gonna get drenched.”
“It’s just rain, mommy.”
We watched as the rest of the world scuttled indoors to wrap themselves in warm, dry things and fill their bellies with hot liquids of one sort or another. Indoors they could pretend the rain couldn’t touch them. Indoors they could ignore the discomforts that storms inevitably bring. Indoors they could revel in the light and warmth of day, artificial though it may be, and dismiss the reality pounding with a million wet fists around them.
But not us.
“It’s just rain,” I thought as that army of raindrops finally stormed our shore and trampled us, drenching us in seconds, chilling us to the core. “It’s just rain,” I thought, as the frigid water formed crystalline rivulets down our faces and along our arms. “It’s just rain,” as the winter water made the streets glisten with street light, transforming asphalt into a twinkling midnight sky.
“See? It’s just rain,” she said.
I smiled. “And it’s beautiful.”
Like all my friends, Naheed is beautiful in every way. She has black, wavy hair that tumbles playfully to her shoulders and frames a round, youthful face. Her dark brown eyes are deep as midnight, but twinkle like stars. Though sweet and modest, she quips and jokes like a mischievous, yet astute jester, but her words never cut or bruise. Her intelligence always shows, as does her compassion. I’m glad I can call her friend.
One afternoon, on Mother’s Day eve, my lovely friend Naheed sat across the table from me, taking delicate sips of her mocha, as we enjoyed one of our (too infrequent) coffee dates. Our conversation traveled the path it usually does, wandering from children to work to a potpourri of life’s joys and minor annoyances. We discussed them all with ease and humor, until we inadvertently stumbled on a hole.
“What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” I asked.
The light drained from Naheed. Her alacrity abruptly ebbed.
“It’ll be three years tomorrow since my mother passed,” she said. “I still don’t know what to do on that day.”
I could see the dark clouds on her horizon, could feel the distant rumbling of loss. I wanted to rush in and rescue her from her sadness. I wanted to find the right words to heal her pain. I wanted to dispel the storm that obscured the light in her eyes. Instead, I let it rain.
Memories poured from her, random, raw, and fresh as daybreak. They coalesced into images of a beloved mother and a strong, caring soul. They recalled a connection that would endure, despite the ultimate separation. They filled our space with sorrow, yes, but also with something more.
As I looked at Naheed and watched her tears gather and fall, it struck me that her tears were not an illness that needed a cure or an ugliness that required remedy. Quite the contrary. Somehow, surprisingly, tears made lovely Naheed even lovelier.
In that moment I realized, we don’t have to conquer all sadness. We don’t have to run inside and shelter ourselves from all pain. True, it can be dark and cold and overwhelming. But in the end, it’s just rain.
And it’s beautiful.