Khalil and I sat by by sea, watching the village fishing fleet heading out at sunrise, the sound of their motors swallowed by the great heartbeat of the sea. A few dark clouds were scattered across the sky, glowering slightly at the dry earth below- but if I have learned one thing here on the coast of the Arabian Sea, it is that clouds like that rarely fulfill their promise of rain. So we perched on a pile of rocks (probably sharing them with several crabs, but I try not to think about that), holding hands and enjoying being, and being together. Then Khalil said, “No one’s around- lift up your veil.” I did, and I felt the tiny kisses of the softly falling rain, and I remembered.
A few months after coming to Yemen, we moved to a lovely little village in the mountains north of Sana’a. We had heard there was a rainy season, but after a couple of months of living there had yet to experience it. It seems like it was late in coming, as they began doing the rain prayer at the masjid. I was going through a tough time then; my sister was dying out of reach on the other side of the world, and I was feeling alone and out of control. For a recovering anorexic, feeling out of control is one of the things that can set one back to destructive habits, and I was fighting that as well.
The email came on a sunny, bright morning- my brother writing to tell me that Patty had finally passed in the night. My husband was at work, it was just the children and me at home. I gave the baby to my oldest son and went to hang the laundry up on the roof. As I walked up the steps, he called up to tell me that they had held another rain prayer. In the numbness of my soul, I dismissed this as being fruitless, meaningless. I pushed open the metal door and stepped out into the morning air, and breathed a breath of…rain?
And it fell. The rain fell, first gently, caressing, and I turned my face up to receive its grace. I dropped the basket of clothes and walked to the edge of the roof, and leaned over just as the rain began to come down in sheets. As I watched the dry earth soak up the blessed water, I felt a little knot inside of me loosen, and with the release of the rain from a sky that had held its breath for months, I allowed myself to mourn Patty’s death, and celebrate her life, and to be reminded of the beauty and order and greater wisdom that is always there, even when my eyes are closed, if I simply open my heart.
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