Anyone standing on the Uxbridge museum grounds late last Friday afternoon in the wake of that downpour of rain would have seen it. About 80 of us, gathered outside at the museum gazebo for my daughter Whitney’s wedding ceremony, spotted it right away.
Most of us would have recalled our high school physics to explain it – white light being refracted through airborne water droplets forming the optical illusion of a red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet arch in the sky – a rainbow. My aunt Virginia would argue, however, that it was no illusion and had nothing to do with science at all.
“I predicted it,” she said later that evening at the wedding reception. “I knew the rain would pass, the skies would clear and there would be a rainbow.”
Virginia Nopulos never claimed the power of clairvoyance. Despite being a religious woman, she probably wouldn’t credit her spiritualism for the sudden break in the bad weather last Friday, allowing the marriage of her great niece, Whitney and fiancé Ian, to proceed as planned outdoors at the museum. My sense is that she would credit the assembly of her immediate family – some 28 of us – and the power of their love for each other as the reason for the sudden appearance of brilliant late afternoon sunshine and a perfectly timed rainbow.
“There is nothing more important than a loving family,” she often said.
I write this slightly ironically – only predicting the way Aunt Virginia might explain the miraculous turnaround of the weather last Friday afternoon – because later, following a sumptuous meal, much music and dancing, many speeches and toasts to the wedding couple during the reception at our local Music Hall, Virginia awoke in the night in great pain. She was rushed to hospital in Toronto and died of a heart attack with much of that loving family stunned and heartbroken at her side.
“Why now, at the end of such a glorious day?” we asked ourselves. “How devastating to face grieving in the wake of such celebrating,” we thought.
It took us, as a family, some time to find some answers to these anguished questions. We knew that Virginia, 86, like her younger sister Kay (my mother), had battled through a number of recent illnesses of ageing to make it to this wedding. In fact, because my mother knew Virginia was coming all the way from her home in Baltimore, Maryland, that seemed to rally her strength enough to leave hospital and join her sister at the wedding. They both seemed buoyant, even youthful, watching their family gather and celebrate the occasion, even dancing to the Greek music with their younger brother George. It was as if Virginia knew her time was extremely short.
“It wouldn’t be right for my younger sister to pass away before I do,” she told several family members during the wedding day.
Perhaps she also knew, if her time should suddenly come, that this might be the best time, with the family all in one place, or as we often said, “Angaze!” “Together!” We all knew that Virginia lived for such moments. Whenever the family reunited for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries or summer holidays, she would be the first to announce how grateful she was that her family had given her a lifetime of memories.
In fact, we all recently learned that a family reunion last year in Baltimore had inspired her to finally jot down on paper the way she felt about her family. She had those thoughts put to paper by a calligrapher. She made copies and planned to present them to the family the day after Friday’s marriage celebration when we planned to assemble again for a post-wedding picnic in Uxbridge.
After she died Saturday, it rained all day. Nevertheless, we all decided that Virginia would have wanted us to get together no matter what. We did. We gathered for an indoor picnic at our house. And together we read – on the very day she died – her page-long tribute called, “What My Family Means to Me,” in which the attributes of her family spelled out the phrase: “A L-O-V-I-N-G F-A-M-I-L-Y.” Among the qualities she considered was:
“L is for Life … a book of memories that each one of you has written in … beautiful and rich memories … bad times, sad times, happy times … smiles, laughter and tears shared.”
Today, instead of basking in the warmth of such memories as the wedding celebration of her great niece and nephew-in-law, our aunt will be buried at a cemetery in Baltimore. But those of her family who shared her last day with us here will be recalling the science of water droplets in sunshine.
We will never forget our Aunt Virginia’s rainbow.