On that Sunday in September
We had a proper Llano Estacado rain
Just in time for the birthday party.
A gully washer with lightning flashes
And window rattling thunder.
Pelting down in big wet drops that fall for a half a mile
That make you duck and hunch your shoulders
Turn your back to shield your face.
And by the time it takes to tell it
The runoff’s shin deep by the curb, white-water fast.
And spreading almost to the center of the roadway
The cowboys in their high falutin’ pickup trucks.
Go roaring past, splashing up up twin rooster tails of spray
That wash across your windshield like you’re in a storm at sea.
What a day to have a birthday party.
The birthday girl was turning 90 in two days.
The party had been planned for months.
There was punch and hugs and cake and laughter.
So many came despite the rain.
She needed hugs and cake and friends (no presents please)
The week before, she’d had to put
The love of her life into a home.
A wrenching separation, a tough, uphill decision.
He was 92, could hardly hear and barely see.
He could barely walk on tottering unsteady feet.
He hadn’t walked at all since she’d had to leave him
In that place that wasn’t home.
After the party, she brought birthday cake
and fed it to him bite by bite.
He understood she’d had a birthday party
He said he didn’t know what he could do for her birthday.
He told her once again he loved her.
They said good bye. She didn’t know it was their last one.
Then, on that rain-splashed Monday morning after
He took the burden of his care and slipped silently away
When she wasn’t there to have to watch it happen.
It rained like sixty on the night
He lay in his open, flag-draped coffin
His daughter’s yellow rose beneath his hands.
Still, people came despite the weather.
Came to say their last goodbyes.
Kinfolk coming from the airport
had to sit tight in their rental car until the rain let up.
It was coming down so hard they couldn’t see to drive.
It rained so much parts of the town were flooded.
While the thunder boomed and the lightning flashed.
They weathered one last storm together
Finally, the rain let up.
The last flight in took off from Dallas.
She gave him the last of 67 years of kisses.
It was still raining as she drove home without him.
The morning of the day she buried him
was overcast and dark, threatening to rain.
The flooding of the night before had mostly drained away
And left the world bedraggled.
But when she got out of the car there at the cemetery
Suddenly, the clouds gave way
The sun gleamed through a patch of blue
and a brand new angel smiled.