Rainbow Angel

I recently did a post about Nancy Mardis, the artist whose watercolor, “Rainbow Angel,” appears on the cover of ALL NIGHT, ALL DAY: LIFE, DEATH, & ANGELS. Nancy was on the panel for our launch party at Novel Memphis on Tuesday night, June 20 (pub day) and she shared this story about the painting. I asked her permission to share it here. Enjoy! (Picture at right is me and Nancy celebrating at Restaurant Iris after the event. (Their red snapper with crab meat is amazing!)

Rainbow Angel

My personal belief in angels arose in 1986 during a terrifying experience in Boulder Creek, California. My now ex-husband Bill was a visiting law professor at Santa Clara University.  We had leased the home of the professor who was on sabbatical.  It was a charming, but old, split-level, surrounded by 100 feet of Red Woods and a creek.  Only six days after arriving at our new home, I placed one-year-old Rachel on a changing table below a window. She had recently learned to walk. As I turned back to put a clean shirt on her, I realized in horror that she must have stood up.  All I saw were her tiny feet as she plunged, I thought headfirst, out of the window, falling sixteen feet onto the concrete driveway below. Rachel’s only injury was a black eye, caused by hitting her head on the screen after landing. I had taken for granted that it was a storm window, unaware that the screen was popped in only to keep the bugs out.

An ambulance raced us fifteen miles through the Santa Cruz Mountains to the nearest hospital. Tests showed no injuries, so we were allowed to take our baby home, waking her up throughout the night in case of concussion. We took her to the fire station for a pancake breakfast the following Saturday. The firemen who rescued Rachel, called her their “little second-story girl”, and said that she had ridden down on the screen like on a magic carpet.  My belief? I wrote a little story entitled “Rachel and the Rainbow Angel”, about her guardian angel who floated her down to safety, and in the process earned her rainbow wings. Whose theory do you believe—the magic carpet or the guardian angel? Rachel’s 38th birthday was yesterday, June 19.

My rainbow angel connection continued when in September 1991 my mother passed away at the age of 71. On a visit to her home in December, I slept in her bed and had a visitation dream.  I asked my mother (middle aged in the dream) how she had come to visit me, and she said, “God sends us on rainbows.” That Christmas, a Lutheran church friend, learning of my dream, created an amazing satin wall hanging of a rainbow angel for the Christmas Eve service, truly a gift to me. I began collecting angels, including one of a middle-aged angel with rainbow wings. She looks remarkably like my mother!

In 1994 my new home church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, featured a visiting female priest. She spoke on angels, citing some passage in Revelation. I recently reread the Bible chapter but could not pinpoint what had inspired me. Something had for sure, because the next day, after hearing the sermon, I went to my watercolor class with Fred Rawlinson, sat down, took out my paints and brushes, and created the Rainbow Angel that Susan Cushman has now allowed to grace the cover of her wonderful book.

My ecumenical spiritual journey (I grew up first Presbyterian and then Methodist) has taken me to the Unitarian Church of the River.  I especially remember the first Christmas when the nativity scene, created by the late artist, Burton Callicott, an earlier church member, was hung, suspended in the awesome windows overlooking the Mississippi River.  The Christmas Eve service cast a roomful of lighted candles in the darkness onto the windows.  An angel in white hovered over the little family. Callicott was also known for his paintings of rainbows.

Thank you, my dear friend, Susan Cushman, for honoring me by using my art on the cover of your book. We have been friends for many years now.  We share the love of our Korean children, all adopted through Holt International, and our love of books and art. You are truly a forever friend.


My dear son, Andrew Kratzke, died September 27, 2020, at the age of 37. No greater loss have I ever experienced! I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions to this book. Collectively it forms a beacon of hope, clarity, and comfort on my grief journey.  I will leave you with an amazing experience that I had three weeks after Andrew’s death. Everyone had come and gone, as inevitably always happens. I was alone on a cold, dark, rainy mid-October morning! As I was reading, I glanced at the front door. I had been waiting for Andrew to come home even though I had laid my head on his sweet body at the funeral home. He simply would still walk through that door, his long black hair flying behind him, his Australian shepherd at his heels, a plastic bag on his arm, the beginnings of whatever feast my chef son would prepare for me that night. Andrew was all energy. On that rainy, sad October day in 2020, suddenly the door was filled with a blinding burst of light. It moved slightly inside the room, hovered there, then slowly receded. The gloomy day returned, but I was left with a soft, steady light in my heart.  Andrew had come home.