“Grief can’t be dissolved like rain washing dust off a roof. Sorrow knows no washing away, no easing…no end of time.” Francine Rivers, The Last Sin Eater

According to the always helpful homework cheater helper scribd.com, rain symbolizes both despair and new life.

How can this be possible? says my ever so black and white personality.

Oh yeah, the world isn’t arranged in extremes and separations. (Which is exactly why art is the most vital avenue for understanding the world around us.)

Charan Ahuja describes the symbolic nature of rain as “an exhilarating marvel of nature, rain has magical powers to entwine the twin threads of emptiness and contentment together.”  She goes on, “from a gentle sprinkling to a torrid downpour, rains can be both life giving as well as death dealing.”

So it is fitting then, that the month of April begins Rwanda’s long wet season.

As a month started by official mourning activities, rain lends itself to a period of brooding and sitting indoors.  Nothing is quite as melancholy as rain slowly streaming down the windowpane.

In the Rwandan context, rain really only disrupts life.  It doesn’t last long, so it’s not something that needs to be addressed, but once it starts, no one leaves his/her current shelter.  We all just stay put and wait the 15 minutes needed for the torrential downpour to let up and allow us all to get back to business.

While I LOVE rain, I am totally fine with the whole wait it out concept.  I like being wet, but not arriving at my destination freshly showered.  So I have become really good in my predictions of when the rain will hit and can time my errands accordingly.

So Sunday was an anomaly for me.

This weekend was devoted entirely to buying a blender.  (Ours broke Friday night and we use it at least 5 times a week, so $100 or not, it was totally necessary to replace it.)  Saturday my roommate and I tried first the China store (an exact replica of the cheap rubber motor thing that broke on us Friday night, $100) and then the expat grocery store (an upgraded version that had a plastic motor—so it wouldn’t shred over time—$60).  While gloating over our plastic find, a British kid we keep running into but don’t actually know approached us and asked what we were doing.

“Umm you know, buying a blender.”

“Well I’m selling mine.”


“How much is this one.”
“How much are you selling yours for?”

“This one is probably like 39,000 RWF isn’t it?”

“Actually it’s only 32,000 RWF.”
“Well I’ll sell you mine for 20,000 RWF [$40].”

So Sunday we had to go find him and actually pick up the newest and most beloved addition to our household. We head out ten minutes before said meeting time.  I have just come back from the store, not a cloud in the sky and sweating from the heat of the middle of the day.  But heading back out sixty seconds later, I see the sky filled with grey clouds and hope that I don’t need my umbrella. Two minutes later, not even at the end of our street, it starts to sprinkle.  Another minute later, right as we are approaching the moto taxi station it starts to rain.  Not hard, but actual drops for sure.  So we decide to turn around and head back to wait out the building storm.  I walk in the gate five minutes later caked in mud and looking like I’ve just stepped from the shower, fully clothed.

Yea, I literally just walked back in the house.

This is the kind of rain I really truly love.  It falls from the sky with more force than my shower (really that doesn’t take a whole lot of pressure to beat the slow stream I attempt to wash myself in every morning) and spills so much water on the earth that everything gets washed away.

This is the kind of rain that could possibly wash away grief (if of course, that were possible).  Ironically, it came at the official close of the two-week commemoration period.  So in a sense, it did wash away the mourning time.

God bless the rains down in Africa.

So again, how can rain bring both death and new life?

Remember that time I found myself waiting out the rain with about 20 business men who just wanted to get on their way as well?

Remember how the mourning period was just two weeks of the year where we all hole up and wait for life to resume?

Remember how rain stops life, temporarily, but stops it nonetheless?

Remember how grief paralyzes any future plans?

Remember what the rainy season brought in April of 1994?

It may only be 15 minutes, two weeks, or a whole three-month/100 day stretch but the rains can bring death as well as new life.

I found life in the rain because I actually acknowledge it, stood in it, felt it.


Ahuja, Charan. “Rain Symbolism in Literature”. Willows Talk, Issue 11. 2010. Web Access 17th April 2011

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