Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunshine Made From Rain

For some time now, I’ve been trying to think of a good title for this blog. All the really great ones seem to have been taken. As I ran through the blogs of friends of mine who similarly suffer from chronic pain and illness, a beautiful phrase kept coming into my mind. ‘Sunshine made from rain’… It’s not the name of a blog but a poem, written by a Facebook friend last year, not long before she died.

Amberlin Wu was a dancer, a writer, and activist and a therapist, living in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. She kept chickens in her back yard. She also suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – as she put it, “the bad kind”, the kind that is absolutely devastating to sufferers’ lives. I didn’t know her well, so the details of how CFS affected her life I’m not really sure, but I do know that she had good periods when she could go out to the beach with friends, and flare-ups when she could barely get out of bed or even move. She worked hard to publicise an illness (or, quite possibly, a collection of different illnesses) which is still deeply misunderstood by many of the public and even medical professions. As my friend (and Amberlin’s) Toni Bernhard has said, ‘chronic fatigue’ is an absurd misnomer. It is a state of deep and chronic sickness, nothing like the ‘fatigue’ that most of us experience from time to time.

I only ‘met’ Amberlin on Facebook only a few months before her death; we had both written contributions to a mutual friend’s book project, and I thought hers was just wonderful. We only really exchanged a few brief messages over that time. As a result, I still don’t know exactly what she died of, but assume that it was from complications of her illness (little known fact amongst non-sufferers: CFS – or ME, as it’s more commonly known in the UK – can sometimes kill). And her poem, ‘Sunshine made from rain’, has felt even more touching since she passed away; it expresses deep sadness and joy in almost equal measure. To experience the world around her so fully, even through pain and illness – and then, quite suddenly it seemed to her friends, to leave the world entirely… At the time I had no idea she was so ill, or that CFS could take away a life, just like that.

What came across most, however, from Amberlin’s life, her writing and her personality, was that she truly loved life, and that she was determined to live it as much as she possibly could – and to help others live it too. Her Facebook page is still online, kept going by her mother Ann, and messages to Amberlin are still posted by her friends, saying how much they love her, miss her, and value the friendship she gave them. She was an incredibly loved woman – that much is so clear. With respect to her cluck-clucking chickens, it was Amberlin who made sunshine out of rain.

Although I’m not nearly as devastatingly ill as Amberlin was, my own chronic pain and anxiety have affected my life in some similar ways. And having been through periods where I was tormented and couldn’t see a way out of the hole, I’ve re-assessed aspects of my life since and am trying now to create something positive out of the pain I’ve been through – both for myself and for others. Because of this, the title and content of Amberlin’s beautiful poem resonate with me all the more. So the poem has given me my own title for this blog. Warm thanks to Ann Wu for kindly giving her consent for me to use and quote from it, and to Amberlin for writing it. And of course, for living her life and being the warm and giving friend she so clearly was to others.

You can visit Amberlin’s blog at Meanwhile, here is her poem.

Sunshine made from rain

Today, I’ve been teetering along tears

I don’t know what or why

To stay in bed

Or get into a car and go

Go somewhere that might take me away.

There’s a grief inside me

Though I don’t know its name

It reaches up into my throat

With its clenched fist

Making it difficult to swallow.

The cluck cluck of chickens

Comes through the open window

Floating in from the farm

It’s magic born from sadness and suffering

It’s sunshine made from rain.


  1. hi i just found your blog. follow me -

  2. Awesome post, Michael. I just got a chance to read it. I think you've done something wonderful and Amberlin would greatly approve. I wish my book project could have gone forward, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be right now.


  3. Hey Chelle, there's always the future! I wouldn't write off the idea, and you've got some material to start with if you ever want to try again.

    I'm so glad you liked the post. It makes a big difference to me when people comment in such a positive way.

    Hope you are okay and having a 'good' day today.

    Hugs back

    Michael :)

  4. she would have loved knowing she inspired the name for this blog. thank you - someone who isn't suffering from ME/CFS - for recognizing the seriousness of this dreadful illness. thank you so kindly michael. xxoo

  5. You're welcome, Alisa. All the wonderful people I've 'met' online who suffer from it have begun to educate me. Sending you warm wishes.

  6. This really touched my heart - and Amberlin's too, as I will always carry a piece of her in my heart. Thank you for this and the reminder that good can come from awful stuff; not always right away and not always enough. But glad for the gift when it arrives. Like your blog is a gift to me today. Peace, Jackie

  7. I'm so glad, Jackie! Thank you for telling me this. Sending you warm wishes - Michael