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Author of Iconic ‘Rainbow Bridge’ Poem Finally Revealed

Author of Iconic ‘Rainbow Bridge’ Poem Finally Revealed

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The “Rainbow Bridge” poem is iconic. Every pet lover that has loved and lost a dear pet family member has likely seen this poem – at the vet’s office, from a friend, in a card or email perhaps? What you may not have noticed is that the author of the poem was always considered “anonymous,” that is, until now thanks to a man named Paul Koudounaris.

Paul, an art historian and author from Tucson, Arizona, spent a decade researching and verifying the poem’s authorship before discovering its true author, Edna Clyne-Rekhy.

The History of “Rainbow Bridge”

Edna Clyne-Rekhy, now 82 years old, is a Scottish artist and animal lover. She has finally been credited with authoring the beloved poem ‘Rainbow Bridge’ thanks to the detective work of Paul Koudounaris. The poem has been the source of comfort for millions of pet parents around the world.

She wrote the poem back in 1959, as a way to grieve her dog, a Labrador Retriever named Major. When she was 19, Major died in her arms and Edna was devastated by the loss. She expressed her intense grief to her mother who then prompted Edna to write her feelings down, hoping it might help with the sense of loss.

She kept the poem largely to herself and shared it with a few friends. Those friends were so touched by the poem that Edna hand-typed out several copies for them but didn’t name herself as the author – never imagining that there was a need. Until now, Edna had no knowledge that since 1959, her poem has traveled around the world offering comfort and hope to pet owners everywhere. Her poem even captured the attention of Abigail Van Buren of the uber-popular “Dear Abby” column in the U.S. where “Rainbow Bridge” was posted in a “Dear Abby” column in 1994.

Paul Koudounaris’ Instagram Account Breaking The News

When Paul finally discovered that Edna was the author and contacted her, she was in disbelief:

“I’m absolutely stunned,” she says. “I’m still in a state of shock.”

You see, astonishingly, Edna had no idea that her poem, written more than 60 years ago had traveled the globe and comforted millions of pet owners. How is that possible, you might wonder…? Edna had moved away from Scotland to an olive farm in India and had no idea.

If it weren’t for the tireless effort of Paul Koudounaris, we might never know who the author was.

“‘Rainbow Bridge’ provides the missing piece for people who have had to live with this anxiety that their animal is not good enough to deserve an afterlife,” Koudounaris says. “It gives us a reason to hope.”

 

The Rainbow Bridge Poem by Edna Clyne-Rekhy

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, your pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and strength, those who were hurt are made better and strong again, like we remember them before they go to heaven. They are happy and content except for one small thing—they each miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are shining, his body shakes. Suddenly he begins to run from the herd, rushing over the grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cuddle in a happy hug never to be apart again. You and your pet are in tears. Your hands again cuddle his head and you look again into his trusting eyes, so long gone from life, but never absent from your heart, and then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

So why has this poem become iconic among pet parents everywhere? Paul Koudounaris speculates that it has something to do with religion and that some religions did not or do not believe animals have souls and therefore, could not go to heaven:

“‘Rainbow Bridge’ provides the missing piece for people who have had to live with this anxiety that their animal is not good enough to deserve an afterlife,” Koudounaris says. “It gives us a reason to hope.”

“Rainbow Bridge” provided the assurance that pet owners needed to feel that their deep connection with their pets would live on, somehow, somewhere some way. And it still does so to this day.

An article was featured in National Geographic on February 22, 2023 if you’d like to read more about it. Also check out the original story and work of art historian Paul Koudounaris on his Instagram account (@hexenkult).  Thank you to Paul Koudounaris for finding the author… and a big thank you to Edna Clyne-Rekhy for giving the world such a beautiful gift.



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