I can’t take credit for this story, nor can I give credit to the source since it has been in my repertoire for so long, I don’t know how I got it, but if I had a dollar for every time I retold it, I would have quite the nest egg. What is important is not so much the tale itself, but what magically happens when it is shared. That’s really when something wonderful materializes. Literally.
And so, I thought that it might make a good blog post. The story has been altered a bit, embellished over the years because, well, I wanted to put my own spin on it, so here is my version:
None of us will live forever. It is an undeniable truth, a law of the universe. Inevitably, the seasons pass, and we watch our parents grow older as the cycle of life unfolds. And so it was that Grace stood near her father’s bed in the dimly lit hospital room, the steady beat of his heart amplified by the machine that marked the cadence of his tired body. He had been in and out of consciousness for much of the day, and when he opened his eyes, simply gazed at the ceiling as though he wondered what was next. She desperately wanted a moment of clarity with him, painfully aware that the remainder of his life has been reduced to hours, days if she was lucky.
“Daddy,” Grace whispered. “Are you in pain?”
He shook his head.
“Daddy,” she repeated, reaching for his hand. “I can't bear the thought of you leaving me. I will miss you so. How can I go on without you?”
He turned to face her, his watery blue eyes locking onto hers. “You will be fine, my dear.” He paused. “And so will I.”
She took a deep breath as she tried not to cry. “Will you?”
“Of course,” he whispered. “I will be in heaven.”
Grace knew of her father’s unwavering belief in life after death, and although she took courage in the promise of faith, she still felt the human sting of all that she was about to lose.
“How will I know you got there?” she asked. It seemed like the far-fetched question of a child.
He smiled. “I will figure out a way.”
Grace leaned in for a hug. Her father, always so strong, capable of anything, had never broken a promise to her. She wouldn’t begin to doubt him now. “Thanks, Daddy, I know you will.”
The next morning, when the elevator door opened onto the ICU floor, the nurse was waiting for her “I am so sorry,” she simply said, “it happened just a few moments ago.”
Grace stood over her father’s lifeless body, stroking his cold forehead. “Don’t forget,” she whispered, as she leaned over to kiss him goodbye.
In the days that followed, Grace learned that grief is a process. The moments of despair, the overwhelming feelings of loss and subsequent tears, often took her by surprise, as though she had somehow forgotten that the first man to have ever loved her was gone forever. She looked for ways to occupy her time, to stay busy, and after work began to jog through the city streets. On her very first outing, she noticed the pennies. Sometimes, they were random, one here or there on her three mile trek. But at other times, she noted their abundance, clusters of five or more on the sidewalk where she stopped for the light before crossing. By the second week, she realized that it was more than a mere coincidence. At one particularly busy corner, she stopped to catch her breath. And there was a bright copper penny glistening in the sunlight. She bent over to pick it up, turning it over in the palm of her hand. Absentmindedly, she stuck it in her pocket and adjusted the earbuds attached to her cell phone, her music source. The song ended and the next one began. It was not from a familiar group, but an oldie, one that reminded her of a tune her father had hummed from time to time. She carefully listened to the words, “And when it rains, it rains, pennies from heaven.” Struggling to catch her breath, she began to laugh. “I hear you, Daddy. And thanks for the sign.” His promise had been kept.
For those of us who believe that there is something better that awaits us after our existence in this world ends, the story is heart warming. But it is more than that. It is a confirmation that perhaps there is some way for those who once loved us to reach out from the great beyond to provide a tangible bit of reassurance. I don’t know for certain, but I do know that for me, pennies regularly appear, ofen in the strangest places and especially when this story comes to mind. I have found them in parking lots and airports, on my desk at school and under my pillow at night. I even had one fall on my head out of nowhere when I was showering one morning. And yes, that defies a logical explanation. But each time, I am reminded that a special spirit watches over me, protecting me from harm. There is great comfort there
Last Tuesday, following my final chemo infusion, I stopped at Target. I had three things to purchase, so I stepped into the self-scan kiosk. And before I could even begin, I saw it, a penny in the receipt slot. I tearfully checked out the items, my heart filled with wonder. Had my guardian angel sent me a sign on that important day? Was my momma whispering “Congratulations! I love you” from heaven? Once I was home, I noticed a penny on my great grandmother’s buffet, one I had dusted the previous day. Both of these went into the jar that I keep with the coins that I find. Over the years, it has become more and more full, tangible reminders that miracles can come to us in the simplest of forms, and that even the lowly penny, something that has little to no perceived value in our world, can be priceless, given the right context. It is a powerful lesson, right?
So I wish for you all to find your own pennies from heaven in the days ahead. And may each one remind you that love never dies.