13: Send Me a Penny

13: Send Me a Penny

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Send Me a Penny

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

~Jack Lemmon

“A penny for your thoughts.” That’s what I used to say. Before. That old, lovely saying has now grown even richer and more personal for me and my family. It has become, for all of us, “A penny to let you know that I am thinking of you.”

It was August 2001. That day was an early morning workday like any other. I got up, poured a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and sat at the counter to read the newspaper. When I got to the “Dear Abby” column, there was an article about pennies from heaven. Without thinking much about it I said under my breath, “Send me a penny, Daddy.”

My father was the apple of my eye. He was crotchety and opinionated and my two sisters and I loved him like crazy. He had been a widower for twenty years, and so our lives, our friends, became his. He was my best garage sale buddy. He had lived at one time with both of my sisters, in California and North Carolina, respectively. He now had a senior living apartment near my home in Oregon. Dad had injured his lungs severely ten years earlier torching what he didn’t know was lead paint off the exterior of my cousin’s house. He was now seventy-six years old and had adapted well to his limitations and continued to do most things he loved, if at a slower pace.

That was why his telephone call to me at work the Friday of Memorial Day weekend was so frightening. When I answered the phone he said weakly, “Mo, I don’t feel well. Something is wrong.” I don’t think I had the phone in the cradle before I was running out the door. Dad had been on a trip to visit both of my sisters in the last month and to see a new great-grandson. He had fun but came back exhausted and nursing what he thought was a bad cold. I worried it had turned to pneumonia, as his weakened lungs were susceptible.

I called ahead to let the emergency room know we were on our way, and within ten minutes we were pulling up and being met by a nurse with a wheelchair. I was stunned, after my father’s initial workup, to be told that he was having a heart attack. Later that day he had a stent placed and he was admitted to a regular room for observation. He was discharged to my care two days later on Sunday. He complained he still did not feel well, but his doctor assured us that this was to be expected after a heart attack. Once I got him home, he said to me, “I am so glad I have you girls to look after me.” The next morning, I walked into his room to discover that he had a second heart attack earlier that morning. Although I tried to revive him with CPR, it was too late.

That was the worst day of my life. I had so much guilt and remorse. I was paralyzed with pain. So, when I flippantly mentioned three months later on that August morning that I wished he would send me a penny, it was because I longed to connect with him again. I felt like I had let him, and my entire family, down by not protecting him. I was struggling mightily with the loss and not moving forward very well at all. So even though I asked for a penny, honestly I did not expect a response!

I finished breakfast and went upstairs. I went into the walk-in closet and took out my clothes for work. I walked a few steps back into the bathroom to get ready for a shower, talking to my husband about mundane stuff. I turned around to grab something else from the closet, and there, centered right in the middle of the carpeted floor was a penny. I gasped so loudly I scared my husband. I started to cry and knelt down and clutched the penny to my chest. I had just been in the closet seconds earlier and the penny was not there. I would have seen it. It was not near any coats or purses from which it might have fallen. It was, indeed, a penny from heaven. I sobbed and sobbed and through the tears I knew I had been visited by a miracle.

I had that penny made into a necklace I cherish. The most wonderful thing now is that every time anyone in my family finds pennies in odd places, we say, “Hi Daddy,” or “Hi Grandpa.” We find them all the time now. My niece was showering one day, heard a plunk in the shower and looked down to see a penny in the tub! I was using my iPad one day, set it down and came back later and a penny was sitting on top of it. These occurrences happen so often that we all see it as the norm in the most personal, spectacular, inclusive way.

I never try to convince others of how these pennies make their way from heaven to my family and me. I have no idea myself. All I know for certain is that it happens at those times when our hearts crave the connection the most, and we know it is not a coincidence. The most delightful part is that we aren’t consciously expecting them, we are living our lives and they just seem to appear when our need is the greatest.

My father’s passing left huge holes in our hearts. Every time a penny arrives, we remember him and the love of family he left behind. That is a legacy, a miracle, that my family knows we are blessed to have, and we cherish it every time we are visited by his spirit of love.

~Maureen Buckley

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