“You’re finding pennies aren’t you?”
A few months after we lost our son Jimmy, my wife Hilary, Jimmy’s older sister, Brittany, and I went to see Tarra. Tarra is a medium and was recommended to us as “the real deal” by another family who had also lost a son. A couple of years later we went with Tarra to a Chris Botti concert at Humphreys By The Bay in San Diego. In the middle of his show, Chris introduced her and asked her to stand up and tell the crowd of 1,000 plus what she does. “I talk to dead people!” Tarra shared proudly and loudly. Chris laughed nervously, “Well, that may be a little more than folks want to know,” and launched into a new song. He knows it’s true.
After introductions—we had not given our last name or the reason for our appointment—Tarra grabbed Hilary’s hands. “You have lost a child—I am so sorry. A son. A “J” name. James?” Jimmy. After we picked ourselves up off the floor, Tarra asked for some of our things—jewelry, items in our pockets. I gave her my old, bulky Casio watch and a penny. She curiously fondled the watch and asked me, “Where’s the watch Jimmy left for you? He wants you to wear it.” I’ll come back to the watch.
Tarra looked at the penny. “You’re finding pennies all the time, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I said. “I found that one next to me when I was working out at my gym two days ago.”
“Jimmy is leaving those for you.” I smiled.
Within weeks of Jimmy’s death, I began finding pennies. In my closet, my office, restaurant tables. Everywhere. I continue to find them. My biggest “find” to date was a few weeks ago at the Shell station near my office. Four of them! All there at my feet as I stood pumping gas.
Upping the Ante
I’m not the only one, of course, who receives presents from the departed. Shortly after its release in 2010, I read a wonderful book, Messages, by Bonnie McEneaney. She collected some incredible stories from folks who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center on 9-11. Bonnie’s husband, Eamon, was one of those who perished, but only after saving the lives of sixty-three others in his tower. Hilary astutely observed “Think of all the energy that was released when those poor souls left here so quickly without a chance to say goodbye. Of course they would want their loved ones to know they are nearby and ok.”
Here is an excerpt from Bonnie’s book. If you haven’t read Messages—get it.
It turns out many who lost loved ones in the Towers that day found coins that seemed to come out of nowhere on a regular basis—pennies, dimes and even quarters as recounted in this story by Lisa about her husband.
When Timmy and I first met, we had this thing about quarters. It started at work. One day somebody was singing the song ‘A Penny for Your Thoughts’. In the song the singer promises a nickel for some kisses and a dime for saying I love you. The guys began to throw coins, mostly pennies, nickels and dimes. Timmy threw a quarter at me. I threw one back. This happened lots of times….We hadn’t started dating yet…Timmy was my boss! I took the first quarter he threw at me and taped it to a piece of cardboard with a little picture of him. I put it in my wallet and carried it around with me. Later, when we both knew we were serious about each other, he opened his desk drawer one day and showed me his quarter collection. He had kept every quarter I ever threw at him….
After he died, I started finding quarters in strange places, and I could find no explanation except that somehow they were from Timmy. The first one I found was in my bed under the covers! …I found them stuck behind the frames of pictures that were hung on the wall. I found them in my shoes, and I found them in my pants pocket…which may not seem unusual to most people, but I have always had a thing about not putting money in my pockets.
Last year we shared a great story on Write Me Something Beautiful by Mike Lueth, a childhood friend from Itasca. Trust Me, Michael. Shortly after reading our book, Suffering Is the Only Honest Work, Mike sent me another one.
About Jimmy’s pennies, as you know my mom and dad died within three months of one another in 1994. Their house wouldn’t be sold until the following spring and so I would drive out there after each snowfall to clear the driveway. After a particularly heavy storm, I loaded the snow blower into my pick-up truck and headed out to Itasca. I parked the truck on the street at the end of the driveway so as not to compact the snow with the weight of the truck and walked up to the side door to go inside before starting to clear the drive. As I looked down at my hand for the right key for the door, I noticed two quarters sitting gently on top on the snow. Right next to each other. How did they get there?! There were no other footprints other than those I left walking up from my truck. Had they fallen out of my pocket somehow? If they had, the force from the weight and the three-foot fall would have driven them down into the snow.
Since then we have found dimes in random and odd places. Multiple dimes. Maybe a few dozen in the past twenty-plus years. They always seemed to appear in times of stress, worry – as if someone is sending a comforting ‘thinking about you’ message. I had always attributed their appearance to my mom since she was a banker. She handled the money and all that – just made sense. But while reading your book it occurred to me that they were actually from my father.
My dad was kind of an absentee parent – he never attended my sporting events, never said he loved me, never played with me, had a conversation, nor wrote me a letter. He kept himself busy with the fire department, two bowling leagues and golf. The closest thing to an affirmation I ever got was on the last day I saw him alive. We had been handling some affairs of my mom’s estate and just hanging out – maybe we had gone into Elk Grove to buy a new lawn mower or to the restaurant for dinner. Anyway, at the end of the day he was sitting in a folding picnic chair in the garage as I walked down the driveway to my truck to head back home. He called out, “Thanks Mike.”
That’s all I ever got out him; acknowledgement wise. BUT, he was always the one I could go to for money, and it was usually a $20 bill. For a guy who didn’t make much money he always had a stack of bills in his wallet. Anyway it occurred to me that money was his way of showing love. So now I think the dimes and quarters are from him.
Pennies, dimes, quarters—all very cool and impressive—but, I think you will agree, this next story is pretty hard to beat. Lauren Hopkins shared this one with me shortly after reading Suffering.
I hope you don’t mind if I tell you a story of my first “close encounter” with my deceased husband. Richard was a healthy, athletic, physically-fit 47 year old man when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nine months later on December 27, 1998 he was gone. The sorrow was gut-wrenching. A cliché—I know—but it was.
Richard loved golf. He started later in life but got very good, very quickly. He also told me many times over the years his lucky number was 4. He even nailed an old brass number 4 to a wall in our garage.
A month after he passed, I was leaving for work early on a very foggy morning in San Diego. As I pulled out onto my driveway, I saw something on the lawn. It was white but I could not tell what it was. I was running late and, as a court reporter in U.S. District Court, those judges do not tolerate tardiness.
All day long I regretted not stopping to see what it was on my lawn, and was sure it would be gone by the time I got back home.
Not only was this “thing” still on my lawn but it was in a different spot, closer to the driveway! When I picked it up, I could not believe my eyes. In my hands was a white golf ball with this huge number “4” stenciled inside a big red circle! I know Richard was trying to communicate with me by placing that ball on our lawn. There is no golf course within miles of our house. I don’t play golf. I had never seen that golf ball nor any other remotely like it.
As a funny anecdote, when I showed the ball to our mutual friend—also Richard- and before I told him the story, he said, “What a crappy golf ball!”
I said, “Well, my husband wasn’t going to waste a good one!”
Back to our reading with Tarra. Where’s the watch Jimmy left for you? He wants you to wear it. What?! It simply was not possible for her to know about that—even if she had Jimmy’s name and spent a month Googling us. A few weeks after Jimmy’s death I was in his bedroom—that is before he took off six years earlier for college and a blossoming career as a writer in Los Angeles. It will always be his bedroom. I was packing up some of his things—clothes, books, baseball cards, sports medals…I opened the nightstand next to his bed—the bed he was supposed to have slept in that night—and found a watch. I watch we had never seen before. A very nice watch, in fact—a Rolex Explorer. A flood of questions. Was it Jimmy’s? Was he wearing it when he came home that last night? How long had it been in the nightstand?
Most of the mystery was solved the next day when Jimmy’s friend and mentor, Tom Strickler, came down from L.A. to have dinner with us. Towards the end of the evening he asked, “I don’t want to sound callous or materialistic, but by chance have you come across a Rolex watch? I gave one to Jimmy after we ran the 2007 Los Angeles Marathon.”
Jimmy’s and Tom’s friend, Evan, had gone to Jimmy’s bungalow in Laurel Canyon a few days after Jimmy left us. He found the Rolex Explorer box open on his writing desk. But it was empty.
“I was afraid someone may have walked off with it.” I excused myself and went into our bedroom closet to retrieve the watch. “That’s the one!” Tom confirmed.
I wore the watch a couple of times, but then I realized who was supposed to have it. I gave it to Brittany.
So…..Jimmy must have left the watch in the nightstand when he got to our house, and before he went out to meet up with friends. Right? There’s no way that watch could have found its way into the drawer after Jimmy said goodbye. That would be impossible. Wouldn’t it?
Pennies, dimes, quarters, golf balls and who knows—maybe even a Rolex. Our loved ones have an extraordinary ability to stay connected and leave us signs they are right here with us. ‘Hello!’
Of this, I have no doubt.
Do you have a story? Has someone been leaving messages for you? Please share them with me.