Peace is in short supply in the midst of grief.
Grief comes in waves, and when a strong wave crashes over us, we do all that we can; we search for evidence of the love left behind by the people we miss so dearly; we search for comfort. We find our loved ones in photos, belongings, and even in signs from above. A song on the radio, a molten sunset, a bird feather, a stray dime, or in my case, a penny. These sweet gestures from above signify our person continuing to walk beside us, cheering us on as we weather the storm. To most people, finding a penny simply represents good luck. While I agree, their meaning goes much deeper into my heart.
I hadn’t experienced the penny throwing phenomenon until last year when someone I love began tossing them down to me from above. It had only been a month since a good friend of mine died. I was in the middle of a Sheetz gas station—it was one of those nights when the waves were just a little stronger. I was buying a lottery ticket for the first time since we last scratched one together, since he last teased me for refusing to use anything but the shiniest penny I could find to scratch the numbers. I picked out my tickets, hearing him in the back of my mind the whole time shouting “Really?! The lottery again?!.. Wait! No. Not that one, pick this one!” As the tickets fell into the pick-up slot, my eyes landed on the shiniest, newest penny I had ever laid my eyes on, as if it were placed there just for me. Until that night, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was okay, if he was angry at the world the way I was, if he was happy in the clouds riding with the angels. But in that moment, with that penny staring back at me, there was no doubt in my mind that not only was he at peace, he was watching over us. What happened next can only be described as an overwhelming sense of relief. I felt like I no longer needed to worry about him, where he was, or if he was happy to be there.
I still find pennies, and when a bucket list item of mine became a reality, the number 444 also found its way into the penny category. I find traces of him everywhere—in a reassuring quote that comes at just the right time, a much needed phone call from a friend, a kind word from a stranger, and in people I know without a doubt were placed into my life for good reason. He had the biggest, most contagious smile on the planet, and when the memories of us pass through my mind, there isn’t a single one where he isn’t smiling. I know he would want us to do the same—life isn’t all that serious, and we’re all going to the same place anyway. And I know when I get to wherever he is, he’ll be smiling then, too. So the next time you’re missing the one you love the most and happen to come across a wandering penny, look up and know that they are looking down on you too, rooting for you every day.
No matter where you find your sense of calmness, it’s there, and it will come to you when you need it most.
In loving memory of Dylan Lee Hanks.