David loved coins of all kinds. He was one of the few people I knew who would actually stop to pick up a penny. So it was no surprise to me that after her beloved father’s death, Abby began finding coins in droves everywhere we went.
“That’s from your daddy. It means he’s watching out for you,” I’d say when she’d spot yet another coin on the sidewalk, the floor of a grocery store, or in the library. It was usually pennies, but she’d also find dimes and even quarters. Like her dad, she now stops for pennies on the sidewalk, even slamming on the brakes of her bicycle one day for the copper circle she’d spotted. You’d think she was finding diamonds by the extent of her delight. Once while we waited in line at a Subway, my eyes widened in disbelief when Abby pointed to the floor where a plethora of coins lay in disarray. How could every other customer before us have failed to see nearly a dollar in change?
Each time he visited my house, my grandson Jacob would also find stray coins, his eyes brightening when I told him they were from Grandpa. I’d vacuum the rug right before their visit, and yet he’d discover a dime or a penny in the middle of the floor. “That’s from Grandpa,” I’d say, and his smile would light up the room. These comments were more for the children’s sake than anything. Like me, they must feel the loss of David acutely; the youngest daughter who adored her Daddy, and the grandson who shared a connection with his grandpa that I never quite understood. After the Subway goldmine, I couldn’t help but believe there was more to the coin finds than could be explained away by sheer coincidence or a heightened awareness of loose change. I admit I harbored some jealousy of the frequent signs from above that these two children have experienced. I yearned for that, myself.
The past ten days have been a roller-coaster of emotions. The morning of April 1st began with a 5:15 am phone call from my 9-year-old grand-daughter informing me the baby was coming. As I stumbled around in my dark bedroom, I assured her I would be right there. It was only after I hung up the phone that it occurred to me how odd it was that the phone call had come from her instead of my daughter. When I reached their house, little Becca informed me that her mom had tried to call me before the ambulance arrived. Ambulance? Apparently Elizabeth’s water had broke. When she went in the shower to clean up, she’d felt blood gushing from her. By this time, I was wide awake, and terrified. I called Emily to come take my place at the house while I went to the hospital, where I discovered Elizabeth hooked up to a bunch of monitors that showed the baby was fine. When I left town with Jacob for his appointment at the University of Iowa children’s hospital, I didn’t know if my daughter would be experiencing a c-section, but I prayed not. All I knew was that for the moment, she and the baby were fine and it was up to me to get Jacob to the appointment for a chemotherapy drug that might slow the growth of the cancer in his lungs.
“Why you cry Grandma?” Jacob asked me at lunch, one of the few words he said to me the entire day. Jacob is a very quiet boy but his brown eyes so like his grandfather’s spoke volumes. “I miss Grandpa,” I replied, as I quickly wiped away the few tears I’d been unable to hold back. It was true. I was missing David. He would have rushed to the hospital with me when I feared for my daughter’s life. He would have gone with me to an appointment where a doctor gently informed me that the parents would need to see a “palliative care team” as soon as possible. I know what “palliative care” means.
Where are you now? I asked God as I faced the reality of Jacob’s diagnosis. I feel so alone without my spouse. I miss David so much.
Elizabeth was still laboring when I brought Jacob home hours later, just in time to leave for a writing course I was teaching at a community college an hour away. I checked my cell phone immediately after class, where I was greeted with the text message that “healthy baby girl” had arrived shortly after 7:30. “Name?” I hurriedly texted back. Elizabeth had kept me in suspense for the entire nine months, with a name she had known since the day before she knew she was pregnant. “Amy Rose,” came the answer, and I whooped with joy in the empty classroom. Amy was my mother’s artist name, Rose her middle name. This baby is destined for creative genius.
Last night was the first night of the Bible Study I am facilitating at our church. I was humbled by the large turnout. I never imagined so many people would be looking for the same thing I had been searching for; a connection with God’s word. As we viewed the DVD presentation together, I wondered why I had cried when I’d previewed it. These words reminded me. “Do you think that God can speak to you today?”
Until David died, I would have said no. God reached me in July when I woke up one morning and couldn’t write. I’ve always been able to write; I wrote through those sleep-deprived years of parenting babies, through David’s cancer, through my mother’s cancer and the grief that followed her death, through Jacob’s diagnosis and the death of my husband. For four solid months after David’s death, I wrote. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing. And suddenly, other than my weekly couponing column, I couldn’t write a word. God took away my writing and asked me to “Be still.” This was an extremely frustrating and fearful time for me, and it lasted for several weeks. It was during that time that I learned to listen to God. I attempted to explain this to those who attended the Bible study last night, and as I explained it, I felt a great sense of peace, and yes~excitement~ flow through me. “If I can do nothing else than help some of you learn to listen, to hear the voice of God, then my purpose for this Bible study will be fulfilled. And I think we can help each other.” As I spoke I was keenly aware of how little I’d heard from God in recent days. I’ve been scouring the Internet, looking for anything at all that might benefit Jacob, and getting increasingly frustrated. Where are your answers for Jacob? Are you still there, God?
I’m still learning. I need help in my own prayer life. It is true. As others have told me and I have read; as believers, we need each other.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
After the class, I returned to the table of materials, filling a box with the remaining journals and handouts. Tables and chairs were being put away. Several attendees stopped on the other side of the table to tell me how thankful they were for the class and to ask about Bibles. Gradually, the room emptied. Kathy, the Director of Religious Education in our parish, went to put the money in the office. Kathy, my new friend, had been instrumental in getting this study organized.
I was alone. I closed my eyes for a minute, reveling in the quiet and thinking about what had just transpired. When I turned to get my purse, I spotted it, and my breath caught in my throat. There it was; a bright shiny dime, face down in the middle of the floor behind me, a dime that could not have been there just a minute before because I would have seen it. It was an unmistakable beacon of shiny brightness against the carpet. I felt my pulse quicken. Tears of relief and joy stung my eyes as I bent down to pick it up, clasping it tightly in the palm of my hand.
I am where I am supposed to be. I am doing what you want me to do.
Only later, inside my vehicle, did I think to look at the date. 2005.
Jacob was born in 2005.