Yesterday Bill and I attended a wake. This was not a personal friend, but a local business owner Bill had known most of his life and I have known since I moved to New Jersey 26 years ago. He was a kind man with a ready smile for everyone, so I guess it was no surprise that when we arrived just after 2:00 for the 2-4 visiting hours, there was already a line to get into the funeral home. A long, long line. I’ve never waited in line to pay my respects to anyone before, but Bill and I waited almost an hour and a half, much of it outside in the cold, to pay our respects and to honor this gentleman.
As we got closer to the room in which the family was politely greeting this massive crowd of people through their obvious tears, I quite suddenly began to feel uneasy. Woozy. Within about two minutes I was certain my yogurt and fruit was going to make a second appearance in front of a huge crowd, something I really did not want to happen. Bill looked at me and knew. “I’m going to be sick,” I said. We had just gotten into the doorway of the room where the family stood. “Sit down,” he said. So I sat while he wound his way around the room. I stood up as Bill got closer to the family. “Why don’t you just sit; I’ll do it,” he said. But I insisted that I wanted to say something to this family, and I did. Then we left.
The whole time we were in that long line, I kept thinking of my dad and the fact that he should have had long lines outside of the funeral home to pay respects to him. My dad was worthy of that, wasn’t he? He was kind, and patient, and did carpentry for many people in his community, and everyone liked him, and… Then, reality. My dad probably never even met as many people in his whole life as were on that line. The communities these two men—the pharmacist and my dad the carpenter—lived and worked in simply could not have been more different. So I tucked the idea back, an errant thought put away like a strand of hair being tucked behind my ear.
We had to make a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home. As we stood in line, I obviously did not look good because Bill asked if I wanted to go wait in the car while he checked out. I took the key and headed for Otto Pilot. At one point as I was walking, I looked down and there was a shiny penny. I picked it up, grasped it tightly, and smiled.
Now before I go on, allow me to explain that I am open to signs. I am open to many things, none of which has ever happened. I’m the sort of person who has dragged poor Bill to haunted hotels all across America, hotels in which I lie awake and silently plead to the resident ghost, “Okay, I’m open to you, but you’re going to have to show up and prove that you exist.” They never have. We’ve gone to haunted restaurants, on ghost walks, and on one memorable ghost expedition in New Orleans led by a woman who was quite obviously under the influence. Yet still, nothing. So while I am open to signs of all kinds, I selfishly want proof. I want something to happen to me before I believe.
When I got into the car I finally loosened my grasp on the penny and looked at it closely. Then I saw the date. “2015.” The year my dad died. I gasped. Now many people will say that finding change outside of a grocery store is not strange. Agreed. They will say that 2015 is a logical date to find on a coin in 2018. Agreed.
But finding a penny at that moment, when I felt so sick, while I had been thinking about my dad’s wake, with the year 2015 on it? I can’t help but believe that my dad was letting me know he was there. He wanted to comfort me, to make me aware that he’s always watching, and to let me know that everything will be all right. And if not, at least he is with me. I don’t know if this was a sign or not, but right now? I’m happy believing it was. Thanks, Dad.