Anne Notations

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Not ten strides into a walk with Daisy, I saw the little copper disk winking from the sidewalk: a penny. "Thanks, Mom," I said automatically, stooping to pocket the coin.

You will never see me knowingly pass a stray penny, and not just because lately I've become obsessively thrifty. Pennies are so essentially worthless that their future existence has been debated for at least a decade.

I save pennies because [gets ready to lose at least half the readership here] in my heart I suspect my late mother has placed them in my path. Either her, or my late father-in-law. I say in my heart because that makes it a matter of hope, not reason.

Part One: The penny thing started with my late father-in-law, a retired railroad electrician who was felled by asbestos-related mesothelioma at the age of 77. He died in the hospital less than a month before his 13th and last grandchild - our son Kevin - was born in the summer of 1992. We were bereft.

One afternoon I was leaving our local supermarket with two-year-old Melinda and baby Kevin when a train whistled loudly across town, its wail blown to us on the west wind. "There's Grandpa saying hi," I said to Melinda. Dad had worked for Conrail all his life.

As the kids and I approached our car, suddenly a white SUV next to us began blaring its horn: the car alarm had gone off for no apparent reason. Melinda swiveled to look at the noisy vehicle and began pointing at something in the shadow of its front left tire. I leaned down and saw a handful of pennies on the pavement. As I reached for them I heard myself saying to the kids, "Grandpa put these here for us. They're pennies from heaven."

It's just a phrase, right?

As I backed our car out of the parking spot, I punched the radio button to WGBH, the public FM station in Boston. In those days, its weekday afternoon programming was devoted to "the great American songbook" - popular music from earlier in the 20th century.

This is when things got weird. The song that was playing on the radio at that very moment was - no lie - "Pennies From Heaven." What, seriously, are the odds?

Part Two: Fall 1998. Two days after my mother died of cancer, everyone in my family saw something unusual. I was driving our boys to elementary school across town in Providence that morning, and as I turned south on a city street, a rectangular patch of sparkling rainbow appeared in the morning sky right in front of us. Andrés, then 12, immediately blurted, "Look, Mom – it's Grandma!" Not a question; a cry of recognition. Five miles away in a different town, our daughter was in the playground waiting for her school to open. She happened to look straight up and saw the ribbon of colors, and yelled for her playmates to see. Thirty miles away, my bereaved father went outside to put his coffee grounds in the compost pile and gasped at the vivid colors in the blue sky above. Out on Buzzard's Bay in their boat that day, my brother and his wife saw the rainbow, too. Later we called one another: Did you see that? Wasn't it gorgeous?

For the next six months, Mom greeted us at least several times a week as a shred of hovering rainbow. Driving home from Easter dinner at my brother's house, we saw it glowing at the edge of a spectacular sunset in the western sky. I've never before or since witnessed so many sundogs – more technically known as parhelia – in a comparable span of time.

One day as I began walking back to work from our Providence house, where I'd gone for lunch, I looked up and glimpsed the familiar rainbow – except this time, it was a circle around the sun! Think of the white sun ring that sometimes signals snow on the way, but instead of white, this was a multicolored prismatic hoop.

"Mom," I thought, "if you are making these rainbows for us, please give me a sign. Send me something the way Dad D. sent pennies after he died." It didn't seem odd at all that the second I resumed my walk, I saw a familiar coppery glint on the sidewalk before me: not one but two brand-new pennies shining directly in my path. I still have them, tucked in a jewelry box with family mementos.

Everything is chance. Or: There are no coincidences. Life is random, and we are hapless and buffeted. Or: There is a logic to it all, and we need to keep our minds open wide because pieces of eternity can fall through the cracks of time and three-dimensional space. It would be a shame not to witness them.


  • I think this is just so nice. Thank you.

    By Blogger Marsosudiro, at Wed Mar 18, 01:04:00 AM EDT  

  • Synchronicity! Like my More-Than-Dreams, I totally believe that your encounters were exactly that. I loved this entry.

    By Blogger bozoette, at Wed Mar 18, 09:30:00 AM EDT  

  • Enjoyable, Anne.
    I too stop to pick up pennies...

    By Anonymous r_weeks, at Wed Mar 18, 08:44:00 PM EDT  

  • I loved this post, Anne. It's beautifully written and the sentiment is very close to my heart. I believe G-d (and people who have passed)wants to talk with us, and signs are one of His ways to do so. I often ask for signs and encounter responsiveness, startling so at times. It feels to me like a matter of heart and belief.

    This is so gorgeous: "pieces of eternity can fall through the cracks of time and three-dimensional space"

    Thank you so much.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Mar 18, 11:18:00 PM EDT  

  • Maayan: It may interest you to know that when I saw the hoop rainbow and found the two pennies, I was on a sidewalk next to the huge, beautiful Conservative temple in our old neighborhood. The temple building is topped with a white dome that can be seen for blocks against the blue skies, and I always found my spiritual antennae quivering when I walked by it. Puzzle pieces.....

    By Blogger Anne D., at Thu Mar 19, 08:27:00 AM EDT  

  • Subject to interpretations:

    This has been a prosperous week for me at work. Let go of one bad thing (despite some money attached to it), and was given energy to focus on good things. Focused on good things, and was granted much money for more than some of it.

    Woke up early today to run a cold morning 5k, something I rarely do. Set a goal to simply finish without stopping.

    Just before the halfway mark, I saw a penny on the road. Smiled and thought of you. Thought about picking it up. Then thought I'd leave it for another. Not that a penny is ever bad, but the bigger goal was to finish my run without stopping.

    Smiled as I left it in the distance behind me. Finished the race in under my age, which made me happy, as did the sunshine.

    By Blogger Marsosudiro, at Sat Mar 21, 02:53:00 PM EDT  

  • That is an interesting puzzle piece! I experience words as alive and feel/sense places absorb words. Almost as if walls can tell whole stories, and just as (at least as I experience it) the anger in cursing lives in the places they are spoken, so too, prayer resounds in spaces. It seems as if the sanctity of the place you were near when finding the pennies and seeing the rainbow facilitated a ladder-between-heaven-and-earth eternal moment.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 22, 07:00:00 PM EDT  

  • Anne, this is COOL. :D

    Seriously, I could go on and on about the signs I've seen, and maybe we are seeing what we want to see, but it's things like this that can us through some days. Fabulous story.

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Thu Apr 02, 12:13:00 AM EDT  

  • What a beautiful post! That song is not random, there's something about pennies. I've never seen the word prismatic before and really like it. Words! I pray for visitations and signs, but I don't get them - probably don't believe enough.

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Sun Mar 28, 01:09:00 AM EDT  

  • What a comforting post for me - it makes me feel better to know others have experienced the same.

    The rainbow thing - I'll share a story... right before my dad died, my son and I were in the backyard and the most amazing rainbow appeared. We both looked at it, then at each other and I said "I hope Poppa (my dad) catches a ride on the rainbow soon..." as he was in severe pain from bone cancer. He died 2-3 days later.

    The rainbow was unlike any I've seen since but unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it. My son and I still remember what we call "Poppa's rainbow".

    This is such a wonderful connection to the other world, don't you think?

    By Blogger Have Myelin?, at Sat Oct 15, 10:14:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home