My friend, Ann, finds pennies in the strangest places. She even found one in the tiny skull skeleton of a squirrel in her yard. Skull skeleton of a squirrel—try saying that 10 times fast.
I’m sure I wrinkled my nose and shrieked, “Gross!” when she told me, but to Ann, it wasn’t gross at all. It was beautiful.
Everything about finding that penny that day in that particular way reminded her of her son, Matt, who died when he was 23 years old. She felt like he was saying, “Mom, it’s OK.”
I can understand the beauty in that. Every time I find a penny hiding somewhere unexpected, I think of God. Pennies from heaven. They remind me that God sees me and loves me and is way bigger than any problem I’m facing.
Sunday is Easter. It’s a time to rejoice, knowing that Jesus not only paid for our sins, but he also overcame hell for each of us who turns to him. Heaven awaits, but that doesn’t always make life easier in the here and now when we are missing someone we love.
Barbara Trieglaff lost her 48-year-old daughter, Lisa Jahnke, almost two years ago. She says there were so few resources for kids on coping after a loss that her other daughter, Kara Scheer, felt compelled to write a children’s book. “The Whisper of a Firefly” encourages families to find comfort in the signs they may see after losing a loved one. Stephanie Astrup of Fargo provided the delightful, whimsical illustrations, and there are several pages in the book where children can add their own artwork.
Barbara says looking for signs is a powerful tool for helping people survive after a loss.
“Our daughter, Lisa, was a teacher in the gifted program at Fargo Public Schools until cancer took her in June 2014. While there was an outpouring of love at the time of the illness and again during the funeral, there is nothing that can prepare you for the days afterward when you realize that she’s really gone and we have to find a way to cope without her.
“In the days and weeks following Lisa’s death, we had family get-togethers that always led to memories of Lisa. Soon we realized we weren’t just sharing memories, but more than that. We were experiencing signs.”
Many of those signs are included in the book, including one especially meaningful to Barbara.
“We built a house, planted trees and waited several years for the beautiful eastern bluebirds to make a home in our yard, but they just wouldn’t come. The night before she died, I whispered to Lisa, ‘See what you can do about the bluebirds.’ She whispered back that she would try. The next morning, Lisa was gone, but in the apple tree were two bluebirds.”
My heart is hurting for Barb, Kara, my friend Ann and all of you who have lost someone too soon. I want you to know, I am praying for you, that this Easter brings you a peace and joy that is beyond understanding, and that God fills your day with signs of how much you are loved.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.