Life is too short not to stop and smell (pick up) the roses (feathers).
Birds of a feather stick together.
It all started on the day of his funeral. I was attempting to eat a bite of the same pickle I’d worked at for over an hour, when a relative, Jan, grabbed me. Nothing against it, that’s just the way it is in a small town. Where you grew up. Where your parents lived for most of their lives. Where you were baptized and married in that same church. You have a lot of people to talk to when it’s the day of your dad’s funeral.
I set the pickle down next to my uneaten ham and gave Jan a hug. As we said a lot of the same things I’d been saying for a week, she told me that she really liked my blog about Rachel leaving me dimes. I loved hearing that she had read it and it spoke to her. But her daughter, Tanya, hadn’t seen it, so when she inquired, Jan and I told her about how Rachel leaves me dimes. Tanya hadn't heard of heavenly dimes, but she had heard of loved ones leaving feathers.
I didn’t have much time to think about feathers, because I tried to sit down to again take a bite out of that same pickle and talk to my bestie Ashley, but I was whisked away once more to be hugged.
It actually started a month prior to Dad’s funeral, when I was cleaning my car on a Wednesday. It wasn’t just any old Wednesday, it was the Wednesday that Dad elected to go under Hospice care. I sat with Mom and Dad as we met with the nurses, and then I drove home. In an effort to occupy my mind and do something that Dad loved, I cleaned out my already clean car.
My lips to God’s ear, I found a dime. It was in the furthermost corner of the opening on the passenger side door. It wasn’t even visible until my head was way down there detailing. I called Sean so he could see it, too. And I couldn’t help but reiterate what we both already knew - hardly anyone ever rides with me in that car.
It actually started earlier that day. I walked down my staircase, sad that I was heading to Mom and Dad’s new home where I worried Dad would die, and probably soon. Amongst a few other random kid things, I spotted a quarter on the stairs. And for just a second, I got so excited and then bummed. I hadn’t found a Rachel dime since last October and wondered if she’d ever leave me another one.
A few days after that day, Sean spoke with Rachel’s mom, Pat, and let her know that Rach had left me another dime. Pat told Sean that I needed to start looking at the years on the dimes, because they have significance. The dime from Rach in my car, on the day Dad entered Hospice care, well, I was already carrying it in my pocket. I took it out to look at the year and made out 2002. That reference was easy enough, we both graduated from high school in 2002 … but upon further thought, we didn’t. I graduated in 2002, Rach was a year older than me.
It made no difference, that special dime was mine to keep. It would help me get through the rough days ahead with Dad’s failing health.
Until that dime wasn’t in my pocket. A few days after Dad died, I went to the photo shop to copy some pictures. When I got home that evening, it wasn’t there. I was nearly distraught. How could it have fallen out of my jeans? I pulled at all my pockets and even returned to the photo shop a day later to no avail. The most special dime Rach had left me, was gone.
I tried to tell myself there was a reason. Maybe she was reminding me that things come, and things go. Life is fleeting. But it didn’t help. I couldn’t believe I lost it.
Until I got to Bowman for Dad’s funeral. Sean called me the night before he left with the kids and said, “I found your dime.”
“It’s in your office, behind your chair. You must have dropped it back there. When I went in once, I saw it. So I shut your door and kept the kids out. I want you to pick it up.”
When I returned from the funeral, I couldn’t wait to get to my dime. Life felt so uncertain, and I knew I was already walking the line of my new life and new grief. I picked it up and looked right at the front. Alongside the head, was a weird red mark I didn’t remember, and the year 2001. I was so overjoyed that my golden dime had been returned to me, I convinced myself that in my farsighted nature, I had previously read the year wrong. This was the dime. It had to be the same dime.
A few weeks later, with my new grief in my new life, I pulled those jeans off the hanger to wear. And out dropped a dime. How could it be? I had searched and searched those pockets. There it was in the rolled-up cuff.
The year: 2002.
Quite a few thoughtful cards rolled into my address during those weeks. In what is completely not my character, I didn’t even want to read them. And even more out of character, I didn’t want to write thank you notes back. I felt (and still do) afraid to even touch my pain with a stick. But I did read the cards and write the notes in return. And when I reread one, from an old friend’s mom, I noticed how she said I’d see my dad in a lot of places. … in the bird outside the window … and for some reason, that really stuck with me.
And then I took a walk.
I walk a lot these days. I’m on hiatus from the pool. I’m often sad on my walks, because old habits die hard, and that’s my time to feel the feels. I’m sick of the same old health problems. Tired of the worn-out conversations about the uncertainty of my life. Sick of grief. Tired of AE.
And on that walk, on that day, just as I felt overwhelmed, I looked down. And there was a feather. Right smack dab in my path.
I picked it up and smiled.
If you read Unwillable, you know my dad was quiet and reserved. And as his health wore at him, he became more and more soft and contemplative. He wasn’t hyperactive like me. And he had a way about him that led you to believe he wasn’t going to sweat the small stuff. That things would work out one way or another.
And in all the walks I’ve taken since that first feather, I always find another one. And another one. It’s usually right when I get to my boiling or angsty or sad point, and I look down, and there it is.
Like today. Angry. Fuming. Jackie. Sick of it all, Jackie. And there it was. First the little clump of feathers I stopped to just touch and feel. And I always say, I know, Dad. I know.
And then the big one I picked up later. And carried.
I know, Dad. I know.
I’ve saved a few feathers, but not all of them. The kids picked up three perfectly placed ones in the backyard just the other day. And they knew they were from Grandpa.
The feathers keep me going, just when I need them the most.
Because I know what Dad is telling me.
That everything is going to be alright.
And that’s good.
I’ve got dimes and feathers to prove it.
Miracles are everywhere. You just have to believe. And look for them.
Love - jms
“When you wake up early in the morning Feelin’ sad like so many of us do Hum a little soul, make life your goal And surely something’s got to come to you
“And say it’s all right Say it’s all right It’s all right, have a good time ‘Cause it’s all right, whoa, it's all right ~ It’s Alright by The Impressions (and so many other artists) (Jon Batiste’s cover from the Disney movie Soul is soo good!)
/ / The JM Stebbins blog is an autoimmune encephalitis blog from former lawyer and autoimmune encephalitis survivor, Jackie M. Stebbins.
Jackie M. Stebbins is also the author of Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim my Brain, a book about autoimmune encephalitis, resilience, hope, and survival. / /