Pennies from heaven


We had so many traditions, some stemming back to when we first met, 24 years ago, on 6.16.1986.

616 was always an important number to us. It was also the date of our wedding on 6.16.1991, in the place we’d met five years before to the day. We usually called each other every day at 6:16 PM. We marked all the times that our restaurant bill would add up to some variation of the number. It still comes up; I ordered something from Amazon last weekend. Shipping & Handling: $6.16. It was a funny thing to look for but we knew it was just a long chain of coincidences. Superstition was just a fun pattern, a way to connect, like playing I Spy.

Wednesday was 6.16 again. As I have every year, I went to 18 W. 18 Street where we met and wed. This year I went with my sister, Miranda, Patti’s maid of honor. Over the years, what was once a restaurant, then another, and another, is now a children’s books shop. Where  we stood to be joined till death did us part, there’s now a cupcake counter. The cupcakes are made by the Cupcake Café. When Patti had her subway accident, she was on her way to pick up a cake from the Cupcake Café. She never made it, ending up instead in St Vincent’s Hospital (where she was declared death 14 years later, a week before the hospital was closed down forever). Two weeks later she missed going to 18 W.18 St on 6.16 for the very first time. This year she missed it again. Coincidence upon coincidence, but sadly proof of nothing.

I am reading The Lovely Bones. It makes me sad and I don’t know why I keep turning the pages. Susie Salmon watches her family (and the man who murdered her) from the after life. She follows their actions and their thoughts, hovering over and around them. She feels their pain, wishes she could contact them, but she is just a little girl forever more, beyond their reach. She believes that she’s in Heaven but to me it often seems like Hell.

I wish I could believe in ghosts or angels or spirits. People write to me to tell me that Patti is in Heaven, or watching over us, or waiting for us, or sitting with God, or one with the Universe, or waiting to be resurrected …. It would be so nice to think that she is hanging out with her mother and my grandmother in some wonderful place, and that we will join her soon and be with her forever.

I know you may be able to believe that and, believe me, I have tried to believe it too. Tried and failed. I can’t believe it, I can’t feel it, I can’t even imagine it. There is not even a flicker of doubt in my mind that Patti is no more and exists only in our memories and thoughts and in the cookie jar in my study.

Despite that, Patti does live on.

Just like my grandmother will always exist in the way I make beds, or can’t stand seeing dirty laundry on the floor, or the way I spread cream cheese on toast, or tend my garden. So I don’t need Patti to hover around my head or wear wings and play a harp or leave me five dollar bills neatly folded in fours. I don’t need to light candles for her or say Kaddish. I just need to hold her in my mind. if not my arms, and try to enjoy each day like she did. It’s a simple goal, a little trite, but easy to believe in. Even for an old skeptic like me.

11 thoughts on “Pennies from heaven”

  1. In the movie Dragonfly, the Linda Hunt character says to the Kevin Costner character “if we create this world with what we imagine, then why not the next?”

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. I’m not one who really believes those things people tell you either, Danny, but that’s never bothered me…

    I am a firm believer that those people we’ve loved who are now gone live on through us in so many beautiful ways. Every time I pick up a glass of wine, I hear my mom’s toast, “Rose-lipt maidens, lightfoot lads…” and hear her admonitions to “never forget your British heritage.” So many things I’ve incorporated into my own life are parts of her that are now parts of me, and maybe one day, my son will feel the same…I have so many sentimental “things” that are probably worthless to others, but precious to me, because I look around our home and think fondly of all those I loved who now “people” my home, gently reminding me, every day, of their lovely beings…


  3. I feel your pain, Mr. Danny. And am a skeptic, as well. WISH with all my heart, I ‘believed’. Life would be so much easier…….


  4. Danny, I too have no believe in an afterlife and am often accused of being soulless by friends (whatever that means). Your beautiful post perfectly sums up how you don’t need to believe in magic people with wings and harps to be full of soul and feeling. Nothing wrong if you do believe those things, it just doesn’t mean you are lacking anything if you don’t.

    Thank you for all the inspiration.



  5. Thanks for sharing Danny. Brought tears to my eyes but also awe that you always seem able to express feelings so beautifully, both in drawings and words. Patti is a part of so many peoples’ lives simply because of what you write, draw and share.


  6. Jeeze, that is quite a coincidence with 5 dollar bills. I have NEVER found one and I am older than you!
    I strongly believe in signs. Just keep an open mind to it all, as humans we certainly can agree we do not know it all (by a long shot!!!)


  7. I have always thought that humans created the idea of wings and an afterworld to just find some name, some place, for that incredible inheritance of energy that we keep of our lost ones, the one that you describe about your grandmother. In one sense, I believe they place upon us an inheritance of footprints, emotional maps, and in my experience – after at least one year of mourning – we are able to retrace those maps and make them alive again. Or maybe it’s just me, I’d rather have a mystery than a sweet explanation. And I still think that despite all of this the true crude pain is exactly in that knowing that someone dear is no more, never to be seen again. THAT is mindblowing.


  8. I choose to believe something else. Surely the vibrance and energy that define a person in life must equate to something after death. Like a comet that burns up in the atmosphere…perhaps their energy dissipates into a million atoms to become a piece of every living thing. But just gone, no, I can’t believe that because too many coincidences and oddities point to something else. My own cynical nature would ordinarily tend to the practical and logical. In this, the heart says otherwise.


  9. Hi Danny, I guess I lost track of you for a while, because I am just finding out about this turn of events in your life. I do believe in an afterlife, but even if you don’t, I think there is much to be comforted with in your take on it too. Patti will continue to exist in so many ways…in the many ways your life has changed because of her, in the ways you do things differently for having known her. Even in your drawings, because her accident led you there, to that place of sanity. In the fact that many of use are drawing today because of all of that. That’s a lot of richness for one person to leave behind.
    Much love
    Joyce Cole


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