When I was nine, my grandfather died. Actually, I’m not sure how old I was. I may have been younger, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t older. In any case, my exact age isn’t important here. We’ll call it nine and move on with the story.
Some time after that, my dad took my older brother and I to Pennsylvania. We had family up there- my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I hadn’t seen most of them since I had been a flower girl in my uncle’s wedding, and that had been at least three years (and two cousins) before this story.
I remember really enjoying this trip: playing with my cousin Paige, who is only a few months younger than me, a trip to McDonalds (no idea why this sticks out, but it might have something to do with the giant ball pit), at least a dozen rounds of Pretty Pretty Princesses (which my older brother refused to take part in), drives to see the old house that my dad and his siblings had grown up in, and at least one evening of playing stickball in the street until the streetlights came on.
But the thing I remember most is the trip to the graveyard.
It was one afternoon, probably close to the end of the visit. I remember that the headstone was missing from the grave site (simply because it hadn’t been delivered yet), and I was very concerned that someone might forget which end of the grave that the feet were at. There was a young tree right next to the grave, and I remember thinking that I would like a tree next to my grave one day. That way, my ghost could spend all day in a tree reading. (I was a strange child, even at nine.)
As we got ready to leave, my dad reached into his pocket and pulled out three pennies. He set them in a row on the grave, right over where my grandfather’s heart would have been. There was a penny from 1984, one from 1986, and one from 1992, the birth years of my two brothers and I. (Sorry to any of the other siblings reading this- you guys came along later.) My dad said it was so that my grandfather would know that we had come to visit him.
That was sixteen (or so) years ago, and I can still remember walking away from the grave site, holding my dad’s hand and looking back at the mound of freshly laid grass. I don’t know if my grandfather saw us there that day, or if people even really do look down on us from Heaven, but I do know that I remember those three pennies in a line, and the lessons that I learned about the importance of family that day.
While looking up images for this blog post, I came across a lot of discussions about leaving coins at grave sites. It’s apparently a more common practice than I thought, and there are dozens of meanings behind it. This made me wonder- has anyone else left coins at a grave? What inspired you to do so? Let me know in the comments below.