Love, Life Stories

Even after my grandparents’ passing, they didn’t stop speaking to me

They decided that the pennies must be from Grandmother, and eventually the tradition evolved, so now we try to guess what she’s “saying.”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I was walking down the street with my mom today, listening to her talk about tax write-offs, when I stopped to pick up a penny. “Oh look,” I said, “A penny from Grandmother. She must be saying ‘Good job for finally teaching Grace about taxes.’”

The idea of a penny from heaven is a pretty cliché one. But in my mom’s family it has a bit of special meaning. My grandmother would always collect pennies, and put them in a little wishing well that she had. After she passed away at an early age, my mom, aunts, and cousins kept finding pennies all over around the time of the funeral. They decided that the pennies must be from Grandmother, and eventually the tradition evolved, so now we try to guess what she’s “saying.” My family still has our grandmother’s wishing well, and I still put all the pennies I find in it (even a few of the European ones that I collected when I was abroad!).

I was three when my grandmother died, so I don’t remember her. But just because she’s gone doesn’t mean that she’s no longer a part of my family’s life. She still remains alive through songs that she loved (I’m told Amazing Grace was one of her favorites), and stories that my mother and aunts and cousins tell.

I don’t remember my grandmother. But just because she’s gone doesn’t mean that she’s no longer a part of my family’s life. Click To Tweet

There are also ways that her voice and thoughts have been recorded more directly, like her poetry, which served as an outlet for her thoughts and feelings. A few years ago my mom took all of her poems, typed them, edited them, and compiled them into a book. I still haven’t had a chance to read the book, because my mom knew that some of the poems dealt with heavy subjects and wanted me to wait until I was older to read them. So when she recently said to me, “I should let you read Grandmother’s poems when you get home,” it really meant a lot to me. Not only did I feel responsible and mature, but I also looked forward to getting to know more about this woman who was so important in my family’s life.

My father lost his father when I was just two years old, meaning that I also have no memory of my paternal grandfather. But, just like with my grandmother, there are things that get passed down from generation to generation. My dad has told me many times that his dad enjoyed butterflies, and that he thinks of his father whenever he sees a butterfly. Because I’ve heard this story so many times I associate butterflies both with my father and with my grandfather.

There are also small connections that I’ve stumbled across myself. A few years ago someone I knew posted Max Ehrmann’s poem Desiderata on Facebook. I read it, really liked it, and printed a copy for my room. My dad came in, read it, and said, “My dad used to have this poem hanging up in his office.”  In that moment I felt connected to my grandfather, bonded by some shared taste in poetry. Since Desiderata is also a poem of life advice, I also got a deeper idea of what my grandfather’s values were.

In that moment I felt connected to my grandfather, bonded by some shared taste in poetry. Click To Tweet

I will never know my grandmother or my grandfather as well as my parents, their siblings and the cousins who are old enough to remember them. But every year on Father’s Day or his birthday or the day he died my aunt will post on Facebook about her father, and every time I will scroll through the comments and learn something new. Although these people are gone, there is still so much to learn about them, and from them.

I will never know my grandmother or my grandfather from their lives, but there is still so much to learn about them and from them. Click To Tweet

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a penny to go put in the wishing well.

Grace Ballenger

Grace Ballenger

Grace Ballenger is currently pursuing a BA at Wellesley College where she studies English and Spanish. One of her (too many) goals this summer is to make the list of musicals she wants to listen to shorter.

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