A Dollar from Jan
By Danita Cahill
Her name was Jan. She was Jennie, Juli, Jeff and Jim’s mom. But for years she was known as “Ma” to me and many of my Central Linn friends. Jan was friendly, motherly and she laughed a lot. She was a kick in the pants to be around. People were naturally drawn to her and her throaty, infectious laugh.
From 1986-1999, I owned and operated a retail nursery business in Shedd, Oregon along Hwy. 99E. The business was called DanCin’ Bloomers Greenhouse. Jan was a faithful customer. It was during my greenhouse years that I felt especially close to her.
When Jan was getting her yard ready for her daughter Julie’s wedding to Keith, she stopped in at my nursery time after time to buy flats and flats of flowers – she wanted to make her and her husband Doug’s yard a show place for the wedding.
In May of 2001, Jan passed away from complications of lung cancer. But before she passed, her daughter Jennie asked Jan to watch over their family. Jennie asked Jan to give them signs to let them know she was okay. Jan promised she would.
Jennie wrote a wonderful tribute to her mom and shared it with us here. Jennie wrote poignantly of signs she’s received from her mother. It’s among the most commented on posts on this blog to date.
In August of 2006, my mom Judy passed away from complications of colon cancer.
In her final days, Mom lay in her hospital bed in a coma from which she would never awake. During that time, my siblings and I held her hands, stroked her arms, talked to her and told her it was alright to go. I asked her to visit me in my dreams.
It took nearly two years before she finally did. Mom has visited me in my sleep a few times now over the years. And like she was in this world, Mom is unassuming in my dreams too, staying quietly in the background. I’ll wake up in the morning thinking about other bit players that made an appearance in my dream before it dawns on me that Mom was also there.
My mom believed in answered prayers, but I’m not sure how she felt about signs – giving or receiving them. I guess that’s why it didn’t occur to me to ask my mom before she died to give me signs of her love from beyond, as Jennie asked her mom.
Last month, I went on a writers retreat with four other women writers. We went to Neskowin, a charming village on the Oregon Coast. I’d reread some older posts on this blog a day or two before we traveled to the beach. Among those old posts was the one Jennie had written about signs from her mother. So, memories of “Ma,” her love of the beach, and her willingness to send signs to let people know she was thinking of them, were all fresh in my mind.
On Saturday morning of that weekend, I took a long, lone beach walk. During the walk I thought of my mom – she loved the ocean and my family lived at the coast for most of my growing-up years. I also thought of Jan. And Jennie’s story of finding the only sand dollar, whole and intact, one day on the beach – a sign from her mom.
Unlike the day Jennie found the sand dollar sent from above, on the beach the day I went there were pieces of broken sand dollars all over. I had a silent conversation with Jan. I said hello, told her I’d been thinking about her and asked her to show me a whole sand dollar. I kept walking and scanning the sand. Nothing but broken bits. I walked on for quite a ways before deciding to turn around and head back to our rental house to do some more writing on my novel. I had given up finding a sign from Jan. As I started to make the turn, I spotted it – a whole, perfect sand dollar.
“There you are,” I said aloud to Jan. I picked up the gift with a silent thank you and placed it gently in my jacket pocket.
It was the only whole, unbroken sand dollar that any of the five of us found in all of our beach combing walks that weekend. I mentioned the sign to my good friend Paty, who was one of the writers on the retreat.
I have not mentioned it again until now.
And I hesitated to write about it here.
My concern with retelling the story was mostly with how Jennie would feel. Her dad lives with them and he’s having health problems, so I didn’t want to do anything to cause her more stress. But then I remembered that she didn’t seem to mind sharing “Ma” when Jan walked the earth. So I doubted that she’d mind sharing her now.
When my mom was lying on the hospital bed in a coma, I wish I’d thought to ask her to send me signs, like Jennie asked her mom.
I wonder if it’s still not too late to ask her now.
What do you think?
Do you have any stories of signs or miracles that you’re willing to share with others here? If so, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you aren’t fully confident in your writing abilities, but can get the general outline of the story down, I’ll be happy to help fine tune it.
Copyright Danita Cahill. All rights reserved.