Dimes started turning up almost immediately after Brandon passed in January 2008. We noticed them in all sorts of places—single dimes showing up in strange places, like the floor of some random restaurant, and in familiar places, like on the arm of our living room recliner, where we knew there hadn’t been a dime before. My sister-in-law Cheryl found the first one on the frozen snow- and ice-covered sidewalk when we were on our way to the funeral home for the visitation. Both Cheryl and I had heard stories about people finding coins, particularly dimes, as signs from loved ones after they passed, but I was quite skeptical at first and didn’t give much thought to the idea. But there were so many dimes at the beginning it was hard to ignore and write them off. I began journaling about it every time someone in our family found a dime. That was really the catalyst that started my book.
The dimes were always shiny, not because they were new but because they seemed to give off a little extra light of their own. It was as if Brandon wanted to make sure we didn’t miss them, as if he was trying to get us to pay attention to his attempts to communicate with us and and would not give up until everyone in the family became believers. That’s always the way he did things when he was here on earth, hard and fast, with emotion and conviction.
My skepticism about the dimes ended in April of 2008 when I was on vacation in Florida. My friend Kathy was collecting seashells at the water’s edge and saw something wash up onto the beach out of the ocean. A wave took it back into the water before she could pick it up, then it washed up again and she grabbed it. It turned out to be a very corroded coin. She knew about the dime stories and immediately brought the coin from the ocean over to me; I was lying on the beach reading a magazine.
My friend Debbie had begged me to come on this vacation with her and Kathy, to get out of the Iowa cold and relax. At first I didn’t want to; I couldn’t even leave the house during those first months after Brandon died. But then Debbie and Kathy convinced me to meet them there and spend a week going to the beach and eating out in restaurants. Now that I was here I was glad I had come. It felt good to lie in the sun, and the ocean always relaxes me.
Kathy was shaking with excitement when she handed me the corroded coin that had washed up out of the ocean. “I can’t tell if it is a penny or a dime,” she said. I took a close look at it and determined it was a dime. A dime out of the ocean, I thought. Wow. I felt a shiver go up my spine. I put the coin inside the zipper pocket in my purse so I wouldn’t lose it and when I got home I showed it to Kenny and told him where it came from. He held it in his hand and stared at me, looking a little shocked. We looked closely at it in the lamplight but we couldn’t see the date on it. In August, four months later, we took the dime to a coin collector at the Iowa State Fair because we were curious about what year was on it.
I’d been protecting that dime with my life; I put it in a jewelry box in my bedroom and if I was going somewhere for more than a couple of hours I took the dime with me. At one point I thought I had misplaced it and I felt sick, then I found it among some of the other dimes we’d found and saved in a teacup. I carried it to the fair in my purse, zipped into the inside pocket of my purse. The coin collector in Pioneer Hall took a close look at it under a giant magnifying glass and told us the year on the dime was 1984. Kenny, Cody, Britni, and I all looked at each other with wide eyes. 1984 is the year Cody, Brandon’s younger brother, was born. We all stared at each other silently. Finally, I said, “This has to be from Brandon.” Kenny, Cody, and Britni all nodded. I felt as if Brandon was saying to me, “What are the chances, Mom, of finding a dime washed up from the ocean, in Florida, with my brother’s year of birth on it?” And I also felt as if he was trying to tell me to please focus on Cody.
That dime—along with the countless others we found during that year and in the years that followed—brought us a sense that Brandon is still part of us and our everyday lives. Every single time a dime showed up it gave us a feeling that Brandon was in the room.
Everyone in my family and our immediate group of friends started commenting and sharing our stories with each other. Everyone who found a dime—often when they were having a tough time or there was a significant event going on in their lives—would give me a call and share the story with me. “Guess what I found today?” they would always start off by saying, and I would always say, “Where did you find it?”
We learned that sometimes the year on the dime would have a significant meaning. Not just the year of Cody’s birth on the dime that came out of the ocean, but at other times too: On my fifty-fifth birthday I found a dime in the parking lot where I worked that had Brandon’s year of birth on it. And once when my friend Debbie’s daughter, Ashley, visited—her first time ever to come to our house—Debbie found a dime in her car that had the year Ashley and Brandon graduated from high school.
And the dimes keep on coming. Today my daughter, Brandon’s sister, Jessica, found a dime on the floor in a laundry room in Phoenix where there hadn’t been one before. She says that every time she finds a dime it brings her peace. She knows that Brandon is nearby and watching over her. I feel the same way. Everyone in my family does.