by Kathy Merlino, guest blogger
Kathy Merlino is the author of kathysretirementblog.com, a blog about her perspective and thoughts on the emotional side of retirement and her journey as a caregiver. She is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on non-financial retirement topics. Kathy believes retirement is a journey, not a destination. Readers can leave a comment on Twitter:@kathysretiremnt
Kathy’s article was originally posted on November 26, 2022. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
PKF: This personal reflection is timely for all of us retiring and retired individuals, especially those of us with elderly or ailing family members. For a loss of a loved one, we all have to face and cope with the five stages of grief:
Grief is personal and individual, and every person experiences its nuances differently. Your personality, your support system, your natural coping mechanisms and many other things will determine how loss will affect you. There are no rules, no timetables, and no linear progression. Some people feel better after a few weeks or months, and for others it may take years. And in the midst of recovery there may be setbacks — this nonlinear process can’t be controlled. It’s critical that you treat yourself with patience and compassion and allow the process to unfold.https://healgrief.org/understanding-grief
PKF: Check out their excellent article on the common signs and symptoms, triggers, myths and facts about grief as well as ways to take care of yourself, posted by healgrief.org here.
Shortly after Martin died, I walked down my long driveway to fetch the mail. Usually, I have little or none. But, in the days following his death, my mailbox held more than junk mail. There were sympathy cards and official letters from various institutions. As I pulled out the cache of the day, I saw something I’d never seen in my mail. A penny. It lay underneath the cards and letters and the ubiquitous junk mail. A penny so tarnished it almost faded into the background of the black metal floor of the box.
My mind flooded with the rhetorical questions. Who would leave a penny in my mailbox and why and how? I lived on a busy road, so someone walking by was unlikely. The leaving must have been thoughtful, intentional. “A penny for your thoughts” (Sir Thomas More) came to mind. Was it my faithful mail lady who left it? I lifted the penny out, slid it into my jean pocket, and walked back to the house. Inside, before turning my attention to the mail, I fished it out and set it on a mosaic trivet Martin had made in an art class.
Over the next couple of days, I eyed the penny still wondering how it got in my mailbox. Did a penny have any significance? “See a penny and pick it up and all day you’ll have good luck” (Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes). Since we can pretty much Google anything these days, my curiosity finally gave way to asking Google. To my surprise, a penny has significance for the deceased or their loved ones. In the case of a veteran, a penny left at the grave means someone visited. For a widow like myself, a penny in the mailbox represents a new beginning, a rebirth, renewal of your life. A penny being first and one represents singularity. If you are part of a couple, one of you will die first leaving the other alone, single.
I’ve been alone for nearly eighteen months. While Martin still lived, it was not with me. If there is a silver lining here, it’s that I had ample time to adapt to my aloneness and grieve this impending, profound, enormous loss in my life. The outcome? I was not filled with the expected feelings of grief. Rather, as I held Martin during his final moments, I cried tears of gratitude for the end of his suffering. He was free of this disease. I was free of this disease. Our family was free of this disease. Relief instead of deep sorrow. Comfort in knowing he was at peace. As I stroked his face, I noted how serene his countenance. Peace at last.
Though I’ve had fits of grief, I’ve also felt immense joy when contemplating my future. During the last year, I deliberately divested myself of anything which smacked of negativity in my life. I decluttered the house paring my personal belongings. I feel washed clean, ready for a new start. Martin would want that for me. A friend asked if I thought Martin’s spirit left the penny. I would like to think so. I may never know who left the penny in my mailbox, but it is now my talisman for fresh beginnings, rebirth, a reawakening of my life’s potential. And a second chance at the retirement we dreamed of.
Other articles by Kathy Merlino. Thank you for sharing!
© 2022 Paul K. Fox