“A Father, A Son and a Couple of Nickels”
by Terri J. Kallio
Years ago, Darrell had gone to meet a friend for a beer at a local pub. His friend’s son had been killed in a car accident the night of graduation and in spite of the months that had passed the pain in his heart was like a wound that would not heal. A stranger who was sitting close enough to hear the conversation suddenly walked over to their table and ask if he could sit with them as he had a story to share. I think both men were surprised by him just sitting down uninvited.
He began to tell a story about his son and how when he was little they loved to fish and camp. Even through his teenage years they had remained very close. He told of how they had been filling out applications for college and soon his son would leave and be on his own. He told of how excited he was for the new adventure he would be taking, but, how difficult it was to let go. Then, on the last day of school how he kept hollering up the stairs for his son to hurry and get ready. When he didn’t seem to be making any effort to get up, how he had stormed up the stairs all the while yelling – “Come on son, you can’t miss the last day of school!” But, when he flung open the door he realized that something was dreadfully wrong. His son lay there in his bed, sweat running down his brow, unable to move and barely able to make a sound above a whisper. He didn’t know what to do, he grabbed for the phone to call 911, everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Although it appeared his wife was running up the stairs it seemed like she would never arrive. The paramedics came and whisked him up quickly, and rushed him to the hospital. He started to follow them down the stairs when something told him to go back and get his lucky nickel. Now this was no ordinary nickle. It had saved his life by deflecting a bullet while he served in Vietnam. It was a story his son had asked to be told many times.
The stranger stopped for a moment and took a few deep breaths and a long swig of his beer. Darrell and his friend were listening so intently that they had not realized that their own beers had gotten warm. They ordered another round and the stranger, who seemed quiet exhausted now, began again.
Once he and his wife arrived at the hospital an attendant quickly brought them to their sons room. It felt as though they were doing nothing to help their son, and yet, there were doctors, nurses and technicians running in and out of the room. “Oh my God, please help my son!” He told of how he stood on one side of the bed holding his hand and his wife
on the other with fearful tears streaming down her cheeks. The news from the doctor would not be good. He said he felt as if he were in a dream when the doctor said his son had a brain aneurysm and his only chance would be surgery. Even then there would be only a 10% chance
he would survive.
“How can this be?”
“Today is his last day of school, he is going to college this fall – how can this be?”
“ This is my baby, my only son, how can this be?”
Swallowing hard now to hold back his tears; he told of how his son pulled him down closer to him so that he could whisper in his ear:
“Dad, did you bring your lucky nickel?”
He said he couldn’t believe his sons question and really, what had made him go back for it just a short while before.
“Yes, son, I have it in my pocket.”
“Dad, you must give them permission to do the surgery, it’s my only chance.”
A few more tears ran down the strangers face as he looked at them and said: “How do you choose the fate of your own child when the odds are 10 in a 100 that he’ll survive?” He paused for a long time before he was able to continue and then he said;
“I did the only thing I could do – I turned it over to God.”
He then told them of how he and his wife only had a brief time with their son before he was wheeled off for surgery. He said he took his lucky nickel out of his pocket and placed it in his sons hand, but, that his son refused to take it and told him to hold on to it for him for luck. Then he said the oddest thing:
“Dad, if I don’t make it I’ll send you a sign from heaven that I’m ok.”
“The funeral for my son was sad”, he said.
“The church was filled to capacity with his family and friends.”
“But, I just could not understand why God would take my beautiful
He said that when all the people had left for home that night he went into his sons room. He had not been able to bring himself to go in since the day he was taken to the hospital. He told of how the pain in his heart had brought him to his knees and how he cried out: “God why? Why?” While there on his knees, suddenly a sense of peace seemed to wash his soul and that’s when he felt it. Something was beginning to dig into his right knee. As he reached down to find what it was he discovered it was a nickel. At first he said he didn’t really think about it, but, as he pushed himself up from the bed – huh, another nickel? Without thinking he picked it up and put it in his pocket, but, as he turned out the light and walked into the hall something shiny caught his eye. Yes, he said, another nickel. He said, as his sons last words came back to him, that he looked up towards heaven and said: “Thank you son for letting me know you’re ok.”
Darrell and his friend just sat there in amazement at the strangers story. He said that every so often he will be talking with someone reminiscing about a special memory involving his son and by golly if a couple nickels won’t show up that day. He told that once when he and his wife were on vacation in Italy, they were taking a break sitting on a park
bench. He said his wife commented that she had always hoped that the three of them could take this trip together. He told then that for some reason they both looked down at the same time and wouldn’t you know it, sitting on the ground were 3 nickels, in Italy no less. Darrell and his friend sat in silence. Then just as suddenly as the man had joined them, he stood up, put his hand on Darrell’s friends shoulder and said: “You know, my friend, they are never really that far from you when they remain in your heart.” With that he was gone, almost as if he had never been there. They both turned around to see where he had gone but, he was no where to be seen.
The guys finished up their beers and went out to their vehicles. A strange thing happened when Darrell opened the door to the truck, you may have guessed. Laying on the seat were two nickels. Darrell said it gave him the chills.
I will never forget Darrell telling me this story. It was as if he were mesmerized by it and you could have heard a pin drop in our home as I listened. I’ve thought of that story many times over the last 3 months since
I hope you will forgive my terrible punctuation as I told this story. And I hope I’ve told it as well as it was told to me.
So, next time you come across a couple nickels in an unexpected place, I hope you’ll remember this story and know that every thing’s ok. I know I will.
Originally published February 27, 2010 from my blog – The Next Chapter – Page 2010