Seeing The wartime "Little Coat" for the first time turned confusion into a passion to tell the story - guest blog by Alan J. Buick
Seeing the “little coat” for the first time - at the Royal Canadian Legion in Olds, Alberta in September 2004 - filled me with bewilderment more than passion. I asked a friend, who had come to hear my wife Carol and I play music that night, why this coat with Canadian Army buttons was displayed with all the wartime memorabilia; it was far too small for a soldier to have worn. My friend proceeded to relate some of the story behind its creation – it was a Christmas gift in 1944 from Canadian soldiers to a 10-year-old Dutch girl who had become a good-luck charm for them; she later brought the coat to Canada. It was then that my passion for this tale began.
The most powerful moment was when I learned that the little Dutch girl who wore the coat and the soldier who gave it to her were not only still alive in 2004, but married to each other!
I knew at that moment that I had an epic by the tail!
I contacted Bob and Sue Elliott - the Canadian soldier and the Dutch girl - who were at that time living in the Netherlands. The email address I'd been given for them failed, so snail mail was the only other choice. They replied and the journey began. These were Sue's words: "I have no problem telling you what it was like growing up under Nazi rule, but good luck when you get to Bob!”
She was right. Bob, like many veterans, preferred not to talk about the horrors of war; the recollections opened old wounds long forgotten.
Bob and Sue and I met face-to-face at the Olds Legion in Olds, Alberta in October 2005 to discuss the procedure for writing this book. This was a truly amazing day; just talking to these two wonderful people who had endured so much was an awe-inspiring experience for me.
I knew I didn't collect all the information I needed that day. The journey I had chosen was both humbling and difficult. I was dealing with 65-year-old memories! A good example of this was the day before my publisher, Deana Driver, was to send the manuscript off to print, Sue told me of the German soldier who visited with her family frequently. This information had to be included in the book as it showed how not all German people were evil.
At the close of our 2005 meeting, Sue asked me what she should do with her little coat. I said it should be in a museum, where it would inform future generations of the compassion and generosity Canadian soldiers had for the emaciated and spiritually worn-down peoples of the Netherlands. They contacted the Canadian War Museum, which promptly sent two representatives to the Olds Legion to carefully prepare this ancient garment for the long flight to Ottawa.
Prior to the official book launch, scheduled to take place at the Olds Legion on November 11, 2009, a pre-launch gathering was held at the Armoury Officers' Mess in Regina. As strange as it may sound and with fate in our corner, one of the officials from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands happened to be present that night, Hans Moor. We gave him a copy of my book, The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, and he read it on his flight back to Ottawa.
A few weeks later, I was invited by him to attend a function at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to honour the Canadian soldiers of World War II who repatriated the Netherlands. This was an amazing evening. There was I, a New Zealand farm boy, rubbing shoulders and chatting with Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts and General Charles Belzille, retired commander of the Canadian Forces! A truly humbling and memorable experience.
I think my most touching moment on that trip was seeing "the child's coat" in its restored state and mounted in a beautiful glass case, complete with a bronze plaque briefly explaining what it was and what it represented. It literally brought me to tears. The War Museum staff had done an excellent job of presenting this wonderful artifact.
It is difficult to pinpoint any incident I told in The Little Coat book as being more significant than another but, if I were to pick just one, it would be when Sussie's family escaped on foot for two kilometres to the safety of the Canadian lines while under fire from German soldiers.
The Little Coat is a perennial story, a story of love and compassion, of terror and human relationships – a perfect gift for men, women, and children ages 10 and up, or even just because. Once read, you'll understand the gratitude the Dutch still have for Canadians today and forever.
This book captures the true compassion of the Canadian soldiers for the Dutch people in their darkest hour!
Editor's note: The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story was awarded Honourable Mention, 2010 Hollywood Book Festival. $4,500 from sales of The Little Coat has been donated to the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund. $1 from every book sold from 2013 on is donated to the Canadian War Museum, the new home of the 'child's coat' in this inspiring war story turned love story.
I am often asked, “What is Letters to Jennifer From Maudie and Oliver about?”
I say it is about “cats, cancer, and humour.” This always causes a thoughtful pause, followed by a stare, and then more silence.
What could possibly be funny about cancer? Well, nothing is funny about cancer. Or so you would think. I am going to tell you a true story about how humour can be found in the oddest places.
Many years ago, a new airline started operations in Western Canada. The service was “no frills”– no reservations, no seat assignment, and certainly nothing to eat.
One day, at a scheduled stop, 13 Hells Angels bikers clamoured on board. On this airplane, there was one main aisle with rows of three seats on each side. Three bikers sat in the first row on the left side. One biker sat in the aisle seat of the second row. Beside him, trapped in the centre and window seats sat an elderly couple. Three bikers occupied the row behind.
The elderly couple had never been on an airplane before. Prior to these gentlemen taking their seats, the elderly couple was in a semi-state of anxiety. Now they were in a full-blown state of terror! She clutched her handbag and he clutched her. Not only did they believe that they had descended into Hell, but they had probably progressed to one level below.
After a few moments, a tall, beautiful, blonde flight attendant came up the aisle and said to herself, “Oh my, I have to do something about this and I have one minute to do it before takeoff.” She approached the biker sitting beside the elderly couple, tapped him on the shoulder and said, sternly, “Now, you listen to me – if this couple gives you any trouble, you just let me know!”
Everyone burst into laughter. Shortly after takeoff, the elderly couple and the Hells Angels members each brought out their own photographs of grandchildren and Harley Davidsons. Everyone relaxed.
For those of us who witnessed that flight attendant’s quick-thinking, it was a wonderful lesson on breaking tension, thinking on your feet, and providing a humorous moment.
Laughter lifts us up from whatever problem, concern, and even pain we may have and gives us a moment of respite. Living with cancer can sometimes seem like walking on hard stones with our bare feet. Laughter gives us soft shoes, just for a moment, to make the next few steps easier. They may only be moments, but those moments stand on their own – outside of cancer, pain and despair.
And, if we can share the laughter, it is a good thing.
I do volunteer work at a Winnipeg hospice. Often, the first thing I hear when I walk through the front door is laughter. And it is so heartening to see a smile on the face of someone who is experiencing extreme suffering.
Cancer is a steep and treacherous journey, but humour can give us moments of feeling good, even in the battle against cancer. My friend Jennifer experienced moments of delight from the letters by Oliver and Maudie, two very precocious and spoiled Siamese cats. (I know because they live with me. I am LIP – their Live-In Person.)
It is okay to use good humour, when it is appropriate, with your loved ones suffering from cancer or any other debilitating condition. They will appreciate it, and you will too. Letters to Jennifer From Maudie and Oliver has been enjoyed by readers aged seven to adult. Excerpts are below. The cover design and illustrations are by talented Regina artist Erika Folnovic.
If you purchase the book (it's on sale for $9.95 CAN), my publisher will make a donation from each book sold to cancer research programs. So, before you go to bed, you can read a letter to Jennifer from the book (Maudie and Oliver are very funny), have a good laugh and a good night’s sleep, knowing you are also helping others.
Editor's note: Letters to Jennifer from Maudie & Oliver was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival in Chicago. Yes, it's that good!
(Lisa Driver is a certified Life Coach, Medium, Angel Therapist, Advanced Angel Tarot/Oracle card reader, Reiki Practitioner, and award-winning author of Opening Up and Leap, published by DriverWorks Ink.)
Aaah spring! Welcome to a time of renewal, rebirth, and a reminder that life goes on in cycles, creating beauty all around us if we take the time to notice it.
Desiring a life of more beauty, appreciation, and presence, I made the choice at the beginning of this month to take some time off from coaching and teaching. In a series of Divinely-guided, serendipitous events, I found myself deciding that I needed a break.
Upon reflection, I realized I haven’t taken a breather in a long time. It is in my nature to work, and to work hard. I am driven, motivated, and love to help others, so taking time off has been a difficult transition. But I am loving it (most days). With my daughter almost eight months old, she is beginning to learn new things everyday, and is on the verge of crawling and turning my world (and living room) upside down.
To watch her sense of wonder as she tries a new food, feels a new texture, or makes a new sound (her latest thing is clapping), fills me with pride, peace, and a deep sense of healing love that I need. Some days I find it difficult to see the value I add as “just” a mom, and some days I wish I could be present and engaged with my daughter and husband AND help run Above 540’s successful online business. Deep down, I know that will come, and I know my lesson right now is to understand just how important it is that I appreciate these simple moments with my family. I need to recharge, to reset, and to take care of myself.
In the last two years, my entire life has transformed and I am still reeling from all of it. Change shakes us on a deep level, and tests our sense of security, confidence, and self-awareness.
In my second book “Leap!”, I write a lot about that self-awareness, and the importance of really enjoying this present moment. When we utilize the power of now and of our own choices in this instant, we begin to create a happier, more abundant, bliss-filled future, and find it easier to navigate the challenges of our world. Yet it’s difficult to look within and ask yourself: Which choice should I make? What will make me happy? How can I best serve others and still love my life?
Personally, I was finding the answers to those questions often coming from the expectations of others, or from some zombie-type version of Lisa, who was just trying to stay above water amidst some pretty tough challenges. My heart was asking for more, and I knew I needed some time to listen to it and really honour that inner desire.
And just like that, the Divine helped everything fall into place so I can reflect, review, and recommit to me.
I have seen similar situations with many of my clients over the years, and it’s part of the reason I wrote “Opening Up” and “Leap!” – to teach people this simple, yet important lesson: we need to stop doing everything for everyone else, and start putting our own dreams first. Who are we serving by working at a job we hate? By staying in a relationship or friendship that drains us? By doing everything for our kids, our colleagues, our friends, our family, and making excuses as to why we aren’t deserving?
How is that inspiring anyone? Even those we are helping (or humouring) are only getting a small percentage of the love and inspiration we could offer if we were really shining! Often, they are getting a resentful, exhausted, drained, tired version of us that is just putting one foot in front of the other, hoping for a change but not sure if/when/how that’s even possible.
So I beg of you, if you can relate, take some time for yourself. Take a breath right now —- I’ll wait —- and feel the power in your body and mind. Now think of one thing – ONE THING – you can do this week that would feed your soul and make you a happier, shinier version of yourself. What is it? Write it down, schedule it in, and notice how even making that choice and thinking about something that makes you happy, makes you happier and lighter in the “now”! (Doesn’t it?)
We far too often get caught up in the mundane rut of our routines, or in the pain or “failure” of the past, and allow it to limit us as we move forward. Which is why taking time for yourself (even 5 minutes to breathe) can make a big difference.
As I continue to rest and balance out my mind, body, and spirit, I am excited for everything that will unfold. Every day, I remind myself to breathe, tune in, and listen to what my soul is asking of me. That time I carve out reminds me that today is NEW, full of potential, and has a unique story to tell. This day has never happened before and I have a choice to make it great … or not.
I know from recent experience just how quickly things can change, so I do my best to wake up each day, ready and willing to make the most of this gift we’ve all been given.
We all need to reset sometimes, especially when life throws us curve-balls. If you’ve been going through the motions lately or feeling a bit “blah”, consider this your Divine sign to make a choice and change something. You’ve got the power!
I believe in you.
Sending you love, strength, and renewed conviction to do whatever it is you dream of,
(All DriverWorks Ink books are available at http://www.driverworks.ca/shop.html)
In 2015, I wrote this "Read My Book" piece for Regina and Saskatoon newspapers to introduce readers to the fascinating anthology Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People:
We can learn much from the people around us. Whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or people we have just met, there are stories to be told and lessons to be learned. This concept has been a driving force in my work as a freelance journalist for more than 30 years and has followed me into the field of book writing, editing and publishing.
In 2011, when I began working with the Saskatoon German Days Committee to help them create their book Egg Money: A Tribute to Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, I commented that they could also publish a book called Cream Money, since cream money was another important income source for farm women in days gone by. Of course, their Egg Money book is based on a statue of that name in downtown Saskatoon, so “Cream Money” did not make sense as a project for them.
So in 2014, my husband and publishing partner Al Driver and I decided to invite writers to send us their stories of selling cream and other interesting tales from past decades of farming on the Prairies. We collected 29 short stories and two poems from 30 Prairie writers, including myself.
My mother, Sabinka Staszewski, came to Canada from Poland in August 1929. She was two years old and made the 12-day voyage by ship with her mother, father and three siblings (ages eight years, six years, and six weeks - see photo below). After arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they headed west by train to what would become their new home in Athabasca, Alberta, 95 miles north of Edmonton.
The family spent their first two winters living in a hole in the ground. Literally.
During the First World War, my grandfather had seen houses that were dug into the hills of Romania. There were no hills on the Alberta farmland he’d purchased, so he adapted this idea and created the first dugout house anyone had seen in that region. Their dugout house was four feet deep, eight feet wide, and 14 feet long. A small wood-burning cook stove and oven was used for cooking and warmth. Their large trunk was their only other piece of furniture until my grandfather constructed a long bench.
One of the first items my grandparents purchased in town to add to their meagre possessions was a young Holstein cow named Jenny, to supply the family with milk. Cow’s milk was an essential item on every farm in those days, especially for a growing family.
Other parts of my family’s story include the fact that my father, also an immigrant, and his siblings were punished for speaking Ukrainian in school. Until they could afford their own cow, my grandmother helped milk a neighbour’s cows so she could bring a quart of milk home for her own family each day.
These are lessons that we can learn from and stories which need to be told to preserve not only our history but to teach the next generation. Other stories within the pages of Cream Money tell of hard work, of children and mice falling into milk cans, of saving cream money for essential items such as teeth repair, of sending the cream cans to town by train, and relishing the rich desserts made with farm-fresh cream.
On days when I am tempted to feel gloomy, I remember the story of the dugout house. Life in Canada is good. Let’s keep sharing those stories.
Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People is available from www.driverworks.ca, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Chapters, Indigo, Coles, and other select retailers.
Here's a link to my blog with photos and stories about the fun book launch we had for the book!
(Months ago, my bereavement counsellor suggested that I write about this particular time in my grief journey. "It will help others," she said. I am now ready to share this story.)
Nine months was when it happened. When most people, aside from my family, lost interest in me talking about my pain and sadness over my husband’s death.
Some of my closest friends and supporters even struggled to feign interest and patience as I cried or poured out my broken soul to them. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had only been mildly affected by the death of this outgoing, fun-loving, witty, gentle giant of a man, while my life had been utterly broken. After all, I spent almost 42 years with this man as a major part of my daily life. They did not. And after almost nine months of caring for me, they had already said and done pretty much everything they could think of to try to help me through my grief. No, I couldn’t blame them.
To backtrack a bit, we learned In December 2015 that my husband, Al, was not going to survive the Stage IV colon cancer that hit him out of nowhere in August 2015. He died on January 4, 2016, a little more than two weeks after we were told his cancer could not be cured. His death was unexpected, shocking, and devastating for those of us who loved him.
His last wishes were that we, the people he loved, go on and live the best lives that we can. We are trying.
When it comes right down to it, no one can help you through ALL of the pieces of grieving the death of your spouse - the most important person in your life. Not your family. Not your friends. Not your pastor. Not your bereavement counsellor.
No one but you.
You have to do a big part of the work yourself. You have to figure out your new life without your beloved in it. And you have to try not to be offended or upset when people try to help you or, conversely, walk away because they - and you - know they can't.
At the end of September 2016, I realized that I had almost made it through nine months since my husband died. I was still sad, still broken. Although some people were trying hard not to suggest that I should “move on” or be more chipper, I saw that it was becoming more and more difficult for many people to visit with me and be dragged down into my puddle of grief.
So I decided to try to hold it in. To keep quieter. To talk less about him. To journal more and keep more of my pain, my thoughts, my sadness and my loneliness to myself.
I had not been inside my own head so much in my life as I had been in those nine months. With no one to talk to every day, unless I picked up the phone or went away from my home-based business (which I used to share with my husband), my thoughts overwhelmed me and I struggled to stay upright sometimes.
After he died, I had to rethink everything. Everything.
I soon chose not to come to many conclusions about my new life. I learned early that the best strategy when grieving such an excruciating loss is to take it easy. Take a deep breath. Take another breath. Keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Get through this moment. Get through another moment. Don’t worry about the thoughts or advice or expectations of others. Do what you need to do in that moment. Rest. Cry. Yell. Grieve. But, most importantly, be gentle with yourself.
(Read my blog - What I've Learned About Grief)
I still struggle at times to live out these wise words.
What became very clear to me was that I had to work hard at staying positive. I needed to keep taking steps forward, as Al wanted for me and I wanted for myself.
I had moved my wedding rings to my middle finger a few months after Al died, but they were starting to look and feel wrong. I realized that they were making me sad, reminding me every day of what I had lost. Even if I was having a good moment or a good day, my wedding rings moved me toward sadness. It was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
I tested a new look one weekend in September 2016 by not wearing my wedding rings. A few days later, on September 28, I took them off and did not put them back on.
In mid-September, I had heard a radio commercial for a local jewellery store that was closing at the end of the month because the owners were retiring. I had taken my wedding rings to that store for resizing a few years earlier, on the recommendation of Dionne Warner, the inspiring eight-time cancer survivor I wrote about in the Never Leave Your Wingman book. The owners knew Dionne and her amazing story, and the woman jeweller remembered and recognized me when I walked into the jewellery store two days before she and her husband retired from their business. I was impressed.
I told her why I was there. “My husband passed away from cancer and I don’t want to wear my wedding rings anymore,” I said. “I want something to remind me of him and our time together, but I don’t know what.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she replied. And she began to cry.
I was moved by her caring. We stood for a second, then wiped our tears and carried on. I asked about necklaces and she showed me options for melting down wedding bands and placing the diamond in the centre of the blob of gold. I laughed, and I imagined Al’s laughter at that concept too. “You wouldn’t be able to see the diamond from my ring if you did that!” I told her.
You see, Al and I became engaged in Calgary when we were impoverished students finishing up two years of journalism classes at SAIT. We went downtown one day in May 1975 to look for an engagement ring so we could get engaged before I left Alberta and moved to his home province of Saskatchewan to marry him and live happily ever after.
We found a ring that we liked and could afford. Since Al wasn’t getting paid from his part-time job as a pizza delivery guy for another few days, I wrote a cheque for the $30 down payment on my own engagement ring. That might seem silly to some, but it was reflective of our relationship – make the decision together, do what needs to be done, and move on.
Al paid me back after he got paid. No big deal.
So in September 2016, at the jewellery store in Regina, I decided that a blob of gold with my diamond set in a necklace was not for me. I also wanted to continue wearing other necklaces I own and did not want to feel compelled to wear only one, so I decided to look to see what else was available. The jeweller showed me some rings - starting at a very high price, of course, and then working down to a cost that was more to my liking. I asked to try on only two of the rings she suggested, but they were too bulky and ostentatious for me.
She then asked if I preferred gold or white gold. “My wedding rings are white gold, so that would be nice,” I told her.
She pulled out another ring from the display case and I knew this was my ring. It was beautiful. Perfect, in fact.
This new ring is a combination of white gold and gold, and I immediately loved the design. Very unique and very personal. It fit my story exactly.
I bought the ring and asked for suggestions on where to take it for resizing since they were closing within 48 hours and could not do that work themselves. I wished the woman good luck in her retirement, then walked out of the store, pleased with myself and especially pleased with my purchase.
I wanted to show this ring to all three of our adult children in person over the next few days, so I kept the undersized ring inside its jewellery box and I carried it with me. That evening, I talked with our youngest daughter, Dani, after our yoga class. I told her about my decisions to stop wearing my wedding rings and to buy another ring in memory of her dad but also in recognition of my new life without him.
Dani was thrilled. “It’s an arrow pointing to your future!” she said of the design. She was proud of me, doing something just for myself (since I am not a me-oriented person) and moving forward with my life.
Her reaction surprised me. I had not seen an arrow in the design.
The next night, I shared the story with our eldest child, our son Dave, and his wife, Kelli. Dave was shocked and speechless for a couple of hours, but that was my fault. I carelessly started the conversation by holding up my bare left hand and saying, “Look! No rings!” While I was excited by this, knowing the happy ending to my little story, imagine the grief that our son had to process in those seconds of recognizing that the band symbolizing his parents’ 40-year-marriage was now gone. I quickly apologized to Dave. I did not realize how that would look to him.
After I told Dave and Kelli the whole story and showed them my new ring, they were pleased for me. Kelli saw the design as a linking of two things. Dave told me later, “I really like it, Mom. It’s really cool and I hope it brings you some comfort.”
That weekend, I visited our oldest daughter, Lisa, and her family. Lisa was very excited by my purchase and loved the ring. “It’s two souls coming together!” she exclaimed about the ring’s design.
Friends who saw my new ring also thought the same – they saw the design as two lives joining or a clasp holding two people together. But that’s not what I saw in my ring.
When the jeweller first held it up to me, I immediately saw an “A”. For “Al”. My Al.
That’s why I bought the ring.
Weeks later, I laughed out loud when I remembered that my mom used to call my husband “Big A” – because he was almost a foot taller than everyone in my family and he was a lot larger than most of us too. His big personality matched his size as well. "Big A."
In my diary entry on September 30, the night that Dave told me he hoped the ring brings me comfort, I wrote: “I know that it will. It already has and I’m not even wearing it yet. Al did not choose to get sick and die, but I have to choose to live and to live well. When I bought that ring, it was a big physical reminder of my decision to carry on without him here, but cherishing his memory and our love everyday when I look at my hand. He will always be with me, and now I will wear it on my finger as a visible symbol of our never-ending love.”
I cherish the many years I had with Al. I wish that everyone in the world would be blessed with such a great love. I miss him dearly every single moment of every single day, but I am so grateful that he was with me, that we were together.
I have been wearing my new "A" ring for seven months now. For seven months, I have felt love when I look at my left hand. Love instead of sadness.
The never-ending love between me and my Big A.
I am a “liberal” Christian woman who believes in God, in Jesus Christ, and in angels and other out-of-this-world spiritual guides and helpers.
There. I said it. I believe in angels.
Oh. Were you stuck on the “I believe in God and in Jesus Christ” thing? Then this is not the blog for you. You may want to move on to reading something else.
Here I am, in 2017, believing in God and in angels … and in angel signs.
I didn’t use to believe in angels much, aside from the whole “your guardian angel will protect you” thing that I was taught growing up in the Catholic faith. The thought of angels being around us all the time is a relatively new awareness for me. And it’s one I am just fine talking about now.
In 2012, when my oldest daughter, Lisa, discovered her gift of talking to angels/departed loved ones – yes, like Long Island Medium, Lisa occasionally talks to dead people – I was curious. (I’m a trained journalist. Curiosity is essential.) The more Lisa researched, trained, and honed her gift, the more she wanted to help others, which led to her writing her first book, Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels. I, being a good mom and a book publisher, volunteered to help her publish that book, and I’m proud that I did so because the book has won an award and has helped hundreds of people already.
I knew that publishing this book would mean that I, as Lisa’s publisher and mom, would be asked questions about what I believe regarding angels, mediums, after-life etc. So I came to terms with my own changing beliefs.
I am a practising, faithful member of the United Church of Canada. Lisa was raised in this denomination too. As she explains in her book, “I was filled with peace when I heard the minister speak of a loving God who wanted the best for us and for us to love each other. The ministers, youth leaders, and families that attended were so welcoming, open, caring, and full of love. For me, church was (and still is) a place where I could go and feel accepted, faults and all.”
This is my experience with the United Church of Canada as well. Mostly. There have been times when things haven’t been all rosy – we are humans after all – but in general, my denomination and my local church congregation, worship services and committee work fill me with love, peace, and hope. Through pastoral care, prayer, and our work in the world, we help people serve others, embrace and celebrate life, heal, grieve, and be the best people that we can be. We are a caring community. I find my participation in my chosen religion is a fulfilling, wonderful way to live my life.
After reading Lisa’s Opening Up book, I accepted the concept that angels and angel signs are connected to God, or whatever you choose to call the Divine Love that guides us all. Many of my church friends also now embrace this concept of angels and angel signs as other parts of their spirituality that they’d wondered about but couldn’t discuss before since it didn’t fall under traditional “church” concepts. It is marvelous for me, as a mother and a constantly evolving human being, to see the growth in myself and others because of these new concepts of connecting with our angels, shown to me by my daughter.
In Lisa’s book, she notes that feathers and coins are two of the most common physical signs that people receive from their angels. “While finding a nickel on the street is common, if you find coins in mysterious places or when you are feeling down, know it is your angels getting your attention and trying to put a smile on your face. I had a client who found dimes everywhere – on her bathroom counter, on top of her microwave, even on her bed! She knew these dimes were a sign from her grandma that she was still with my client, watching over her and sending her strength and support. Feathers are a very common sign because of the wings we envision on angels.”
Which brings me to this amazing story…
A recent Sunday morning was a very emotional day for me. It was not only my birthday – a day I did not want to celebrate since the recent death of my husband, Al – but it was an important day in our church year too. We held our annual meeting after our worship service, and a motion was made to remove my late husband’s name as a trustee for our church. This is church policy and an important step that I knew had to happen. I wasn’t ready for it emotionally though. Al died in January 2016 after a short battle with colon cancer. He was diagnosed as being terminal only two and a half weeks before he passed away, so I and our family and closest friends are still, in large part, reeling from this sudden death. (Lisa wrote about Al’s illness and death, among other things, in a wonderfully helpful way in her second book, Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Grief & Choose The Path Of Joy.)
At our church meeting, a friend made the motion, on behalf of his committee, to remove Al’s name as a trustee. This friend fought back tears as he spoke and we all became quiet and emotional, watching this open display of affection and loss.
A few minutes later, a dear friend of mine, Nadine, stood on behalf of the Nominations Committee and put forward my name to be accepted as a trustee. I had volunteered to put my name forward for that position. I wanted to honour Al’s memory and I knew it was a job that was usually not too taxing time-wise and was something I could do, amid my grief, having been an active member of our congregation for more than 30 years. The nomination was accepted and everyone became sombre again after that vote. It touched me deeply.
About 15 minutes later, the meeting ended. Nadine came running up to me and said, “Deana! Look at me!” She grabbed my arms and turned me towards her.
I was confused. Nadine is quiet, rarely gets excited in public, and never yells.
“Look at me!” she strongly repeated.
So I looked at her face.
“Look down,” she instructed.
Which I did. And there, on the front of the skirt of her beautiful red dress was a perfectly placed, small white feather.
“Wow,” I said.
“I know!” she said. “I swear, Deana, I stood up to offer your name as the nomination for trustee, and I wasn’t near anything, and I sat down and there on my dress was this feather. It’s like he approves of the nomination.”
I took a photo of this feather. I knew that Lisa would be thrilled by this amazing angel sign, and I wanted to remember it as well.
Nadine was talking about my late husband, Al, of course, when she said “he”. We have seen enough nickels and quarters dimes and feathers on our walks and at restaurants and various other places in this last year to know that he is with us, sharing in our daily lives, and that we should not question where they came from. They are signs from him, my departed loved one, our departed loved one. Still, we are human and we want to figure out where and why.
As another dear friend, Susan, came up to us to visit, I asked Nadine to tell Susan what happened. As Nadine finished her story, she started trying to explain that she had no idea where the feather came from. Susan, being much more understanding of angels for much longer than I have been, interrupted, “Don’t try to explain it. Just accept it for the marvellous miracle that it is.”
So we did that. We smiled, knowing that this was a message for us and that we should accept it gracefully and gratefully.
As I left the church and walked out to my vehicle, I saw a nickel on the ground by the driver’s side door. Another message from my angels. “God is with you. You are not alone.”
It is easy sometimes to pooh-pooh concepts that are different from what you have been taught. In my journalism career, I learned not to dismiss the perspectives of other people, especially if those ideas and approaches were helpful and not harmful to others.
My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer a few years before Al died. My father and father-in-law have also passed, and a few months after Al died last year, my mother-in-law passed away. We have lost many dear friends and other family members in recent years. I miss them all and would do anything to have them back in my daily life, but that is not to be. Connecting with angels, with my dear departed loved ones and other loving spirits connected to God, brings me courage and hope to get through my days and, especially, difficult moments. These little angel signs bring a smile to my face and a light to my heart.Sometimes they make me laugh out loud at the oddball timing and placement of the signs. They help me get through the darkest hours. They are a gift from God and I accept them gratefully.