Pennies | Teen Ink


February 19, 2019
By christian_etherson BRONZE, Tryon, North Carolina
christian_etherson BRONZE, Tryon, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

A penny always lines the inner pocket of my wallet. It is indistinguishable from other pennies, bearing the same copper plated president Lincoln, the same columned memorial, and the same phrase: “In God We Trust.” It sits next to a photo of my family and a silver plated four leaf clover, without the possibility of ever being spent. The penny had been a message: its meaning clear, and its value immeasurable.

There’s much to be said for faith and spirituality; all of which had been lost on me. I was a realist, rationalizing only my own experience. It was in the grips of this cynicism that I received the news:

My father had taken his life.

Darkness crept around the corners of my vision. I was witnessing the scene as a movie; mom’s sunken eyes projected on a dark wall in the back of my mind. I slowly lifted myself, adjusted to the numbness in my knees, and retreated hopelessly to the safety of my bed. My heart lay heavy in my chest. Every movement for the next week was hard fought. I was suspended in syrup, moving an arm or a leg every so often to make sure I still could. Conversation was sparse between my mother and I, often ending in the awkward silence found between two people unsure how to comfort one another. That was until she mentioned the pennies.

In my family, death often came with pennies. The death of my grandfather spawned the copper coins in odd places: high ledges or kitchen sinks. The same was true of my father. “Pennies from Heaven,” my Mom would exclaim, much to my frustration. She found them on my nightstand or record player, even after they had been moved. They re-appeared, seemingly mocking my grief. The news of the pennies was ridiculous, and I refused to take solace in the faith that somewhere he could still be near me, watching. The world of heaven, or any afterlife, was too grand to comprehend, so I shut it away without a second thought. Finally, the appearances of the pennies became too much, and I moved. First it was one leg, then the other, until I was standing.

My legs shook like broken branches and my heart clung to my ribs. It was the first time I stood in days. Advancing clumsily down the hall, I made it to my keys, snatched them off their hook, and proceeded to my car. I needed to get away. I drove speedily and slowly; each press of the pedals grounding me in desperate uncertainty. My mind blanked, the muted colors of the world blurring together in an eddy of gray and beige. I woke on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and quickly realized that long stretch of mountain road was not enough to escape the weights that bound me. I stopped on an overlook, gazing across the skyline. Everywhere I looked, my grief was evident and inescapable. It hung in the sky, breaking through clouds on gentle sun rays. It came through the trees with songs of the birds. Through waterfalls it fell, sinking to the bottom of murky reservoirs. It clung to my skin and stripped away the hardened facade. I sat there on the concrete barricade, naked, without any denial. And to my right, a penny.

It was worn and scratched, indistinguishable from other pennies. On its side was 2000: my birth year. The penny had been a message -- clear and invaluable. He was there, the man I looked up to my entire life. His larger than life grandeur, his generosity, his humor, and his hubris, all wrapped in rusty copper lining. It was there that I was able to put trust in what I could feel, hold heart and mind in both hands, and finally put faith in that penny that lines the inner pocket of my wallet.

The author's comments:

This piece details the loss of my father and how I was able to overcome it. I used this essay as my main college essay. 

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This article has 1 comment.

on Mar. 14 2019 at 7:20 pm
sadiejaneallen, Saluda, North Carolina
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Such a moving piece filled with beautiful imagery and emotion. I love this, Christian.