Michelle McDougal’s nana was 39 when she was born. Her birth was just the beginning of a beautiful relationship. They had 45 more years filled with love and laughs; of camping and shopping trips and card games. For Michelle, the most precious times were the quiet slower moments just sitting with her nana.
“My favorite times with my Nana were those quiet moments where we could sit and talk. Whether in person or on the phone, we’d talked about everything,” she said.
Michelle always knew how much her nana loved her. It wasn’t until she learned of the sacrifices she made when she was ten that Michelle truly realized how much she meant to her nana. Michelle contracted pneumonia and almost died. Her family came together to pay for an in-home nurse to care for her.
Her grandfather told her years later what her Nana did to ensure she was properly cared for. “Mit, your Nana worked triple shifts in the shoe shop to help your mother pay for that nurse. She would come home with her fingers bleeding from sewing so many shoes. She’d quickly wash and then run right to you, to make sure you were okay. That’s how much she loves you.”
Michelle never confirmed the story with nana because she knew she wouldn’t take any credit for all her hard work. All she understood was that she was loved. Their bond was one Michelle thought couldn’t be shaken or broken. She was wrong. Her nana was diagnosed with cancer. She would fight this battle for two years.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when nana was declared cancer-free. Their reprieve was short-lived. Nana’s cancer returned with a vengeance. Doctors couldn’t do anything for her. Treatments were no longer an option.
During her nana’s last days, Michelle, a cousin, her mother and two of her aunts took turns spending the night with her. Michelle was fortunate enough to have a few quieter, precious moments with her Nana she cherished so much. Two nights before her Nana died, she and Michelle had Chinese food, laughed and watched some of her nana’s favorite shows.
As the night drew to an end, Michelle turned to her nana and said, “Nana, when you get to heaven, please send me lots of pennies so I know you’re still near.” Nana just laughed and agreed to grant her granddaughter’s request.
Over the past four years, nana’s come through with her promise. Michelle has found dozens of pennies, some in the oddest places. “I’ve found pennies in the strangest places. A room that was just vacuumed. In the shower. In a box that contained an ornament I had given her.”
Whenever she finds one, Michelle whispers, “Thank you, Nana, I love you.” She stores all the pennies from her nana in a mason jar.
Michelle came up with the perfect project to help her memorialize her nana and display the pennies. With her husband’s help, using old barn doors, they constructed a board. She glued pennies into the shape of a heart.
“Many of you know my penny stories and the significance of them. When my Nana started to get too sick to stay alone, I volunteered to spend a night or two with her each week. My cousin, Aunts, and my Mom did the same. The very last night I had alone with her I said…Nana, when you get to heaven be sure to send me lots of coins. Actually, how about lots of pennies, so I know you’re near. “ Four years later, I have hundreds and hundreds of pennies that I’ve found. Some in strangest places. This weekend I’m doing a project with some of the pennies. Stayed tuned for the finished product. I’m pretty excited! Btw, my mom thinks I should have asked Nana to send me twenty’s instead of pennies. ha ha ha.”
“It had to be a heart because what else is there to symbolize such deep love?”
She next found a card her Nana had given her years before. Michelle scanned her nana’s signature onto her computer. She used her Cricut machine to print out a foil cut-out of the words, “Love & Kisses Nana.” as she built this special memorial to her nana, tears spilled down her face, but love filled her heart. To this day, Michelle continues to find pennies from her nana, reminders to her of how much she’s still loved.