When is a coincidence not a coincidence? I have experienced many but there are two which struck me as messages.
The first of these occurred in 1999.
Kay, the aunt who was my best and most beloved friend, was christened:
Her family called her Mabel but when she got married and emigrated to the States, she became Kathleen Ann.
She disliked being called Mabel which she thought was old-fashioned..
After my mother died in 1997, my dad decided to travel and was keen to visit an old friend in Rome. So I arranged a trip for the two of us.
As I wrote recently, my aunt suffered a stroke and died very shortly before I went off to Italy with my father.
Making our way to our rooms in the Rome hotel, my eyes lit on a suitcase in the corridor. Attached to the handle was a label with a single name:
Was it the make of the suitcase? Unlikely.
The owner of the suitcase? Who writes a single name on a luggage label?
Kay was very much on my mind but seeing that label startled me.
Was the Universe telling me something?
If so, I couldn’t figure it out.
The second coincidence was more than startling. It made me very uncomfortable.
Dad came to live in Seattle in 2001. In 2004 he was diagnosed with cancer and when he needed constant care, he entered a nursing home called Hallmark Manor.
Dad had a private room into which he was allowed to move his enormous television and his computer. This was unusual and I think Dad was viewed as some sort of curiosity.
Everyone was kind to him but he was miserable and difficult. Visits always left me feeling depleted.
It was in that room that I sat silently beside him, not knowing how to feel as he died unaware of my presence.
Afterwards, I went back to Hallmark Manor to collect my father’s bits and pieces. A friend took the television and I donated the computer to the Manor.
I thanked the staff and left.
Some 2 years later I was living in a community of townhomes. Recovering from a spinal fusion, I was in a brace and daily took slow, careful walks.
This was how I came to meet one of my neighbours. He had had similar surgery. And he had a gorgeous cat.
So we talked and became friendly.
His name was Jim.
Jim was not recovering and soon he needed further surgery, followed by a week of nursing care.
The day of Jim’s discharge, I got a call to ask if I could pick him up. He had family but I suppose they were busy. Of course I would collect him.
Jim was at Hallmark Manor.
At least I knew how to get there.
When I arrived I was told that Jim’s paperwork wasn’t ready yet. Perhaps I would like to go to his room while it was completed? I was directed down a very familiar corridor and tried to dismiss the memories.
At the nurse’s station I met one of the ladies who had cared for my dad. She remembered me.
“Jim? Oh yes, he’s in your father’s room.”
There I sat trying to make conversation, feeling as if Fate was making fun of me.
Finally, Jim was released and as I drove toward home he asked me to stop at the pharmacy for his medication refill.
After that, there was one other thing…
It had only been short months since my own surgery. My reserves of energy both mental and physical were nil.
Jim had family including a daughter who was a nurse, but he had got into the habit of calling me constantly.
It was more than I could deal with.
So I stopped taking the calls.
Then one evening the phone rang and rang. Finally it stopped but two minutes later there was a knock on my front door.
Outside a young woman who said:
“I’m Jim’s daughter. He died last night.”
She had been calling from his phone, so it made me feel a bit peculiar.
When my father died, I finally had no one’s problems to consider but my own. It was impossible not to feel a release from the constant worries.
Was meeting Jim a test of some kind?
If so I don’t know what constituted pass or fail. His situation was sad. Apparently he had problems with addiction and the pain medication got out of control.
That was something his family ought to have been paying attention to, especially the nurse.
So I could not blame myself.
But I did feel tested.
Maybe that was the point?