My Family's Own Mysterious Ways
I’ve written about and edited the Mysterious Ways stories of so many people these past few years, but the ones that have impacted me the most are the ones I’ve heard from my own family.
My grandparents Morey and Rita, “Pop” and “Nana,” were both dynamic, powerful presences in my family. Every year they took me, my mom, dad, sister, my aunt, my uncle and my two cousins on summer vacations throughout the world: a Mediterranean cruise, a tour across Italy and the Amalfi coast, a house on Nantucket island to name a few.
Their generous, gregarious natures endeared them to everyone they met. They lived in northern New Jersey, we lived an hour away, and my aunt lived in Boston, but we all saw and spoke to each other often. About the only family disagreements we ever had were about whether the Red Sox or the Yankees were the best baseball team (I, of course, sided with Pop rooting on the Yankees). “Miss you,” we’d say to each other on the phone, even if it had only been a week since we’d seen them.
When Nana got sick and passed away, there was a gaping hole left in our lives. I remember standing at the gravesite, staring at the ground where she was laid to rest, and thinking it impossible that someone who had been so vibrant, so full of life and joy even a few short months ago could now, so suddenly, no longer be with us.
In Jewish tradition, the tombstone isn’t placed at the grave until a year later. My dad and my aunt struggled to come up with a message to write on it. What words could possibly sum up what we were all feeling? They finally chose two simple words: “Miss You.”
The evening my dad and aunt chose the message, my dad, my mom, and my older sister went for Chinese food. At the end of the meal, the check came along with three fortune cookies. Dad chose one and opened it. Just one of your run-of-the-mill fortunes. Then he turned it over. Along with some lucky numbers was a Chinese word, with the English translation:
Those words comforted all of us. The message we wanted to send to Nana, seemed to have already been received.
It was a little over a year later that Pop too, passed away, shortly after his 90th birthday. We wished that he also could send us some message. But weeks passed, and we hadn’t gotten one.
One day, late that summer, my aunt, uncle, and my cousins went to a Red Sox/Yankees game, the first baseball game they’d all been to since Pop died. When they sat down, my aunt noticed that the family of die-hard Red Sox fans who usually sat in the row in front of them wasn’t there. Instead, it was four guys. Three of them wore Red Sox caps, so she knew they were rooting for the right team. One guy though, had a different cap on. She couldn’t see what it was.
Around the fourth inning, my aunt saw the fourth guy turn around. And she looked at his hat. Stitched onto the front was an oval patch with three letters inside. MBH. Pop’s initials.
My aunt didn’t ask the man what it stood for. She knew what it meant to her, and that was enough. Pop wouldn’t have missed a Red Sox/Yankees game when he was alive. And she was sure that he wasn’t missing one now.
I don't doubt that these things were placed in our way for us to find. We found them when we needed comfort the most. And that happens more often than you would think. Maybe you’ve even had an experience like that yourself. I’d love to hear your story. Please share it with us at email@example.com.
Assistant editor Dan Hoffman became a part of a reader’s story.
Rosh Hashanah teaches us to forgive. But how could I ever forgive the kid who bullied me?