In my last post I mentioned that the number 414 is significant to me and a reference to my sister, Karen. There’s a story there and in the interest of putting it on the record and not leaving readers wondering, I’ve decided to tell it.
Many of you know that Karen fought a 12 year battle against breast cancer before dying in 2008 at the age of 45. She was a wonderful person and we were very close. In 2010 my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer…and that’s where the story begins.
Immediately after my mother returned home from being hospitalized and diagnosed, I went to visit and spend the night. I woke that night with an unusual urge to look at the clock. It was 4:14am on 4/14, my birthday. My first sleepy thought was that my sister was giving me a birthday “hug” from the other side, acknowledging both me and our mother on that sad day. I had no idea that what I considered her 4:14am gift was the first of a series of 414’s, which persisted with regularity up until the weekend before my mother’s passing.
The second time the number appeared was 3 weeks later on a wig shopping trip with my parents. My mother, sister and I had visited that same shop twice before and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that trying on all those “looks” is fun, when cancer is the reason, it just isn’t. After leaving the store my mom asked my dad to pull into a nearby Staples so I could run an errand of my own. There I was, quietly standing in line, ringing up my purchase, transaction completed…wait, the tax was $4.14? It gave me pause. Then it gave me a shiver. Because I knew. Karen was on this journey with us and she wanted us to know it.
I told my slightly skeptical mom about what was happening. When I balanced my checkbook, there would be a 4.14 or 41.40 in the mix. At work I would find myself caring for a baby with an hourly IV pump reading of 4.14 ml. In the car I would look at the odometer and it would have a 414 in the number…or a gauge would tell me I could go 414 miles before needing to refuel…or I would randomly look at the clock and it would be 4:14…lots of times. I noticed 414 mile markers and license plates with 414’s on them. Businesses, houses, mailboxes – all with a 414 on them. You might argue that by now I was sensitized to the number, that any other number could be appearing just as often but going unnoticed. Perhaps.
I began to point the 414’s out to others, because it was so incredibly real to me that my sister was sending a message. On a day spent with my daughter, Kristen, I noted that gas was $4.14 per gallon (yes, it really was back then). While driving we passed a bank advertising a 4.14% interest rate. The topper that day was seeing a sale rack of clothes at Ann Taylor priced $4.99 – $14.99. Really? As Kristen said to me then,”I get it”.
We were getting the message, but why? All these reminders of my sister’s close presence were comforting to me but the message wasn’t just for me. I was telling family, friends, and co-workers about what was happening, but for what reason?
The last “real” 414 was a double whammy. I was driving the 2 hour trek north to my parent’s home on what would be the last weekend of my mother’s life. Although each of these 414’s had occurred before singly, it was unbelievable to me that on that afternoon at exactly 4:14pm my car had enough fuel to travel 414 more miles. Wow.
Since November of 2010 I no longer see 414 everywhere I look. Weeks and months go by before that number randomly appears. What was a near daily occurrence during the 8 months of my mother’s life following her cancer diagnosis is now so occasional as to be noteworthy for it’s absence. When I do come across a 414 now and again it makes me smile.
I think the message was simple really. Love is real and transcendent. Love persists.