Are pennies from heaven real? Ask Nichole Granville of Hawley, Pennsylvania, and you’ll get a resounding yes! This is the life-changing story of Nichole and her young son, Caleb.
Caleb was two years old in early 2007 when he developed a double ear infection that would not go away, remembers Nichole. Then a few days later, Nichole noticed Caleb wasn’t as steady on his feet as he normally was; his equilibrium seemed off.
When Caleb’s symptoms didn’t subside, Nichole took him back to the doctor. Caleb’s ears were still red and infected, reported the doctor, adding that a CAT scan would be ordered if he didn’t improve in a few days. Nichole took Caleb home and hugged him close. She longed to hear his infectious laugh and see the twinkle in his brown eyes.
But five days later, Nichole’s world changed forever. She was holding Caleb when he woke up, a blank stare on his face. “He wasn’t looking at me, he was looking through me,” she says.
On the way to the hospital to seek medical help, “Caleb broke out in a horrible rash from head to toe and his body became stiff as a board,” Nichole continues. A CAT scan revealed Caleb had a brain tumor, and he was life-lifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he underwent surgery to remove the tumor.
“The surgery was successful, but the tumor was malignant,” says Nichole. “Caleb would need some form of radiation or chemotherapy, but we wouldn’t know more until he opened his eyes.”
But Caleb never woke up. Sadly, there was nothing more the doctors could do, and Nichole and her former husband prepared to take their son off life support. They took Caleb’s hand- and footprints and gave him his last bath. They read to him, sang to him, and told him they loved him. Five days after his diagnosis, Caleb, cradled in his mother’s arms, took his last breath.
Some months later—like signs from above—Nichole began finding pennies everywhere: pennies in the washing machine; pennies in a clean car. She’d walk by a spot, turn around, and see a penny. “Do something,” the little coins and Caleb seemed to be telling her, “something to help others.”
And Nichole did. In May of 2010, she launched Pennies from Heaven: Caleb’s Foundation, a nonprofit that financially assists parents who otherwise couldn’t afford to spend time with their critically ill children. “No parent should have to prioritize a payment or a job before the care of a child,” explains Nichole, remembering the many children on Caleb’s hospital ward who were all alone.
The foundation, which helps with mortgage and rent payments, utilities, car repairs, and other necessities, has raised more than $500,000 to date and assisted more than 500 families.
“Starting the foundation was my way of honoring Caleb’s memory and keeping his beautiful spirit alive,” states Nichole, adding that helping others is now a life passion.
And the pennies from heaven? They keep landing in Nichole’s path, “little reassurances to keep going, to keep helping the families,” says Nichole. “I can only hope that Caleb is as proud of me as I am of him.”
To make a donation or to learn more about Pennies from Heaven: Caleb’s Foundation, visit calebspennies.org
Excerpted from Penny Prayers: True Stories of Change by Marion Amberg
Copyright © 2017 Marion Amberg