Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Throwing a Nickel on the Grass
Having never been a pilot, or even in the military, I had not heard of this tradition. I did a bit of research and found that it refers a song that contains the line "throw a nickel on the grass, save a fighter pilot's a__". It's an expression of respect and a wish of good luck for a fellow pilot.
Bob had always been great to me, and I honestly don't think I appreciated him as much as I should have when he was alive. He was an excellent storyteller. He took a genuine interest in others, even those he barely knew. He smiled often, and it was a smile that simultaneously looked mischievous and sweet. His death hit me a lot harder than I expected it would, and I regretted not having spent more time with him.
I told myself that, at his grave site, I'd toss a nickel on the grass to honor him. On the morning of the funeral, I forgot to put one in my pocket. That's probably just as well, as I think I'd have felt funny doing it in front of all those who attended the funeral.
About a month later, I took a large jar of coins to one of those Coinstar machines to exchange for a gift certificate. I fed coin after coin into the machine. Every so often, it spit one back out in a rejection tray that was just out of sight. When I'd fed all the coins I had in the jar to the machine, I reached down into the "reject bin" and pulled out the ones the machine hadn't taken. I re-fed these into the machine. It accepted some and rejected others. When I'd gotten it to accept as many as it would, I put the rest in the jar and picked out a gift certificate. On the way out of the store, I looked down in the jar and realized that all the coins the machine had rejected were nickels! I took this as a sign.
Remembering the promise I'd made to myself but never kept, I took one of those nickels and drove immediately to the cemetery where Bob was buried. His grave was alone in a new section of the cemetery. For a man who always took such a genuine interest in others, seeing him alone like that was painful. His headstone hadn't even been delivered yet, so all that marked the site was a rectangular patch of dirt. Had I not been there for the funeral, I would not have known where to find it. I hadn't felt that kind of sadness in years. Fighting the tears in my eyes, and the lump in my throat, I tossed the nickel into the air above the grass next to his grave and said goodbye.
Wherever you are, Bob, I hope that nickel provided the salvation the song promised. You deserve it.
About the Author
Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor
In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.