Excerpt from Small Miracles from Beyond
My brother Dean’s favorite number was 38. It appeared in his life a lot. Coincidentally, when he died, he was exactly 38 years old. After his death, I also started seeing this number everywhere.
For example, whenever I looked at my watch or the clock on the wall, inevitably the time would be 38 minutes past the hour; or the number 38 would be displayed as part of car registrations, be the designated table where I was placed in restaurants, appear on ticket numbers, and so on. It seemed to continuously pop up in my life, and it would constantly remind me of my brother, keeping the connection between us alive.
When I felt that my son was old enough to spend a day in childcare, I decided that it was time to do something for myself. I chose to build on my interest in art, and signed up for a course in visual arts. As I progressed through the course, I felt the need to exhibit my work. One of the other students brought in leaflets about an exhibition called Nowa Nowa Nudes, a well-established art competition.
I struggled for ideas as to what to paint for the exhibition. My husband and I wanted to have a second baby and one afternoon when we were lying in bed, inspiration struck. I quickly drew some outlines of my idea, which then developed into the final artwork.
My work was entitled Trying to Conceive—as that was the basis for my inspiration—and it got into the show, along with several hundred works by other artists. Since this was the first time that my artwork was being publically exhibited, my husband and I decided to travel the two-hour distance to the event to view the art on display—mine among them. As we entered the exhibition hall and were given a catalogue, my eyes scanned the titles, looking for my entry. To my amazement and thrill I had been allocated number 38! We wandered around the various rooms searching for my piece, until finally we found it. There it was . . . sitting proudly on the wall, bearing a sticker with the number 38.
Of course I saw this as very auspicious, and it crossed my mind that perhaps Dean’s signature imprint might mean that I was to win the competition, or that something else of import would occur related to the event. But that was not to be. However, I still felt a deep connection to my brother and believed that he was showing support for what I was doing and he was letting me know he was here again.
My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby for some time and each month I had to deal with the disappointment when I didn’t become pregnant. Shortly after the art exhibit, I was showering one night when a thought crossed my mind “wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if I were pregnant this month, the month I saw the number 38.” Once again I would feel that Dean was around and happy for me. However, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
For that cycle my menstrual period was due to start on November 11, which is commemorated as Remembrance Day in Australia. So on Remembrance Day, a day when we remember all those who lost their lives in wars, I took a pregnancy test and found out that yes, indeed, I was pregnant.
I felt then that both the inspiration for my artwork and the title were Dean’s way of telling me that the pregnancy was going to happen. The number 38 randomly being chosen as the number for my exhibit clearly told me that Dean was giving me a message. It was not Dean making my art win. It was Dean sharing in the joy of our special news that our baby was on its way.
The coincidence of my artwork creation, the entry number, and my pregnancy seemed to lead to only one conclusion: my brother knew I was pregnant before I did. And he just couldn’t wait to share the news.
Thank you for reading my excerpt from the published book, Small Miracles from Beyond.
The Number 38
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Dean's sister Anna