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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My son, Tommy, loved orange and grapefruit juice. A serious baseball player and avid outdoorsman, he was a health-conscious 17-year-old. Early in January 1999, a good friend gave me two cans of grapefruit juice for Tommy. Two weeks later, there was still one left.

In May of 2001, I read my first "pennies from heaven" story in your column. I wasn't having a good day, but decided to do some cleaning anyway. I started with our refrigerator. There, sitting on a shelf, was the last can of Tommy's juice. For two years, friends and family members had urged me to throw it out. Nobody understood why I kept it. "Just don't touch it," I'd say.

You see, my only son, my precious Tommy, was killed Jan. 20, 1999, in a tragic car accident on his way to school. I couldn't throw out his last can of juice -- it was part of his life. The pain I suffered when he died seemed to strengthen the bond he and I had shared. But I needed a message from him to let me know he was OK. I knew someday the message would come, because I believe in my children. I knew he would find a way to reach me from the grave. My fear was how long I could hang on without knowing he was OK.

As these thoughts raced through my mind, I went back to cleaning. I picked up the rusty can of juice, and to my surprise, underneath was a green, moldy penny on the saucer.

It took me months to speak of that day. When I finally told my husband and daughter, I feared they would not believe me. It took them a while, but there were more signs to come.

In July 2001, determined to have some fun, we went away for our 22nd anniversary. We took our daughter and new grandbaby with us. Walking through the doorway of our hotel, my husband looked down. There were two pennies -- one facing him and one facing me.

This past summer, I went with my daughter and the children of some friends to the beach. On our way home, we stopped to ride the go-carts -- a family tradition. My daughter and I both found pennies inside our go-carts.

Abby, the denial is gone. The pain and struggle are not, but it's a little easier now. Tommy and I have built a different kind of relationship, still unique and strong. Wanting to feel your son again cannot be put into words. Only a mother knows that need.

The penny stories need to continue for people like me. I now accept all the strange coincidences in my life knowing Tommy is letting me know he's close.

The penny in the fridge broke the ice for me. It started a new beginning. Thank you. -- ROCKY FRAZIER, DOVER, DEL.

DEAR ROCKY: I used to think a penny was a denomination of money. I now know it's also an article of faith.

DEAR ABBY: My dear friend, "Jean," is having trouble with her old lover, "Toby." She broke up with him a month ago. Ever since, Toby has been following her -- and last night threatened to kill her.

Abby, Jean comes to me for help, but I don't know what to do. She is afraid to go to the police because she thinks it will make Toby even angrier. What should I do? -- A FRIEND OF A FRIEND IN NEED

DEAR FRIEND: The police should be notified ASAP. It is against the law to stalk people and threaten to kill them. Your friend needs your emotional support. Take her to the police station and help her to file a complaint. You may be saving her life.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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