About 5 years ago my brother-in-law passed away. And it was sad. And tragic. And heartbreaking. But it was also enlightening. And inspiring. And unbelievable.
I know that sounds strange but let me tell you why.
Shortly after my brother-in-law passed, my son, who was ten at the time, had to pick a number for his baseball team. Typically, he would have picked a number like 2 or 5 or 15. But that year he picked 61. This seemed very random and very unlike him. We asked how and why he made that choice. He had no explanation other than to say, “I don’t know, it just felt right”. It just felt right, another unusual thing for a 10-year-old boy to say, but we let it go
It wasn’t long after that conversation that I learned 61 had a very special meaning and a meaning that would follow me for a long time to come. 1961 was the year my brother-in-law was born. 1961. 61. That 61 that my son seemed to randomly pick maybe wasn’t so random after all.
I started to see 61 everywhere I went. On license plates. The temperature gauge in my car. The percentage on my phone. Even the unexpected ‘inspected by’ slip you find in a pocket showed up in my sons suit jacket with the number 61. 61. Everywhere I looked, everywhere I went. 61 was following me. Or was 61 trying to tell me something?
It became a running joke with me and my family. Oh, there is 61 again. We would all look to the sky and say, “thank you Uncle” or “there’s Uncle again”. It seemed funny at first, but to me it was beginning to mean so much more.
I began to research numerology and its’ significance. Was there something to the meaning of numbers in general and 61 specifically? I learned that the number 61 symbolizes family and introspection. It is a number symbolizing harmony and balance. People who resonate with the number 61 are nurturing and caring for their family members and friends. They have a protective nature. They are idealists as well. Ok. I can get down with that. I can see how 61 would pertain to me personally, but how did it pertain to my brother-in-law passing? And what was I supposed to do with it?
I began thinking hard about 61 and tried to make some connections between me, 61 and my family. Was my brother-in-law telling me he was watching over us and that he was trying to harmonize and balance the family? Was he telling me that he was watching over my husband to whom he was very close and who to this day still feels heartbroken by his passing? Was he nurturing him from afar? Was I just making this up and it was all a coincidence? Or was he just fooling around to see how gullible I was and laughing at me from the other side? All these scenarios made sense, especially the making fun of me part. I could just imagine him getting a kick out of my fretting and wondering. He was a great jokester in that way.
But then the unthinkable happened. Or if not the unthinkable, the truly weird and crazy. Around the time I started to really see 61 everywhere my husband was making some difficult and big steps to changing the course of his life and his career. My husband is a trained chef. A very talented chef, who spent years prior to attending culinary school as a successful stock trader.
My husband made the career shift later in his life and he paid the price for this change both financially and emotionally. But creating food was his passion and I was fully supportive. So was his brother. Very much. His brother was known to scarf down my husbands’ food before it would even hit the plate. None of us stood a chance at getting a full helping when he was around. And it was something that simultaneously annoyed and delighted my husband. So when my husband started this second career his brother became his biggest fan.
Not surprisingly my husband had to start at the bottom of his new career working first as a sous chef in a small French restaurant. Later he became the chef at a small but popular catering company. While he gained a lot of experience there it did not allow him to grow in the way he wanted yet his options were limited at the time. It wasn’t until he did a lot of soul searching and knew in his heart that his situation wasn’t working that he finally made a change. That decision came in the form of investors who approached him to help them open a corporate café. He would be in charge of constructing, executing, designing and managing this new place. He was very excited. It seemed like to opportunity of a lifetime.
And then as is often the nature of this type of business it didn’t quite work out the way he had wanted and he had to part ways with the original partners. Again, he did a lot of soul searching when he stumbled upon a realtor who knew a café owner who was looking to sell his business.
Yes, a random realtor looking to sell a random business for a random owner. A well-established highly regarded business in a great location with already established customers. Was this a happy accident? Was it a coincidence? Or was it, as I would later find out, maybe a divine intervention?
Now you may be wondering why this background information is important. Here comes the best part of the story. My husband, who notoriously pursues all opportunities, good or bad, jumped at the chance to potentially own his own café, design his own food and run his own staff. But who knew if this was a good opportunity or a bad one? Who knew if he would be able to handle this all on his own with no partners to help him make decisions? Who knew?
I’ll tell you who knew. 61 knew. My husband’s brother knew. And how do I know this? Because this opportunity presented itself after his brother passed, shortly after 61 started showing up everywhere.
AND because the doors opened on my husband’s new café on 6/1. Yes, 6/1. The 61 that I saw everywhere I went. The 61 that was trying to get my attention and tell me something important, to follow the path that led to his brothers’ success.
My husband is happy. And his business is thriving. And if that is not a sign of the divine, if that is not a sign that the other world is looking out for us, if that is not a sign that the connection my husband had with his brother remains, then I don’t know what is.
And that has made me feel through all the sadness, through all the tragedy and heartbreak that the signs are there waiting for us to see, to feel enlightened, to feel inspired and ultimately to believe. And with a little belief maybe you can find your own 61, too.
Stacie Goldstein, LCSW, is a social worker, psychotherapist, wife and mom of two teenage children. She has been in private practice in Northern NJ for the past 15 years working primarily with teens and adults around issues including anxiety and depression, life transitions, and parenting concerns. Stacie has worked in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, mental health agencies and group practice. She has also taught Social Work at the Masters level for the University of Southern California as an Adjunct Professor. Stacie’s professional point of view incorporates a variety of techniques and styles including meditation and mindfulness to help her clients carve a path to living less stressful and more content lives.