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Jim Gaffigan: Stand-Up Dad

For this popular comedian, fatherhood is the funniest and most inspiring job in the world…and the most humbling.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan takes inspiration from his wife and five children

Nurse Sarah Pemberton has heard it all. She works in the surgical recovery room at Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. People coming out of anesthesia “are pretty chatty and say all sorts of things,” she says. Personal problems, embarrassing revelations. “I always say, ‘Why go to the movies when we can hear people’s stories here?’”

But one thing she’d never heard was her name—first and last—uttered by a patient she’d never met before.

It was a late summer afternoon when Denise Fajardo of Silver City, New Mexico, was wheeled into Pemberton’s recovery room. Fajardo had had a melanoma removed from her nose. She was awake but groggy.

Before Pemberton could say a word, Fajardo looked up and said, “Your name is Sarah.”

Pemberton glanced at her name tag, which had her first name, and nodded.

“Last name Pemberton?” Fajardo went on.

Pemberton did a double take. Her last name was not on her name tag.

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“I have your check,” Fajardo said.

An even bigger double take. “My what?” said Pemberton.

“You lost an insurance check?” Fajardo asked.

“Yes, I did!” said Pemberton.

“It’s in my purse,” Fajardo said.

Rewind the clock a few hours.

On her way to the hospital for her surgery, Fajardo decided to stop at JCPenney. “There’s no mall where we live,” Fajardo explains. “I had just gotten a job and wanted to find some new pants.”

Fajardo’s husband pulled into a spot on the south side of the store. Fajardo insisted they park on the east side, where the entrance to the ladies’ department was. “He thought I was being picky,” she says.

Fajardo and her husband walked toward the store. “I look down and there’s a piece of paper,” Fajardo recalls. “I stepped over it but went back because it looked like a check and there were tire marks on it. I picked it up and saw it was an insurance check made out to someone named Sarah Pemberton.”

Fajardo intended to give the check to a store employee. But after her search for pants came up empty, “I got this feeling I should hang on to the check,” she says.

Back in the car, Fajardo Googled Pemberton’s name on her phone. A nurse in Las Cruces came up but without contact information. Fajardo tried Facebook. There was a Sarah Pemberton there too, but the last post was from 2013. “All I saw was her profile picture,” Fajardo says.

Fajardo put the check in her purse and went into surgery. As she arrived in the recovery room, there was the face from Facebook.

Wind back the clock even further. The night before Fajardo’s scheduled surgery, Pemberton had stopped at JCPenney to buy some T-shirts. “I love to shop,” she says.

Earlier that day, she’d gotten an insurance payment of $60.23 in connection with an accident she’d had.

Pemberton took the check to the bank after work to deposit it, but she arrived just after the bank closed. So she stuck the check in her pocket, then forgot about it until she got home and discovered the check was gone.

She claims she wasn’t worried. “I know God has my back,” she says. “I was sure it would turn up.”

But the next morning, the check did not turn up. Pemberton hurried to work. It was a busy day in the recovery room. She forgot all about the check.

Then Denise Fajardo looked into her eyes and said her name.

Fajardo pulled the check out of her purse, tire marks and all.

“I said, ‘Is it odd, or is it God?’” Pemberton says.

The two women hit it off. Pemberton explained how she’d lost the check, Fajardo how she’d found it. Pemberton, who once tried her hand at stand-up comedy, cracked Fajardo up with jokes. She told Fajardo she was obviously blessed with luck. “You should buy a lottery ticket,” she said.

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The women exchanged phone numbers before Fajardo’s discharge.

“I have the faith of a mustard seed,” Pemberton says. “I have a direct connection to my higher power, which I renew every day. Whenever something like this happens in my life, it just reaffirms my faith.”

As for Fajardo, she did go buy a lottery ticket.

She won twenty dollars.

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