All I remember is standing on the basketball court one evening at the elementary school I attended across the street from my home. I was taking a break from shooting baskets, and I caught myself staring at our family’s one-story light green house.
It was the last place I wanted to go.
I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I was old enough to know the realities of a life lost after earlier in the day I had seen my dad cry for the first time. My mom wept with him and, seeing them both so sad, my brother, sister and I cried too.
Dad had received the call that his brother Jerry – my Uncle Doc – passed away at his home in Dyersville, the town where my dad and his 13 siblings had grown up.
It was going to be a sad night, a sad day tomorrow, and another sad day at the funeral when I knew I was going to see all of my beloved aunts and uncles cry as well. I had never see any of them cry before either.
All I wanted was a free pass.
I just wanted to make this all go away and get our lives back to the place where everything was familiar, comfortable and manageable again. I longed for something to fast-forward me past the sadness of my Uncle Doc’s death to the time where all this dust was settled and life was back to normal.
I realized one day it would be better – time heals all wounds – but I was afraid, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be strong enough to get through this.
And so, in my creative elementary school-aged mind, I developed a revolutionary thought:
What if when we were born, God gave us three coins – free passes, if you will – that we could use at any time in our lives. Three opportunities to fast-forward through a difficult time and pick life back up once everything returned to “normal.” We’d have the memories of the experiences we skipped over, but we’d be able to bypass and avoid the pain, fear, sadness and anxiousness that accompanies such overwhelming situations.
Three coins. But when they’re gone, they’re gone. This meant that you really would have to think long and hard, using them only when you were facing what you felt were truly going to be the most overwhelming circumstances you’d ever face.
With this revolutionary thought, I picked up my basketball and went home to face the realities I was avoiding. I realized that even if I did have three coins, I wouldn’t need to use one at this time in my life. I would be strong. This too would pass.
Through a series of sad days, seeing my uncle laid to rest and seeing my dad and his siblings cry together, each new day thereafter was less painful than its yesterday. Soon the dust settled and life was back to normal. I made it through, even without one of my three coins.
I realize such an outlook was developed by my elementary school self, but I’ve carried the three coins thought with me every day since.
I look back on all the times in my life where I wished these three coins were real. Times when I was afraid, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be strong enough to get through them, such as coping with the deaths of my grandmothers, getting diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and living through a previously failed marriage.
Through each of these moments, I had convinced myself that if I had a free pass I would have cashed it in and fast-forwarded through the difficult time. If this indeed were the case, I would have found myself today at 39 years old and without any of my three coins.
The reality is, it would have been wasteful to have cashed in my coins on any of these moments. I stand here today living a life where everything is familiar, comfortable and manageable, even after living through the pain, fear, sadness and anxiousness of events like the death of loved ones, an MS diagnosis and a divorce. And I didn’t need any coins to do it.
At the end of each day, I find comfort in knowing that with or without the three coins, I will receive the strength through my God, family and friends to make it through the challenges and difficulties in life.
Perhaps these are the three coins I was given when I was born – God, family and friends – and these collectively will be available to me in unlimited supplies to help me move forward through the most overwhelming circumstances I’ll ever face.
I often find ways here to incorporate a Springsteen lyric that inspires me in times of need, but here with my three coins, I turn to a scripture reading – Matthew 7:7 – that my Grandma Otten had hanging on a plaque in her kitchen that showed a picture of Jesus knocking on a door:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Whatever your faith or beliefs, I wish you the best in discovering the three coins that will help you along your journeys through life.