JOY SYLVESTER-JOHNSON: Pennies From Heaven

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Grief comes to those of us who have buried loved ones. And even though there is talk of the “stages of grief” and finding “closure” I am not sure grief ever really leaves once it has taken up residence in our hearts.

The pain may be less and we may be able to make it through the day without tears—but grief is now a part of who we are.

When Lee’s husband Curt died, she wanted to do something to honor him. She came to my office with a glass jar filled with pennies. This is part of Curt’s “Mile-of-Pennies,” she said placing the jar on my desk. It takes 84,480 pennies to make one mile. We just need 83,216 more and we will have our mile!

This was the way Lee decided to use her grief. She knew what many of us have discovered: grief never leaves, but we can use our grief to do something wonderful.

Lee made up jars and gave them to others to collect their own pennies and to place on the counters of local businesses. It took a while to complete the full mile, but like an old N&W locomotive, Lee’s effort was picking up steam.

The second mile was easier. The third, not nearly as hard as the first. Each month she would make and distribute more jars for Curt’s Mile of Pennies.

Even the shelter residents got involved, looking for pennies on the street and filling their own gallon sized jar with the found coins.

Lee was a woman on a mission.

Today with others who loved Lee, I gathered at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens for her funeral. Since that first mile, Lee had collected $43,800 in pennies which means she and Curt made it 51.88 miles!

I thought about dropping some pennies in the ground where she would be placed, but I could almost hear her say, “Joy, we need all those pennies for mile 52.”

Lee grieves no more. May her spirit of resilience and passion inspire each one of us to make the most of whatever we have been given-even our grief.

Joy Sylvester Johnson

– Joy Sylvester Johnson