The American Association of Suicidology Conference in Portland, Ore., two weeks ago was a busy time for me, to put it mildly. But it was that good kind of busy. It was nonstop talking to people, catching up with old friends, and making new ones (I wouldn’t have it any other way), as well as plenty of presidential duties. The first morning I led the plenary session with my presidential address. I officially became president that afternoon at the business meeting.
Up until the conference, the number of coins I had been finding had steadily increased. While a year ago I was finding one a week, for about three weeks between March and April of this year I found one almost daily. Flying with my friend JoAnn to Portland from Albuquerque, we stopped at the Frontier Restaurant, my favorite, for breakfast burritos we could eat on the flight to the Northwest. I found a penny while we waited for our burritos, a reminder of the importance of the trip. But once I arrived into Portland, I didn’t have time to look down. I was too busy looking ahead, looking at the person I was talking to, or thinking about what I needed to do next.
About a half hour before my presidential address, Effie Malley, who runs the AAS Youth Suicide Prevention Center, stopped me outside the ballroom and said she had found a dime that morning (I typically find dimes and pennies). Then as I went up to the podium for the conference to start, Bernie Jesiolowski, whose wife finds pennies frequently since the death of her father, stopped me and handed me a dime. He said he had found it underneath the coffee carafe when he filled his coffee in the breakfast area. As he gave it to me, he said it was mine.
Any time people find coins and post to my Facebook page or tell me about what they found, I usually remind them that the coins are theirs, not mine. However, in this situation, I knew these were for me because I wasn’t focused on finding coins. I couldn’t be. I stood at the podium with that dime in my hand, finding a lot of comfort in knowing that my sister and my dad were with me as I gave that presidential address. I didn’t need the coins to know they were there, but I appreciated the reminder.
That afternoon my friend Melinda pressed a quarter she had found into my hand. In the airport on the way back to Albuquerque, after clearing security, I found a penny. My coin findings picked up again once I reached home, and they continue to be my confirmation that as I take each step forward, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.