Jo Pabon: A Story About Dimes

A Story About Dimes by Jo Pabon

My mother, Harriet Cimock, grew up in Corning, a small farming town in southwest Iowa. She raised five kids and was married to my dad for 58 years. She was a farm wife, helpmate, and spent much of her time making rosaries and small blankets for hospitals and nursing homes. She loved to read and loved garage sales. She had a lifetime collection of butterflies; pictures, statues, butterflies in every shape and size. She was very active in her church; a small country church she and my dad attended for more than fifty years. She went on many fishing trips with my dad and became very good at cleaning fish! She was kind hearted, soft spoken, dependable, patient, humble, and good spirited.

My mom had a normal mammogram and physical in April 2007. As part of her physical, her doctor recommended she get a shingles vaccine. My dad had had a bad bout with shingles, so my mom got the shot. (The CDC now recommends it to all over the age of 60.) Shortly after the vaccine, she started getting a rash on her chest. The doctor diagnosed it as shingles, she was one who happened to get shingles from the shot, she was told.

My mom visited me in Illinois the end of June 2007. She showed me her “spots”. I could tell that they were troubling her. She was not a complainer, and she seemed distracted by them. After her return home the spots were not getting any better. She had a biopsy, and it tested positive for Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Treatment for my mom began immediately; chemotherapy, with hopes of radiation and a mastectomy.

Back in Illinois with my family and still trying to accept the news, a strange occurrence started happening. I started finding dimes. Dimes — too many to ignore. Not quarters, nickels, or pennies — but dimes. Dimes in unusual places — peeking out from under a baseboard, in the back of a dusty broom closet, washer, dryer, when making the bed, in the shower(?), in driveways, dimes and more dimes. It became almost comical. After about a month of finding too many to be a coincidence, I told my good friend, Vicki, about it. She started finding dimes too! We would joke about where we had found one, and somehow it would make it a good day.

In October I returned to Iowa to be with my mom. She was not doing well. No amount of chemo seemed to keep up with this rapidly spreading cancer. She kept her good spirits and attitude of “It will either get better or get worse.” One day I went to chemo with her and after the session was over she stood up from the chair and under her was — a dime.

I returned home and the dime finding continued — in an old forgotten coat pocket, a windowsill, taxi cab, store parking lots. My three kids and husband were finding dimes too. We were amassing quite a collection. Unfortunately, my mom’s decline continued. She never did make it to the point of radiation or mastectomy. She fought the disease with gentle, but courageous suffering, faith and acceptance and passed away on December 18, 2007, just five months after her diagnosis.

Her service at their country church was beautiful. She had planned everything in advance, from the music to her obituary. She loved butterflies and her memorial was filled with butterflies and beautiful picture boards of her life. After her service we were returning funeral flowers back to the house. I lifted up a big vase and underneath it was — a dime.

I had another surprise at her house. My siblings and I were starting to sort through her things. (She loved those garage sales.) I opened a cabinet and was shocked at what I saw. A clear, plastic piggy bank right before my eyes. You could see every coin in the bank and there was one kind of coin in there — it was packed with only dimes! My brother mentioned that he had given my mom a bank several years earlier and he went to the bedroom to find it. He returned and turned it over on the table top. We could not believe our eyes as the dimes started pouring out!

I returned home after the funeral trying to accept the suddenness of all of this. My mom was always so healthy. She exercised, did not drink or smoke, loved her fruits and vegetables, stayed out of the sun, and followed her doctor’s orders — all the right things. Her mother and grandmother had lived well into their nineties. My mother was only 76 — still so much life ahead of her. My dad and mom had been married for 58 years and he was lost. He came for a visit and in sharing stories with him and my four siblings, they were starting to have dime stories of their own. It was comforting for us — made us all laugh and smile.

One day I was searching for breast cancer awareness items on the internet. I came across a picture of a pink breast cancer pin and next to it in the photo was a dime! The ad said the dime was in the picture to show the size of the pin. That was a light bulb moment for me. It was not right that we would save all our dimes and sit around and look at the pile. We were to pass them on for a good cause and what better cause than breast cancer research and awareness. I knew the dimes would really multiply once we started passing them on.

We have a special jar in the kitchen, and my family knows right where to put their “found” dimes. As the jar fills, we will keep donating towards finding a cure. My nine-year old son even cashed in his $25 savings, converted them to dimes, and added them to the jar. Our friends are saving their dimes too. Everyone can spare a dime, right?

I have two beautiful reminders of my mom — every time I see a butterfly and every time I find a dime. (Or should I say — a dime finds me?!) On my first Mother’s Day without my mom, I found two dimes — one for me and one for her? On her birthday, May 30th, we counted our dimes and sent in a donation in her memory to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. We are saving our dimes once again and know there will be more coming our way.
Thanks, Mom!

[August 2011 Update]
My Mom’s story appeared in the October 2008 issue of the Focus on IBC newsletter. It was called “A Story About Dimes” and although it was written a few years ago, the story has not ended! The dime findings continue to this day and has spread among my family and friends. We have many dime jars going now! These small donations add up to big ones for IBC research. Just this week, my nephew felt a dime saved his life! He was waiting at a busy intersection to cross the street and the light changed and he started to go. Just then he spotted a dime. Knowing Grandma’s story, he bent over and picked it up. Right then, a car ran a red light and came flying through the intersection. He felt had he not stopped to pick up that dime, it could have been a very bad outcome.

[January 2019 Update]
It has been more than 10 years since this story was written and the dime findings have not slowed down! Our family was recently in the Virgin Islands, and we found 4 dimes while there. The dimes find us near and far! And it never fails that they seem to be found by the right person at just the right time. We miss my mom every day, but we feel very blessed by these findings. We will continue to donate them to IBCRF for their continued good work!