Just Two Tickets to Indy

Just Two Tickets to Indy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

Just Two Tickets to Indy

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run
while chasing a dream.

~Author Unknown

We had talked about the possibility and its ramification for months as test after test failed to confirm or deny the diagnosis. But now we sat in my office crushed by the reality that it was true: John had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The insidious affliction strikes the muscular system of its victim, eventually draining the body of all strength to support even breathing and a beating heart.

John had been my business partner, my friend, my mentor for many years. He was the kind of friend who pushed you beyond what you thought you could do. John always saw you not for what you are but for what he thought you could be, and then he never let you accept anything less. He told me one time, “I wouldn’t really be much of a friend if I let you settle for what you think is your best.”

We sat in the office crying and holding hands like two adolescent children, realizing that the crippling death sentence would not allow John to live for more than two years. I asked him to think about the one thing he had always dreamed of doing that he hadn’t done. Was there some event he would like to see, such as the running of the bulls in Spain, or would he prefer to take Bonnie, his beloved, to the Great Wall of China or the Wailing Wall?

His response was predictable. As a lifelong car-racing enthusiast, John had always wanted to go to the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, it seemed that the tickets for the event were tied up in corporate commitments or fans who handed their seats down through the family as a legacy.

However, I confidently told John it would be no problem. Many of my clients had connections to the automobile industry, from tire makers to parts suppliers; someone was bound to have access to tickets. But my confidence was misplaced. Time after time, I was told that even though the request was noble, the corporate allotment was predetermined for years in the future. The 1996 Indy came and went and I was unable to get the tickets for Bonnie and John.

I took advantage of my position for fifteen months as a speaker and asked over one hundred audiences for the tickets. My hopes were sagging as the months passed and the 1997 Memorial Day classic loomed nearer. While John’s faith remained and his hopes drove him on to lead a normal life, his body declined and his strength weakened. He would often say, “This disease thinks it has me, well little does it know I got it and it ain’t seen anything like me.”

For all of his positive faith, I knew in my heart that 1997 would be John’s last chance to see the event. By the time I became desperate enough to call them, even the scalpers were out of tickets. In a depression for weeks because I failed to act sooner, I could barely face John and Bonnie. I had failed to make his wish come true. John reassured me that he appreciated my efforts but said, “You are going to die worrying about this ticket thing before I die of ALS.”

Then two weeks before the event, the telephone rang and Peggy Zomack of Cooper Power in Pittsburgh asked the question that stopped my breathing.

“Rick,” she asked, “are you still looking for those Indy 500 tickets?” Then she had to ask, “Rick, are you still there?”

I couldn’t say anything. My voice was paralyzed. Eventually, I got the words out and through tears assured her that she was heaven sent. She put the tickets in overnight mail, and I called Bonnie.

“Bonnie,” I said. “Tomorrow, before 10:00 A.M., I will have in my hands tickets to the 1997 Indy 500 for you and John.” She and I rejoiced for several minutes through bouts of more tears. Then a horrifying thought struck me, “Bonnie, I don’t know if you will be able to find a room. The 500 is just a couple of weeks from now.”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” she replied, “I paid for the room almost a year ago. I knew if I showed enough faith, God would provide the tickets somehow.”

~Rick Phillips

Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul

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