Life is the prize - Beside the Point


Life is the prize.

Sometimes we ask ourselves, unfortunate as it may seem, why we struggle through this ride, especially when we get punched in the stomach throughout life.

Little Lucy Saltzgaver of Fort Madison died in March from pulmonary hypertension. The same silent killer that took our 20-year-old daughter two years ago.

They asked Pen City Current to help publish a fundraiser trivia night on May 21st at the Eagle's Club in Fort Madison. I'm usually asleep less than 10 minutes after I finish up our e-edition every night so I don't really read through everything knowing the wife has things well in hand after I finish laying out the editorial stuff.

When she brought this to my attention, she couldn't do it without crying. It's tough to see in those moments where life is the prize.

But it is. God works in funny ways. But I don't believe God is to thank for being able to catch a football better than anyone else. He just created life and life took over from that point.

I don't believe God took my child from her mother and me because he needed a warrior for an angel. That's what he got for sure - but I believe he grieves her death and our loss as a circumstance of His creation.

I believe He grieves the loss of little Lucy. We do.

Most people don't know what PH is. But in a nutshell, blood doesn't flow efficiently between the heart and lungs causing the heart to stress and eventually fail. There are new medications and treatments and people are living 30 even 40 years with the disease, if there are no other mitigating factors like Down's Syndrome in Lucy's case, or Type 1 diabetes and congential asplenia, in Kelsey's case.

I was communicating with a friend this week and we talked a bit about how difficult life can be and how we have to recalibrate our lives at times.

The calibration comes by putting value in things where we might be able to find a return on the investment.

Jacob Pothitakis and Xander Wellman, both potential all-state soccer players on the Hounds' boys soccer team, have both suffered season-ending injuries in this, their junior years. They both have extremely positive attitudes about the injuries and fighting back for their senior year.

Wellman will in all likelihood miss his senior year on the Bloodhound football team. Wellman handles the kicking duties and was coming into his own as a wideout and defensive back. Pothitakis was having the best start to a year ever.

But these two have to be asking why? They've put in all the hard work to excel at their craft and to have a very good chance at making the state tournament this year pulled from them is not only a gut-punch for them, but the whole team. This is still a solid team with Class 2A 2021 2nd-team all-state selection Mitchell Pothitakis still fronting the squad.

These two will play again and have a bright future ahead of them. But Lucy's parents are left with a much heavier recalibration and a big hole in their hearts. We know that process... that pain.

The prize, although it seems more like an inhumane robbery right now, is the three years they got. Ours was the 20 years we got with Kels. Distractions and time should be the salve to the wounds of grief and remembering that life ultimately was the prize. Even when we get shortchanged, it's still the prize. The memories, the joy, and even the pain are part of that prize.

The fundraiser starts at 7 p.m. and money raised will be used to bring Lucy back home with her family and to offset costs associated with those efforts. The night will feature a music trivia with teams of eight for $120 or $15 per player.

Silent auction theme baskets will be on hand to bid on, and monetary donations are much appreciated. Let's bring this girl home to her family.

And along the lines of prizes, four Fort Madison boys went to the blue oval of Drake University for the 2022 Drake Relays. The boys finished in the top 1/3 of the field in the 4x100 with anchor speedster Tate Johnson running a 10.16 final leg, which was the 8th fastest time of the day in the high school boys division. Johnson also ran in the 100-meter dash.

It's an accomplishment that once again showcases the recent successes in Fort Madison extracurricular programs. The Lee County Robotics Team just ensnared a runner-up Rookie of the Year award at the International FIRST Robotics competition in Houston. The building trades team will be headed to Atlanta in May to compete in the National Building Trades competition and I'm sure we'll see some runners at the state track meet next month.

We all suffer in life with loss and pain and injury, but these stories and others, including community efforts to help deaden the pain of the loss of a child, are the prizes we hang on for - But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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