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Chapter: Treasure Box | I once read a story about a couple of guys who bought a dilapidated cottage as an investment in Island, New York, for about $300,000. The investors hoped to fix it up and turn a profit of perhaps $100,000.

When the two were looking over the cottage in the process of purchasing it, they found artwork piled in the back of the house. The men asked the sellers about their plans for= the large pile of paintings, and the sellers confessed that they planned on throwing the artwork away. So the two investors asked if they could buy the pile of paintings. The seller quickly agreed on a price of $2,500 and added it to the purchase price of the cottage.

In the end, the two men found they had acquired more than three thousand abstract paintings and drawings by an Armenian American artist named Arthur Pinajian, who had lived in the old cottage decades before. Time and money were spent having the paintings professionally restored, and when they were appraised, it was discovered that the total value of the artwork, once destined for the trash heap, was thirty million dollars.

This is, of course, one of those stories that make all of us Antiques Roadshow lovers drool. But it got me thinking about I once read a about a couple of guys who bought a dilapidated cottage as an investment in Long Island, New York, for about $300,000. The investors hoped to fix it up and turn a profit of perhaps $100,000.

When the two were looking over the cottage in the process of purchasing it, they found artwork piled in the back of the house. The men asked the sellers about their plans for the large pile of paintings, and the sellers confessed that they planned on throwing the artwork away. So the two investors asked if they could buy the pile of paintings. The seller quickly agreed on a price of $2,500 and added it to the purchase price of the cottage.

In the end, the two men found they had acquired more than three thousand abstract paintings and drawings by an Armenian American artist named Arthur Pinajian, who had lived in the old cottage decades before. Time and money were spent having the paintings professionally restored, and when they were appraised, it was discovered that the total value of the artwork, once destined for the trash heap, was thirty million dollars.

This is, of course, one of those stories that make all of us Antiques Roadshow lovers drool. But it got me thinking about treasures in my life, things I have overlooked or simply not made time for.

One such thing was a box.

A box that sat in the back of my walk-in closet for close to a year.

It was my father’s box.

Over the months, I would glance down at it as I was grabbing a pair of shoes or reorganizing a shelf of shirts and think, One of these days, I’m gonna go through that box. But it just sat and sat there ’til one day I knew it was the day.

Honestly, I still questioned whether I was ready to go through the box. Something about going through it made me feel the loss of him all over again, ripping open the wound that had finally healed over. Both my mother and sister had been the keeper of his earthly goods for more than fifteen years, but then they’d handed it over to me—now I was the protector of his papers and words and pictures, stuffed into a cardboard box in the back of my closet.

Shameful really, but I was afraid.

Maybe I was afraid of what I might feel; would I still weep at the sight of his handwriting or the smell of his shirt or the pictures of him as a young man in his Navy uniform, so strong and determined?

But if there is anything I have learned in my life thus far, things that are feared must be faced, so I did.

Sitting on the cold tile floor of my bathroom, still clad in my flannel pajamas, I opened the box.

It had photographs nearly a hundred years old of ancestors that I recalled my father telling stories about. A faded picture of my grandma Tannie, who died when my dad was a teenager, a letter hand-signed from President Bill Clinton in grateful recognition of my father’s service to his country for his years in the navy. Then, in a brown envelope that was torn at the edges, I found the pages of my dad’s manuscript. The book he had always dreamed of writing, which he’d called Quincy.

Early on in my dad’s life, writing songs was his great passion. As the years rolled by and his love for books grew, he found himself waking up in the middle of the night with the scenes from a novel running through his mind. His novel. With all the kids grown, my dad had found time once again to write.

I rolled over in the street and sat up best as I could. I spat a mouth full of blood into the dirt, hoping there were no teeth in it.

That’s how it starts. I found a cover letter he had sent to the editors of several respected publishing houses, along with a few chapters. Signed, Cova Morgan, December 1997.

All this time, I’d had this in my closet and I had no idea it was no ordinary box. This was a box of treasures. A treasure sitting in a cardboard box gathering dust and sadness and then—as if I were a pirate cracking open the lid—there inside was the treasure I didn’t even know I had been missing.

A part of the treasure was seeing him with a new pair of eyes—as a writer, an artist, not just as the man who tucked me in at night and woke me each morning with a warm washcloth on my forehead. He was a man of dreams and thought and words and so much more than I ever knew.

Yet he managed to bottle up that part of himself and press play on the life he had walked into, and he seemed to do it gladly. But in these pages, I felt a sense of urgency, saw someone who knew the sand in the hourglass was running out and if he ever hoped to write his story and live the life he had longed for in his heart, that time was now.

I knew he was a writer all my life, a songwriter and a guitar player, a man of the arts disguised in a mechanic’s blue shirt with a name that was perpetually misspelled by the company that did his shirts. It would be Kova or Kovi or Kove, never Cova. Like those misspelled name tags, there was a part of him I didn’t know, and I now desperately wish I could have had the chance to know that man. Oh, the conversations we could have had.

I wonder, too, if there was an opportunity, one that I simply didn’t take the time to explore in the chaos of my life and my touring schedule. I missed out on the living treasure, and now I must be satisfied with the smell of old paper and faded handwriting and a sense of loss.

When my daughters were small, I would tell them a story about my dad each night, in hopes this would somehow create a memory of him that they would never be able to experience in the usual way. I had no idea that there were new stories to be told, something yet to discover about someone I thought I knew so well.

I think of Jesus and His twelve disciples, walking along the dusty roads of Israel for hours and days and how much talking and eating they did and healing the blind and lame, casting out demons and raising Lazarus from the dead and feeding the thousands … and yet they say, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27 nkjv).

They just didn’t get it. Maybe they could have but they just weren’t ready to open up their minds—and more importantly, their hearts—to what was really going on.

Doing all of that takes time and patience and denying of yourself. I am really bad at denying myself. That is what I know to be true down on the cold tile floor. What I would give to have the chance to do it over. But does that ever really work? We can’t go back; we must make time for it now.

The treasures are all there, just like that pile of old paintings in the back room of that cottage, waiting for Monday morning’s trash pickup. Sometimes we just can’t see them for what they truly are.

I wonder about the life of that painter whose artwork was piled up in a dusty corner of an old house. I did a little digging and discovered that Arthur Pinajian was an Armenian American whose parents were survivors of the Armenian genocide. Arthur made his living as a comic book artist in the golden era of comics; he also served in the United States Army during World War II and received the Bronze Star for valor.

The side of him that few knew about were his paintings of portraits, landscapes, and abstract art—until a couple of guys stumbled on them and cared enough to see what was hiding beneath the surface. Maybe that’s what matters most, really: digging beneath the surface and getting down to what really matters.

What really matters? People we love, people we want to love but don’t know how to love, people we need to forgive, people who need us to forgive them.

There are so many ways to find the treasures … Only you know what box is lying around in your closet or in your heart.

I used to think that life’s treasures were things like success, critical acclaim, and financial security. Now I am beginning to understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Matthew wrote, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21 nkjv). Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? Where is yours? It is a question work asking.

Here is an answer. The apostle Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 esv).

In jars of clay and in cardboard boxes.

Let us not miss out on the real treasures of life.

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