Lost and Found
Some weeks ago, I received an invitation to my dear friend Jean’s April wedding in Chicago. I carefully placed the invitation on my kitchen counter, promising myself I would RSVP soon and type the date into my phone calendar. A few days later the father of my husband’s close friend died. The memorial service would be held in April. When in April? My husband’s friend wasn’t sure. Could we hold off on responding to the wedding until we knew the date for the memorial service?
I decided I needed to find a safe place for the wedding invitation. I should stop myself right there. For years I have been hiding money in safe places in my house, only to realize I’d created such terrific hiding places I couldn’t find them myself. I’ve probably stashed hundreds of dollars, I don’t know where.
My husband’s friend called a couple of weeks ago. The memorial service would be held in May.
Time to RSVP to the wedding.
You know where this is going. I couldn’t find the invitation, and therefore the RSVP card, anywhere.
I’d like to preface this story by saying that I’m a good looker. I’ve taught my children how to look (my husband is a lost cause) by remembering each step they took before they misplaced the item in question. But I’d hidden that invitation weeks ago. My memory hid with it.
As I was searching frantically for the invite, my friend Jean called. I missed the call because I was under the bed in the guest room, casting about for the errant invitation. No luck. I searched my office. I searched my bedroom. I searched my husband’s office. I searched the kitchen, the basement, the dining and living rooms. I foraged through the little recycling bin in the kitchen, then almost fell in the big blue recycling bin in the garage.
Sheepish, I called Jean back. I detailed my misadventure regarding her invitation. Being Jean, she laughed it off and told me she’d send another one. Then she said this:
“Whenever I lose anything, I pray to St. Anthony. I know it might sound crazy, but it always – always – works.”
I’d never heard of St. Anthony, and I grew up in a house where a calendar hung on the refrigerator assigning a saint to every day of the year. Did you know St. Aloysius’s feast date is June 21?
St. Anthony’s story is this: when he was a Franciscan friar, a novice stole his book of Psalms. I won’t get into the roaring hypocrisy of a religious novice as thief, and I can’t consider a stolen item lost. St. Anthony, though, being a humble fellow, figured he’d misplaced the book. He prayed for it to be recovered. And one day, the novice returned it to him.
But I’d never met St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, because honestly, I hardly ever lost anything. Besides, even though I grew up under the unyielding eye of a devout Catholic mother, I’m spiritual, not religious. I married a Jewish man who equipped me with several portraits of Jewish rabbis that I have kept in my wallet to at least enhance, if not guarantee, my safety. I have two Jewish sons. I attend services at an open and affirming Congregational Church that marries gay people – which should come in handy if either of my two gay sons ever decide to get married.
Still, I wanted to find that invitation. Printed upon it were hotel suggestions, shuttle information, and perhaps key, the date, time and location of the wedding and reception.
I put off praying to St. Anthony for a few days, determined to find the invitation on my own. Plus, I felt it unfair to place so much pressure on St. Anthony; I didn’t even know the guy.
But on a Monday morning, I rolled out of bed, hunted in a couple of bureau drawers I had already searched four times, gazed up at the heavens, which is ridiculous because the man’s corpse lies down in the ground in Portugal, and introduced myself.
And I asked for help.
Two minutes later I stood in front of my desk, I’m not sure why. I had scoured it several times in my search. But my hands were drawn to a pile of notebooks held tight by bookends. I pulled the bookends from their places. The books collapsed onto their faces. And there, stuck underneath the pile, lay Jean’s invitation.
I have long believed in mysticism; it’s why I so enjoy the magical realism of South American writers. And I have long believed in prayer, if only to calm my mind. Years ago my friend Liz lent me the book “The Secret” (Lizzie dear, I’m getting that back to you soon) about the power of the law of attraction, where what you believe manifests. I am convinced this sort of thinking works.
Life thrives in the unseen. Those Jewish rabbis, that law of attraction, and perhaps most timely for me, St. Anthony, reside there, in the light that is too bright for us to see.
For this week’s writing prompt, think of a time when you lost an object, or a friendship, or a memory. Did you take action to retrieve it? Write about your journey. If you’d like to share it, send it along to me.