St. Anthony of Padua must be pretty busy in the afterlife. He’s the patron saint of lost articles, those little bits and bobs that we earthbound humans misplace with maddening regularity.
Last week, I invited readers to share stories of miraculous recoveries. They will give you hope — or just make you sadder that your heirloom hasn’t turned up.
Last year, Mary Anne Greczyn and her family vacationed in St. Thomas. One day, her husband, Warren, went in the sea for a dip, carefully placing his wallet in Mary Anne’s beach bag.
Or so he thought. It was nowhere to be found. Warren scoured the beach and for the next four days visited nearby hotels to see if the wallet had been turned in. In the meantime, he put a hold on his credit cards. On day five, success! The wallet was delivered to their resort.
“A snorkeler had spotted the wallet on the ocean floor, dove down to retrieve it and turned it into a neighboring resort,” Mary Anne wrote. “That resort called all the nearby resorts to see if anyone was missing a wallet. Everything was in it – not one card or one dollar missing. . . . We never knew the man’s name, but learned he, too, was from the D.C. Metro area. We would still love to buy him dinner in case he reads this!”
Forty years ago, Rita Caufield and Richard Mier were newlyweds on a fall foliage tour when they ran out of gas on an isolated road in Maine.
“It was after dark by the time two long-haired boys stopped and offered us a ride to town some miles away,” wrote Rita, of Martinsburg, W.Va. “Geeky and reticent, they seemed bored with high school life, alienated from the social scene, unenthusiastic about the future. But there was one bright spot: The driver enjoyed playing chess. He had even won some kind of tournament recently. They rode us back to our car with a can of gas, accepted our profuse thanks and sent us on our way.”
When the couple reached their next inn, Rita realized she’d left her beloved Aran sweater in the back seat of the teens’ car. “I was heartsick at the thought of losing this gift from my parents’ trip to Ireland,” she wrote.
But Rita grew up in a small town herself, and she had faith. When their vacation was over, she addressed an envelope to the postmaster of the Maine village, enclosing some money for postage along with a note asking for help in finding the young man who had come to their rescue. She described what he looked like and noted that he was a local chess star.
Before long, a package arrived in the mail: Rita’s sweater — and the unused return postage.
Fifty years ago, Thanh Pho’s grandmother gave her a gold chain with a small statue of the figure known as Lady Buddha.
“It gave me strength, comfort and peace,” wrote Thanh, of Herndon. “When life dealt me too many blows, I would just hold this statue, cry, pray and feel at peace with myself.”
Then Thanh went to the doctor for an X-ray. She removed the necklace and slipped it into the pocket of her shirt, which she also removed. The next morning she dropped the shirt off at the dry cleaner. That night, she realized with a jolt that she’d never retrieved the necklace.
When she called the dry cleaner the next day, Thanh was told that the necklace hadn’t shown up. Most items ended up down the drain, but there was a slim chance it might surface. But when Thanh went to pick up the shirt two days later, her jewelry was still missing.
“I was so devastated when I got home that I kept looking at the pocket of the shirt,” Thanh wrote. It was as if she was willing the necklace to appear.
And then suddenly, it did. Thanh saw the faint outline of the chain and the Lady Buddha. Apparently, whoever pressed the shirt had ironed right over the necklace, imprinting it in the fabric.
Thanh hurried to the dry cleaner and showed them the mark. “They looked at me and thought I was crazy,” she said. At first they didn’t see anything, then Thanh convinced them that the faint imprint was there.
“They told me that they had a record of the person who ironed that shirt and they would check with the person,” Thanh wrote. “I returned the next day, and the manager brought out the necklace with the statue. I burst out crying. . . . I didn’t care why it wasn’t returned earlier. I had my necklace back!”
To show her thanks, Thanh ordered 12 large pizzas for the dry-cleaning crew.
“To this day, the necklace is always with me,” she wrote. “It still gives me strength and comfort. I feel that my grandmother is always with me and together with Buddha.”
Maybe St. Anthony is there, too.
Tomorrow: More lost tales.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly .