Anyone can be an angel.
During her final year, before reuniting with my father in heaven, my mother and I were reading aloud from Angels on Earth. It’s a monthly magazine containing stories about what people believe are visitations by heavenly messengers — men and women (and sometimes animals) who appear in the stories, often mysteriously to remedy or save a situation, and then just as unexplainably leave.
After reading about one heavenly visitor, I was reminded of the experience Mom had about eight years ago.
She was living in her apartment at the time, at a large residence for the elderly. I often joined her at its first-floor restaurant, the Campus Cuisine, during my lunch break from work.
One noontime when I approached the table where she was waiting, I could see she was teary-eyed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. She showed me her left hand, which was bare.
“I lost my ring,” she said. It was an elegant, three-diamond setting my dad had presented to her for their twenty-fifth anniversary. She said it had a sizing clasp on it that sometimes came loose.
“I’ve looked everywhere for it and turned the apartment upside down.”
“Did you tell the office here?” I asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“What else can you do?” I asked.
She replied, “I’m going to pray to St. Anthony.”
Now, for those who may not know, in the Catholic faith St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects, and it’s my guess that a few of you can tell your own remarkable stories about this phenomenon.
Still, I remember thinking at the time, it was a really expensive ring, and if someone found it, it wasn’t likely to be returned.
Several weeks passed, and no ring turned up. I was pretty sure my mother would never see it again.
After about a month, though, on arriving at our usual table at the restaurant for lunch, I found Mom beaming.
I stared at her. She held up her hand — there was the ring.
“You found it?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t find it,” she said.
And she proceeded to tell me that, the night before, on returning to the residence after playing cards with friends, she was standing in the lobby trying to decide whether to go to the Cuisine for dinner or just have something light in her apartment when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
She turned to see a tall, handsome man with a mustache, wearing a hat and a long wool coat that one doesn’t often see these days. He said, “Are you Anita?”
Mom said, “Yes.”
“And you’ve lost your ring?”
“Yes,” Mom replied.
Without saying more, the man pulled the ring from his pocket, put it on Mom’s finger, and left the building before my mother could get out an astonished “Thank you.”
No one had ever seen this man before, and neither Mom nor anyone else ever saw him again.
— Paul E. Baribault —