Thirty years ago I “hid” a fifty-dollar bill between the pages of a red leather, gilt-stamped journal that now sits, along with all my other old journals, on a shelf in my bedroom closet. Every so often, I still leaf through, hoping to find that fifty bucks.

I think of all the other things I’ve lost in my life: the moss agate bracelet my parents gave me for my 23rd birthday, left behind one hazy night—dropped? impulsively given away?—in the bar of the Copley Square Hotel. The ninety dollars of waitressing money that fell out of my pocket near the old Boston Garden in the fall of 1988 and I mourned for months because it was some of the last money I ever made waitressing and I’d waitressed for 15 years. The black leather jacket (how? where?) somewhere between my apartment and the Southwestern Law Library, right after I’d first moved to L.A. and was studying for the California bar.

I won’t count the things that were stolen, which is another kind of loss; or the things I gave away to the wrong person: my virginity, for instance; or the things I knew I was going to lose in advance, like a little chunk of my left breast when they cut out that tumor. A few years ago, for the first time ever, I lost a library book–Roberto Bolaño’s By Night in Chile–which I hated not so much because the book cost 35 bucks to replace (plus I didn’t like it) but because the loss blemished the perfect library record I’d had since I was 6 (I found it later, under a floor mat in my car, and got a refund). It’s as if all those lost things tell their own story; form a path linking my past and future, like Hansel’s and Gretel’s crumbs.

Why do we lose things so much more often than we find them?
Why can’t we be more careful?
Do the things we’ve lost feel like they’ve lost us?

Maybe in some other dimension everything’s there, keeping each other company: the whirligig for the Krups food processor I accidentally emptied into the garbage, along with the plum pudding, that really bad Christmas in the mid-90’s. The 250-dollar reading glasses with the thick black frames I’m pretty sure I left at a Starbucks on the main drag in the mountain town of Temecula, California. The green ribbed sweater that disappeared one night in the Twin Towers jail in downtown L.A.

The clothes, the books, the jewelry, the money: maybe they’re all in some cosmic lost-and-found; maybe in an alternate realm, a small carefully-tended pile, labeled with our names, awaits each of us. Maybe everything finds its way back: the fragments of broken heart, the minds that wandered off and never returned, the roads not taken. Maybe in another world, we get to start over: the illusion that our parents were perfect, that he’d never look at another woman, that we weren’t going to die.

“I’m so sorry to hear it,” Andy Warhol said when he learned that everybody dies. “I just thought things were magic and that it would never happen.”

8 Replies to “LOST AND FOUND”

  1. All the items we lost are in a big room in the sky. They won't be of any use to us anymore, but we'll be delighted to see them again — even the things we were glad to lose.

    (As one who lives above a family of opossums, that CAT FOUND poster made me giggle)

  2. I'm not sure if most lost things are meant to be found. I don't think lost things are together in some cosmic lost and found. Perhaps some of the things were lost because our emotional attachment to them impedes our spiritual growth. Others, like regrets over the loss of virginity, are to be examined, confessed, and forgotten forever. While still others are just simply lost for no other reason or explanation needed. They are things that pass through our lives on the way to our true home.

    Here is an excerpt from the book Climbing the Mountain by Anne, A Lay Apostle. directionforourtimes.com

    "It was time to go and He told me that there was one small stop before we were to return. Back into the city, down a little side road, and into a door. A beautiful woman sat at the table, doing something with a bowl in front of her. It was Our Lady and I ran to her. She opened her arms and greeted me with such pleasure and love. Jesus, as always, was with us. But I sensed something different and it was this. Jesus was at home here, as He was at home on the earth. He began to tell me about this place. It was a humble kitchen with red flowers in a cup on the table. This was one of our Lord's homes while He lived on earth. St. Joseph was there but I did not speak to him.

    Jesus said, " Many souls on earth long for a place that feels like their home. Anne, they will find that place in heaven. They will be with their loved ones and they will be at home, more so than they were ever at home on earth. I understand this longing as I experienced it myself. This was my home and I felt happy in it. I have it here. Each soul will have a place here that is their home. Souls should understand that when they are forced to leave a home, it is only temporary. They will find it as soon as they arrive in heaven and it will be a joyful place, with none of the pain of their earthly home."

    There was a terrific peace in this little kitchen and I did not want to leave. I simply did not want to go. Yet it was time. I asked Our Lady if I could come back to her here when I arrived in heaven and help her with whatever she was doing in the bowl.

    "Of course you can, little Anne. You can come right to me here and I will wait for you."

    Promised secured, we left and Jesus brought me back to the room. I will be the only child in heaven, I'm afraid. Everyone else seem to be grown there, but I feel like the smallest of children.

    Jesus said, "Anne, you will not be the only childlike soul in heave, I assure you. You are experiencing heavenly love and it creates an innocence that cannot be mimicked on earth. Have no fears, You are exactly as you should be."

  3. Oh thank you Erin—though I must say I much prefer the vision of heaven as junk heap with one lone red high heel on the top and my fellow walking wounded wandering about being reunited with their lost stuff and loved ones!…

    Because in my experience, you don't "forget" your wounds, e.g. losing your virginity to the wrong person, no matter how much you've confessed and worked them through…Christ himself still bore the wounds after the Resurrection. The wounds have been transformed…you don't dwell on them; they no longer drive your actions; you've been forgiven for them…but you still bear them, at least partly to remind you to have compassion for the next person who bears them…and so with loss…to know that the loss was in the end perhaps an avenue to our spiritual progress/perfection doesn’t mean that the loss doesn’t hurt, and that we don’t mourn it, in some sense eternally…as long as we’re on this side, we long for wholeness, for the innocence of the lost Eden…and the loss of material things, whether it’s a bracelet, or a pair of glasses, or a sweater, brings that greater loss into consciousness and somehow gives me, for one, a little stab of pain…to try to deny that pain or to say that things don’t matter or that they won’t matter in heaven is to deny that we’re incarnate beings…I think things and our attachment to them are very mysterious and that Christ in his great tenderness…I’m not so sure there ISN’T a cosmic lost-and-found…because if our bodies are resurrected, what are we going to drink our morning coffee out of and comb our hair with and put on our feet when we go out dancing!?……

  4. Heather — This reflection reminds me of the poem "One Art," by Elizabeth Bishop, with its refrain, "The art of losing isn't hard to master." Much as with your words above, the poem moves from being a catalogue of comparatively small losses to being a meditation on the major and intimate losses ("master" in the poem rhymes with "disaster"). But perhaps you already know the poem?

    I cherish these words from your comment, immediately above:

    to know that the loss was in the end perhaps an avenue to our spiritual progress/perfection doesn’t mean that the loss doesn’t hurt, and that we don’t mourn it, in some sense eternally…

    Very true.

  5. I understand completely what you are saying about the wounds and loss. I have spent years working through my woundedness, and am still in the process, of course. It is exactly as you said, that the wounds are transformed. I used to every now and then allow myself to think about that empty time in my life and it would take me to a place I didn't want to go. Praise God He pulled me out of that and I suppose it reminds me of His amazing Mercy and just how little I, myself, am capable of without Him. I now, though, choose to continue always moving forward on my climb to heaven. The wounds, loss, and struggles are what propels us forward in most cases. I am learning to put all my faith in divine providence in that God can give and take away, but it is all for my salvation, to draw me closer to Him.

    I believe that in heaven we will be reunited with things and experiences that we cherish. Perhaps you'll be reunited with that sweater and I believe you'll enjoy your parents in the way God created them to be without the effect of original sin that brings about all this woundedness.

    But I also believe that heaven is all about LOVE. So I don't think you'll be the walking wounded, although you'll still be aware of that woundedness, you'll be a new creation in God.

    Thank you!

  6. Thanks so much, Erin…beautiful…

  7. Heather I just wanted to thank you for your writing- it is beautiful and a real blessing. I printed out your piece on what faith doesn't do and handed them out today at the Newman college mass I attend.

    So thank you so much, and please keep it coming! There is so much truth in your words.

  8. Robert, many thanks–This is wonderful, and a great honor, to think you have printed out a piece of mine to hand out at your Newman college Mass…I'll keep writing if you'll keep reading!…