Thursday, March 20, 2014

Where's My Purse, St. Anthony? Patron Saint of Lost Items

It's a great relief when you become secure enough to no longer sleep with your purse.  My mother's dementia kept her in a state of perpetual worry at times.  She would be contentedly watching the cooking channel and the next minute panic would wash over her face and she would ask, "Where is my purse?" at the same time, scrambling in her chair to see if it was on the floor or in her lap.  For that split second, her survival was dependent on the purse that held the answer to the universe, her protection from evil and the key to happiness.  I never could figure out what was in that purse that was so important.

The purse became a security blanket of sorts, taking the place of a teddy bear or favorite doll.  Sleeping with it would provide her with a magic that seemed to ward off disasters.  I took to filling her purse with Kleenex, paper, pens and pencils, a few aspirin, Chap Stick and some small coins after she turned 98.  But really the purse held more than stuff.  The memories from years passed of caring for kids with runny noses and skinned knees, grocery lists for suppers we ate every night as a family, a checkbook that often times had a zero balance and recipes, lots of recipes.  It was a handbag, a medicine bag, a talisman for sorcery, a evening bag filled with glamour, a valise for extra undies and socks, a receptacle with bills to mail, a clutch with lotion and a comb, a silk reticule of a mother's love, a portmanteau that held the meaning of daily living.     

How many times did I hear the prayer..."St. Anthony, St. Anthony, Please come 'round.  Something's been lost and cannot be found".  St. Anthony didn't let her down  The purse was never lost but it seemed like it was until it could be located, sometimes in a few seconds, sometimes hours later, usually where she had hidden it.  A life of vigilance that spilled out of the purse and somehow kept her family safe.

St. Anthony statue from Chris Hart Studio
 The statue of Anthony appears with a typical Franciscan brown robe,  holding either the Christ child, a book or a stem of lilies, sometimes all three.  He is the Patron Saint for lost articles, lost people, lost things, lost spiritual beliefs and even lost minds.  St. Anthony is known for steady courage to face life's ups and downs and he  followed the call to love and forgive.  All traits my mother excelled in.  With the dementia age brought to my mother, came the upheaval of knowing that she didn't know.  St. Anthony restored the peace and tranquility to her mind,  the loss of which is more afflicted than any material loss.

Toward the end, my mother quit sleeping with her purse.  She quit worrying about where it was.  Apparently she didn't need all that stuff where she was going.       .      


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