Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's in the Bag!

Uncle Louie, my mother's brother, passed away a little more than twenty years ago.   He was kind, gentle and soft-spoken like my mother, and I was saddened.  I would say a little prayer for him throughout the days that followed when thoughts of him came to my mind.
I lived in Brooklyn in those days, and I remember strolling along Ralph Avenue where there were a variety of stores and walking toward Woolworth's, what was then called a "five and dime".  There was nothing in particular I needed to buy, but just walking around the store, seeing other people, and hoping to make a small purchase was somehow comforting.  It was the type of store where one could always find a little something to lift the spirits without spending a lot of money.  I don't remember what I purchased that day, but what I left with was priceless.

As I walked along,  I saw an elderly nun in a modified habit with veil coming from the other direction walk through the door of Woolworth's, and perhaps, associating a nun with such things as faith and eternal life, I thought of my Uncle Louie's recent passing and wondered if he was in heaven.  A fleeting thought passed through my mind.  "If Uncle Louie is in heaven, please God, let the nun speak to me."   I had never before prayed for a sign that someone was in heaven, let alone on a whim and with such specificity as this one.  I immediately dismissed the thought and entered Woolworths.

I had been in the store about a twenty minutes, browsing, looking for nothing in particular.  I found myself adjacent to the handbag section just walking slowly down the aisle, picking up items, looking at them and placing them back on the counter, when I saw the nun standing in the handbag section of the store.  She turned around, walked toward me, held up a handbag and said,  "Do you like this bag?"  I don't remember what I said or even leaving the store. I was in awe.  I believe that God had given me the sign I needed.  But it doesn't end there. 

It seems sometimes, where there is one sign, another follows as a confirmation of the first.  About a year or two ago I was at a gathering at the home of one of my brothers.  My cousin, Billy was there.  His father was my Uncle Louie.  During the course of the evening, I told Billy the story about the nun and the handbag. Although it had been nearly two decades since my uncle's passing, I had never had the proper opportunity to share my experience with my cousin.  He said, "That is really something! Do you know my father had his own handbag shop?"  I then remembered that when I was a young girl, my Uncle Louie had given me a leather handbag, but it was so long ago that I had forgotten.  Over the decades I probably had dozens of handbags, some which I eventually discarded as they became worn and others which I donated to charity for one reason or another.  But to this day, I still have Uncle Louie's handbag in my closet. 

I looked up the definition of the expression, "It's in the bag" and found that "It's in the bag means that it is a sure thing, a done deal, a slam dunk."  Is Uncle Louis in heaven?  I could not be more hopeful, but I will continue to pray for him and all the faithful departed.  Only good can come from prayer.

Joan Virzera

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