By Web Ruble
Web writes: "I like to call myself a Christian, but I have to admit that fact did not grip my soul until I retired from 40 years of newspaper work."
She came bustling around the corner into the anteroom and then into the main office.
The mysterious stout, short woman of about 50, had come from out of nowhere, or at least from the anteroom, as far as I could determine.
"Lets pray about it," she said to my wife who was at the office counter, saying that someone rifled our car while we were tending my grandparents' graves.
My wife was missing her purse and, of course, all of the stuff inside it, including driver's license, $8 in cash, bus tickets, identification cards, medical cards, and a checkbook. When she drives as she did that day, she usually locks the car and tucks the purse out of sight -- usually under the seat. But because it was late, and we were in somewhat of a before-the-cemetery-office-closes hurry, she didn't do it that time. After all, there hardly was anyone around.
Now this was most disturbing. Memorial Day 2007. It was evening. Few were still in the park. Moreover, the cemetery office was within an hour of closing.
We had parked on the edge of one of the many roads that traverse Portland's Riverview Cemetery. My grandparents' graves -- side by side within a few feet of other relatives -- were down a slope from the road. From the gravesite, the edge of the road was almost visible but not the car.
Moments earlier, I remember, I had forgotten something -- probably a tool like a hand trowel -- from the car and had gone up to retrieve it. The purse was in the car at that point. I plucked the trowel and was just turning around to head back down the slope when some athletic-looking bicyclists slowly glided by. I remember thinking, hmmm, this park would make for a nice peaceful bike ride, especially in the evening during a busy weekend.
That's the only thought I gave it.
I returned to the gravesite where wife Norma was scraping away moss from my grandfather's tombstone. We did a few other tidying-up chores. We both noted that though sunny, it was getting late. Not quite dusk but deep shadows were beginning to creep over the large, well-treed cemetery spread in glory up Palatine Hill that paralleled Taylors Ferry Road, adjacent Lewis & Clark College.
A job well done, I felt. But 'twas late. Time to go.
So we climbed back up the slope. I opened the trunk to deposit the tools. Norma was in the front seat ravaging around. And I noticed she was getting antsy. She began looking under the seat and all around.
Finally, she said, "Darn it . . .I know I shouldn't have done that, but apparently I didn't think and I did leave it in plain site, and now it's gone.
"Huh? What?" I said.
"My purse. It's gone," she said.
"Are you sure?" I said, diving into the front seat area to conduct my own search.
"It's just not here," she said. "No use looking any longer. It's gone."
"Whaaa? Not here. Not in this peaceful place."
However, it was true, the purse was gone. And we had it in our possession when we arrived. I thought: What a sacrilege, stealing from a cemetery . . .on Memorial Day!
We searched nearby trash cans, and found no purse. But we agreed that we should stop by the cemetery office a few hundred yards north of where we were and report the theft.
"We'll probably never see it again, but the office needs to know," she said.
So we parked there and went in. Norma approached the counter, where the clerk was working. Norma reported the theft, when that mysterious woman rushed in and said, "Terrible thing. Let's pray about it."
And so she, my wife, and the clerk had a brief prayer. I sat nearby in stunned amazement. The woman consoled my wife, prayed for the stuff to be returned, and prayed that my wife would learn to take better care of belongings. She then departed quickly in the direction she came. She left the building, got into her nondescript sedan, and drove off
I asked my wife, "Did you know that woman?"
"No," my wife said. "I have no idea who she was."
As we drove home -- across town to our east suburb Fairview -- Norma said, "You know, right after the prayer I had the feeling that everything will be all right, and I no longer worry about it."
She said she believed in prayer.
I mumbled something succinct like, "Uh huh."
The next day Norma called the cemetery office , suggesting they put a lock on their mail box. She didn't worry about matters until about 10 days later when she thought she should check with the cemetery office again to see if anything had been turned in. Nothing had been.
Norma then asked the clerk if she knew who the prayer lady was. My wife said she had thought the woman worked there.
The clerk said, "No. She doesn't work here. I have no idea who the woman was."
A few days after that, we got an early-morning phone call from the police at Canby, Ore. -- it's a south Portland extended suburb -- saying they had recovered some of my wife's belongings. Officers had stopped some kids or young adults; found in their car a Tupperware container containing lots of stolen goods, including my wife's check book, keys, lots of identification, driver's license and medical cards. Police took the kids into custody and confiscated the car and is contents.
Not only did the officer call us and tell us, but said he lived in Troutdale near our place and would return it to us. My wife met him at the gate of our mobile home court.
I remember telling Norma, "Well . . . never underestimate the power of prayer."
Norma smiled and said, "Uh huh."
(© 2012 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)