Roxane B. Salonen, Published December 20 2013
Living Faith: Reader finds solace through mystery medals
Back in September, Rose Dunn of Moorhead had just learned the devastating news that her son, Gary, 19, had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the next morning, he was to go through a surgical cancer biopsy to determine its stage.
She could hardly hold a coherent thought, and yet she had to press on. There were things that needed doing, including the unfinished laundry.
As she pulled up a load to be transferred to the dryer, her mind in a fog of worry, Dunn saw something gleaming at the bottom of the washing machine. It was a chain, and on it, three religious medals, including a crucifix, dangling brightly.
She was used to finding all sorts of odd items in the laundry – lip gloss, coins, and other odds and ends that had slipped in through pockets. But Dunn was confounded, in part because she’d remembered checking the pockets of all the clothes that had gone into that load, and the necklace didn’t belong to anyone in her family.
Dunn, a Lutheran, felt compelled to learn the significance of the medals, knowing only that they were Catholic religious symbols, having seen some of her Catholic friends wearing something similar.
Though she did find some information online, what stood out most were words on the back of the medal of St. Joseph holding a young Jesus: “Pray for us.”
“You don’t have to know very much about Catholicism and symbolism to find meaning in that message,” she said, noting that she clung to the medals in the coming days, drawing strength through the tangible objects that reminded her of a loving God. “It hung near my heart through long days of tests, chemo and a night in the hospital due to his severe reaction to the chemo.”
For those who might question Dunn’s response to the mysterious medals and what she sees as a “divinely timed find,” she thinks it’s important to note that she spent her career in television journalism, and is naturally skeptical and very practical about such things.
Included in the load was a swimming warm-up jacket her daughter, a Moorhead High student, has been using for the season, and it’s possible a past athlete had left the necklace behind, she said.
“I know there’s a logical, reasonable explanation for why these were in my washing machine that night, that they didn’t just materialize there,” she said. “Nevertheless it was the darkest night of my life, and it gave me a little bit of a chill and then comfort.”
It’s not the first time something like this has happened to Dunn. Twelve years ago, at another very low point, she found a small golden angel medallion in freshly fallen snow just moments after calling out in exasperation, “Why God?” The only footprints near the angel, who had a pearl face, were hers.
“It’s hard to explain, but if I’d found a key chain or a cat pin instead of an angel, we wouldn’t be talking about it today,” Dunn said, noting that it’s all about timing and the obvious spiritual significance of the objects.
Gary, she happily reports, is expected to make a full recovery and looking forward to returning to college for his sophomore year.
But there’s still some unfinished business in Dunn’s mind. She wants to find the rightful owner of the necklace. “I want to get it back to them, but I also want them to know I’ve put it to good use during their time of waiting to find them,” she said.
If you or someone you know has lost medals like this, email Dunn at email@example.com to see if it’s a match.
Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email firstname.lastname@example.org