A miracle happened today.
Thirty years ago, while working at the Canadian Embassy in Seattle, I met and made friends with a beautiful young woman from New Zealand, Rose-Marie Smith. It was the summer of 1984. We were instant friends and we loved spending time together. She gave me the plate pictured above as a gift and I've cherished it ever since. Rose-Marie was always doing kind and loving things for others.
That fall of '84, my husband (at the time) and I moved to Utah for graduate school. When we moved back to Washington in 1986, two years later, Rose-Marie and I picked up where we had left off, like good friends do. Several years later, Rose-Marie moved to CA and got married. I was busy with babies and toddlers and we fell out of touch. Also like good friends sometimes do.
I've thought of Rose-Marie so many, many times over the years that have passed. The plate she gave me has been with me in every kitchen I've had. Ten years ago, or so, I started trying to find her. But my efforts were always unsuccessful. She was in California the last time I had talked with her, she wasn't a member of my church, and I couldn't remember her married name.
I hoped and wished I could somehow find her, but I knew the possibility existed I may never see her again.
This morning I got dressed for church and walked down the street to our chapel to find an empty parking lot. I had forgotten that it was our Stake Conference. So I walked home.
Needing a prescription filled that couldn't wait, I went to Smith's Marketplace, something I NEVER do on a Sunday. Ever.
I was wandering around the tea towels, waiting for my prescription, when I turned to see a woman who looked just like my friend Rosie. She spoke briefly to a clerk and I only heard a word, but I thought I could detect an accent. I walked past her, looking at her face, her height, her features. Basically stalking her.
I stood in the isle next to the isle she was in, invisible to her view. My mind raced. Could it be her?? Could that woman who looks JUST like Rose-Marie BE Rose-Marie? And if it IS her, WHAT is she doing in UTAH?!?
I had to ask her. I couldn't walk away and wonder for the rest of my life if the woman was Rose-Marie's look-a-like.
I went back to where she was standing. Touching her arm to get her attention and smiling I said, "Excuse me. What's your name?" I stood there, looking in her eyes, waiting for her response, never expecting it to actually be her.
"Rose-Marie," she said, smiling back at me.
"Rose-Marie!!!" I said. "It's me!!! It's Kathleen!!!" We threw our arms around each other and cried and laughed and cried some more.
"What are you doing in UTAH?!?" I asked, as I hugged her.
She was here getting her son (who attends the University of Utah) settled into his new apartment. She was there at Smith's buying kitchen items, spices, condiments, this and that. And there we stood, in the tea towel isle where she had been looking for coasters. After over 20 years of not seeing each other and having totally lost contact.
It would be one thing if Rose-Marie and her family were Mormon. That might make bumping into her in SLC a possibility. But they're not Mormon. And it would be one thing if it were a week day, a day I normally go to Smith's Marketplace. But it wasn't. It was Sunday. And I never go to the store on Sunday.
God had put His hand into our lives and brought us back together. There was no doubt in my mind and no doubt in Rose-Marie's mind. And for us, who have both had our reasons in the past for feeling God may not be hearing or answering our prayers, it was crystal clear on this day that He is indeed paying attention.
God gave us back our friendship. Just because He loves us. Just because He is a God of good will toward His children. And just because He wants us to be happy.
I've been learning as a parent lately that our joy cannot be full for one child when another one of our children is hurting. And I think of our Heavenly Father. I think that this is the reason we ought to have more compassion for each other, more forgiveness for each other, extend more kindness to each other, help one another. Because our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and He wants us to help each other be happy.
He showed me today how He works to bring us happiness, how He listens for a long time, and how He brings things in when we least expect it. He showed me again today that He can be trusted to make things right.
God is a God of miracles. Yet He still allows us to participate. In all our glorious weakness and human frailty, He allows us to have the experiences that show us He is there, paying attention, listening.
And He can do anything. Anything.
Even in the isles of Smith's Marketplace in downtown Salt Lake City on a Sunday.