Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I never thought I’d be writing to you, but I just got the shock of my life. In fact I recall once reading a similar letter in your column and thinking “who does that?” But now I find myself in a similar situation, in shock that such a thing could have happened and remembering how I questioned the validity of that previous letter those years ago and your credibility for printing it. But here I sit, in that same spot and I know you will believe me when I tell you I don’t know what to do. Please help me find a way out of this without looking like a liar or a thief because I am 100% telling the truth!
It all started coming to light when my husband and I went to a l’chaim for the granddaughter of my best friend who passed away a little over a year ago. The kallah’s mother is the daughter of my best friend and so I was counted as family. They had set up a tent in the back yard but the heating did not work and my husband was very uneasy to be amongst the thirty people already there, so I said let’s just wait to say Mazel Tov and then we would leave.
We made our way over to my friends daughter and the kallah and as they turned to receive us, I almost fainted. There, on the lapel of her suit jacket, was pinned my mother’s, a”h, diamond and aquamarine brooch! The same brooch I had searched for, turned the house upside down for for the last fifteen years until I had finally given it up for lost! I could barely find my voice to ask the her where she had gotten such a lovely piece, almost hoping to hear that she had gotten it from her husband as a gift.
Her answer opened up a floodgate of memories, as if it were yesterday! She said that when the shloshim were up after her mother’s passing, she and her two sisters went through their mother’s jewelry box and each one chose the trinkets they wanted to keep in memory of their mom. She, being the oldest, got first choice and, because her mother had pinned this brooch to her ‘simcha suite’ she chose it as one of her desired pieces of jewelry. She said she felt very close to her mother wearing it and thanked me for noticing. But then, she expected nothing less from her departed mother’s best friend!
The years suddenly peeled away to the day over fifteen years ago, when my friend knocked on my door in a panic. That Shabbos was her youngest child’s Bar Mitzvah and the suit she was going to wear had a small hole in the lapel. She was all upset as it was too late to look for something else, she begged me to loan her a brooch/pin to place over the hole so that it wasn’t noticeable. I, personally, don’t wear jewelry much and certainly didn’t own something that would be appropriate for this occasion. As I rummaged amongst the few good pieces I owned, she spotted my mother’s brooch in its mesh sack and said that’s exactly what she needed, not too big yet not too small but just enough to cover the hole. I was happy to put her mind at ease with this loan and I can’t remember what I might have said, but I’m certain I didn’t say she could keep it.
Time passed and, as I said I am not one for wearing any jewelry, an occasion did arise where I thought to wear my mother’s brooch. It was then that I couldn’t find it anywhere until I thought that I had lost it, it might have come undone while I last wore it and it was gone. I recall mourning over the brooch, one of only three things I had from my mother, who herself shunned jewelry. Now, these many years later, I finally come face to face with my mother’s posthumous gift to me, that I had loaned to my best friend those many years back, pinned to the lapel of her daughter’s suit. I was stunned and speechless to the point of croaking out a barely audible Mazel Tov, swung around and ran for the door before anyone saw the tears flowing down my cheeks.
When we got home I filled in my frazzled husband on what had happened. He said I should call the daughter and explain the situation to her to reclaim what was rightfully mine. Besides this is a family heirloom and we have daughters too who will, one day after 120 years, rightfully inherit it. I just don’t want a machlokes, but I do know that that is my mother’s brooch and I just don’t know how to go about getting it back. Please “HELP!”
I looked back in my memory banks to the letter that was similar to what you are going through and found it! However, the circumstances we very different. There was actual theft involved and that made everything different.
Your situation is very much different. You lent the brooch to your friend who, after her simcha, instead of returning it to you right away, genuinely forgot to do so, as did you forget to ask her back for it. Life sometimes gets in the way like that. By the time you wanted to wear it again, many months passed and you didn’t remember you lent it out to your friend, and your friend left it pinned to her suit in her closet, possibly thinking she HAD RETURNED IT TO YOU. Before any of this could be resolved, she passed away, and by this time you had convinced yourself that you had lost it.
Until now. So what is there to do to soften the blow? Your friend’s daughter is the innocent bystander here who stands to lose what she understands to be her mother’s possession that is her keepsake to remember her by. In my estimation, unless you can find a photograph of your mother, a”h, wearing it, I can’t see her willingly giving it back to you, especially now that you complimented her on the piece, she may think you simply desire it for yourself. If you have a way of actually finding hard proof, I don’t see her buying the story.
However, being a person of great optimism and even greater faith in our Torah, wherein lies the answer to every question and the solution for every dispute, I would ask a shealas chacham about how to approach a yoresh bishgaga. I am sure there is an answer to your painful situation so don’t give up a second time on losing your mother’s brooch. I have a strong feeling your mother’s neshama along with the neshama of your best friend, a”h, were both pulling strings from Gan Eden to rectify the misunderstanding and bring the brooch back to its rightful owner, so that they can rest in piece.
Please let me know how this works out for you. I would be very interested to hear what a posaik will paskin on how to approach and remedy the situation. Anyone out there qualified to tackle this one?