Hugs, Hope, and a Cardinal

Today I am grateful for the day I shared with family members, my aunt's Franciscan sisters, and many others who honored the life of Sr. Norma Jean Holthaus on Wednesday. I am grateful for safe travels that brought us all to and from her funeral and burial.

Add to my gratitude list hugs, hope, and a cardinal.   

The hugs of recent months, after so many months when they were so limited, have felt powerfully human and connecting.  I appreciated sharing hugs with cousins, some who I hadn't seen for years. 

The hope was palpable too. In the energy of songs, readings, and the stories of Sr. Norma Jean that were shared. You made such a difference Norma Jean, and the hope you helped create will continue to spread and heal others. 

The Reverend John Haugen gave a beautiful homily at her funeral mass. They knew each other for over forty years, and I could hear in his voice the genuine love, admiration, respect, and connection they shared. Here are some of his words:

“We are people of hope.” 

"She had a profound sense of acceptance."

"Her hope is our hope." 

"How she glorified God was a lived reality."

"She met people where they were at. Listening. Listening. Listening." 

"It was a search for meaning, not about fixing things." 

These last two lines were particularly referencing her spiritual direction work and counseling. Significant words to me personally and professionally.  

Gentle, wise, insightful, patient; you were all of these things Aunt Norma Jean, and so much more. That includes being a good seamstress, something I didn't know about her until Wednesday. Fr. Haugen said he captured this photo of her at work. She was unaware he had taken the picture, but I sure appreciate that he did:

And the cardinal?  We processed to her simple graveside service and burial after the funeral. As we gathered around and Sr. Kathy Knipper began a short prayer, there was a cardinal singing robustly nearby. I just heard one now as I sit on my back patio composing this.

Hope and faith were prevalent in Sr. Norma Jean's life. They are prevalent and present in this moment of my life. There is no more beautiful connection than this. We will sing on, sew on, write on, live on. In your honor Sr. Norma Jean, we will try to live deeply, listen with intention, and be fully present to the joy around us.