I am speaking today not simply for myself but for the contemplative group which has been gathering monthly here in the Kootenays for the last twelve years. And I bring love from the members of that group, who are scattered today from Switzerland to New Denver to Mexico to Trail. From this community, I have heard about how Norma was a second mother; how she taught someone to meditate, which made all the difference at a tricky juncture in life; how she served as a guide and beacon in life’s difficult decisions; and how, during a chance meeting in the hospital at the end of her life, she was still caring for others.
I first met Norma about eight or ten years ago and I think the best way to describe her is that she was a live wire. As far as I could tell, she’d spent her entire life on a quest for deeper intimacy with the holy. I was lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of that quest. There was her intellect—the way she wrestled with the question of how, within the frustrating limitations of language, to speak of the reality she knew. There was her curiosity—a wide ranging openness to the world of the spirit—and her willingness to share what she’d found. There was her graciousness—she had probably been meditating since before I was born and yet was willing to be part of a group. There was her wisdom, sweet and grounded, and her generosity. When Norma no longer had time and energy to offer, she singlehandedly started a socialist scholarship tradition within the group so that those on more limited incomes could afford to attend retreats. There was her humour, and her lovely earthiness. She was SO alive!
But what I cherished most about Norma was her presence. She was of diminutive stature but her soul presence was the size of a sumo wrestler. I loved to meditate when she was holding down one side of the room.
There are many ways to speak about Norma’s impact on the world. As a friend, I could say that Norma embodied the fullness of living and dying with integrity and joy. As a contemplative Christian I could say that Norma’s deepest self was consciously interwoven into the Christ mystery. As a scientist I could say that Norma was quantumly entangled with untold numbers of beings.
But words aren’t always the best way, so I’d like to leave you with the image I was graced with the last time I prayed for Norma. In my heart’s eye, I saw a dandelion, fully gone to seed, the white ball of fluff fully intact, framed against a bright blue sky. Just as this image became clear, it was as if I heard an intake of breath, and a blowing out—every seed scattered to the wind!—and the sound of laughter. I was struck by the certainty that Norma had not only lived the particularity and fullness of her own life, but that her love and joy was now broadcast, taking root in unseen and unexpected corners. And good luck to anyone who tries to root it out! Each of us now is ground for the fertile seed of Norma’s life.
So today, I stand before you not to mourn but to give thanks to God—God being a shorthand term for that reality which defies human definition, that reality which sustains us in beingness and receives us tenderly in death—I give thanks to God for the life of Norma Collier.