Persons, places and things: the hug factor


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Last Wednesday night after work I stopped at the Kahl Home in Davenport to visit a friend who had begun receiving hospice. “Is Sister Marcia able to see visitors?” I asked the receptionist. No. Sr. Marcia Costello, a member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, died early that morning. My heart sank. I wanted one last opportunity to give her a hug, to say goodbye to a woman who served as a mentor and then became a friend. Hugs sustain me for the long haul.


Thoughts about hugging fill my mind after attending the ordination of Father Bill Roush, Father Guillermo Trevino Jr. and Deacon Ross Epping last weekend at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The exchange of hugs I witnessed among priests, deacons and Bishop Martin Amos, moved me almost to tears. Their hugs conveyed a sense of brotherly love and support. The hugs exchanged after Mass with family, friends and well-wishers expressed profound joy.

Several memories of hugging surfaced. One involved my 28-year-old son Colin, whose autistic mind couldn’t comprehend hugging. When he was a child I used to say, “Colin, put your arms around me and hold tight.” His approach seemed wooden. He didn’t understand the purpose of a hug.


My second son, Patrick, now 20, has been a hugger since early on. I remember when he was 2 years old and we hugged each other tight. I told him, “You give the best hugs in the world.” He still does. But Colin is catching up because of a family tradition we have developed. At the end of a get-together with all four of us (including my husband Steve) we huddle for a group hug. That makes Colin’s day because it solidifies his sense of family.

Hugging has its boundaries, I understand. You can’t just go up and hug a stranger, unless you ask and receive permission to do so. At an event our parish hosted, I met a woman who had just lost a daughter to cancer. The woman hadn’t mentioned her deep loss to me; someone else had. I expressed my sympathy and asked if I could give her a hug. Yes, she said, and we held each other tight. As one mother to another, I won’t ever forget that hug.

My husband gives good hugs, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve caused his back to grow rounder from 30 years of stooping to give me a hug. He’s nine inches taller than me, but hasn’t complained about the height difference impacting the hugs.

The hugs with friends I haven’t seen in a while remind me of our connectedness. That happened after the ordination Mass, when I caught up with members of Deacon Class VI, who I shadowed for four years! Hugging the new priests and deacon after that Mass heightened my awareness of their exuberance at the significant milestones they had reached in their journey of faith.

That leads me back to Sr. Marcia, who became my mentor years ago when I worked for the secular press. When she moved to the Kahl Home, I visited on occasion. We ended each visit with a reassuring hug of friendship. I didn’t get that last hug in, but during the visitation for Sr. Marcia, another friend, Sister Luz Maria Orozco, hugged me tight. It seemed a fitting way to say goodbye.

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