KINGSLEY, Iowa | A few children squirmed in the pews; two infants had to be fed, so their mothers walked to the back of the church.

I smiled while their occasional cries broke the quiet of prayer and reflection shared among those attending a funeral on Monday at St. Michael Catholic Church in Kingsley, Iowa.

We were there to celebrate the life of Karen Schmid, 71, who died on July 6 at a Sioux City hospital. The fact a couple of those youngest among us needed nourishment? All the better.

I met Karen Schmid 30 years ago, as I concluded up my freshman year at Buena Vista College (it was a college back then) in Storm Lake, Iowa. I spent several weekends in Kingsley with BV classmate LeMont Schmid, the third of four children raised by Karen and LaMont Schmid, of rural Kingsley.

I recall the life and laughter that filled their farm, a household trait that would continue as LaMont and Karen welcomed friends and their ever-growing family into their home, their yard, their garden, their barn, their anything and everything.

Karen told me I’d always have a place at their table whenever I was around. After college, I didn’t dine with her family, but I did see her at several Woodbury Central and Kingsley-Pierson basketball and softball games. She always had questions about our children and loved sharing the developments involving her family.

Family. Karen Sitzmann Schmid, the second of 11 children raised by Ralph and Eldora (Flammang) Sitzmann, took on the task of organizing one of the largest family reunions I’d ever heard of and watched as it all came together one summer day a few years ago.

An estimated 500 guests attended her funeral visitation on Sunday evening in Kingsley. The church on Monday was packed, as was the parish hall for a luncheon that followed her graveside service at Kingsley Cemetery.

Monsignor Mark Duchaine noted that a sense of both sadness and comfort prevail in a time of grief surrounding the sudden loss of a matriarch to both an immediate family and an extended one.

Those were the contradicting emotions I felt as I stood to sing with the congregation. I smiled when, after the song, silence was broken with the voice of a restless child.

Maybe it was Karen’s way of letting us know she maintains a presence in the lives of those present.

I thought of LaMont and the laughter they shared, the keen sense of humor both possessed. I looked at their children and grandchildren and scanned the crowd for faces of Karen’s 10 surviving siblings.

I noticed that her funeral program didn’t have Karen’s picture, not a solo shot, at least. No, her funeral program featured a picture of she and LaMont together, a team for the past 53 years. The photo topped a statement that helped put a stamp on the sounds found in the church, the thread that ran through her life.

A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, the program read; she holds their hearts forever.

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