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Faith, love, heroism: When the love of your life takes a bullet to save a stranger

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/24/16

A heart-rending, astonishing story from today’s Washington Post:

Norma Winffel and her husband Mike had their morning ritual. He’d wake up before dawn for work and kiss her goodbye. They’d exchange I love yous. As he left for his job at the naval base in Potomac, she’d whisper: “Holy Spirit, stay with my husband and take care of my family.” Then Mike would call her at 7:30 a.m. to see how the kids made off to school and again at 9 a.m. to check that she’d made it to work safely. Then he’d call around 2:30 p.m. on his way home. But on Friday May 6, she called him before noon to let him know she wouldn’t be able to talk later. An admissions counselor at Montgomery College, she had to oversee an honors student ceremony that afternoon. She wanted to tell him about the training she’d just had on how to respond to an active shooter on campus, but he kept playfully interrupting her to tell her how beautiful she was. Then he had to go. He and his colleague Carl Unger were off to the mall, where they often treated themselves to lunch after a long week. “I’m on my way to lunch. I love you,” he said, cutting her off. She feigned exasperation. “No I love you, too?” he asked her teasingly. “I love you,” she said. That was the last time Norma Winffel would ever speak to her husband.

Read on to learn what happened that day. And note this:

Norma is a devout Catholic. Mike was as well, she said, but while she was more active in the church he displayed his faith in how he lived to help others. Every night, the kids would gather in their parents’ bedroom to say prayers together, each sharing what they were thankful for. Their son has taken his father’s death especially hard. Norma has asked if he wanted to have friends over, but he told her he’d lost his best friend. The only time he’s laughed is when they watched a rerun of Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, a family favorite, and he reminisced about his dad dancing when Ellen featured the “Running Man Challenge.” Her daughter channels her emotions in her writing. After he died, she wrote a poem that begins: “I’ve never heard silence as loud as the silence that lingers in my house. It’s like each tear is a breaking wave and I know that you can see me crying, but inside I’m screaming.”

Photo: NBCWashington.com

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