There’s a Chartreuse Cape in My Closet



My friend Kathy showed me what it means to flourish, in every way. I first met her almost twenty years ago, soon after my husband and I moved to Santa Barbara.

She was in her early 80s then, full of life, and living that life out loud and in full technicolor. Tall, statuesque, with brilliant blue eyes, she moved with a dancer’s grace and spoke with verve and good humor.

She’d known my husband before I met her, and when she discovered that I was a pastor, she wasted no time in asking if I ever preached.

“About 8-10 times a year,” I told her. And the very next week she called the church office, asking for a preaching schedule and for immediate notification when my name came up in the rotation.

And every time I preached, from that day until a few months before she died, she came to hear me. She’d leave her expensive home at the golf course, driving her beat-up, 20-year-old Ford station wagon into the church parking lot. I could always see her coming into the back of the gymnasium where we worshipped in those days, and I’d watch as she would gently genuflect and cross herself before the large wooden cross that hung at center court.

She was a cradle Episcopalian, choosing to worship with a congregation that met in a gym and sang with drums and guitars! Each time she took her seat in the back row, I saw her very bright chartreuse wool cape as she wrapped it around herself with a flourish. The kindness and joie de vivre she radiated spoke volumes to me as I readied myself to preach.

It’s true that she was a wealthy woman. It is also true that her life was far from easy. She was widowed twice, the first time when her handsome young husband was shot down over Europe during WWII, leaving her with a tiny boy and a broken heart. She rallied, got help from her family and married again several years later, eventually raising three sons.

My husband met her late in her life and helped her manage her investments and her charitable giving. Her larger-than-life personality stole his heart, I think! She was very generous and made genuine attempts to share the wealth with which she had been blessed.

Near the end of my second year as a pastor here, she decided that she wanted to shift her church giving from her hometown to the town we now shared. And she opted to give that gift to our small church on the hill. I found out later that her annual gift pretty much paid my salary for the years she came to hear me preach!

Her son called my cell phone one afternoon, as we were driving home from a brief vacation.

“Diana,” he said sadly, “I just wanted you to know that Mom is in the hospital and is not expected to live much longer.”

“Where are you?” I asked. “What’s her room number?”

“Oh!” he cried, “Don’t come! She doesn’t have her make up on and she would be mortified.”

“I’m coming, “ I replied. “I need to see her; I need to pray with her.”

And I did. I prayed the beautiful prayers of the church of her birth, I anointed her and blessed her and thanked God for her. And I turned to her son and said, “This dear woman found a way to flourish wherever she landed, you know?”

And he thanked me, profusely, for ignoring his warning and for coming to bring words and touch and thanksgiving. I thanked him for allowing me that privilege.

After she died, that same son donated a lot of her glorious clothes and costume jewelry to the church for a rummage sale to raise funds for our student ministries.

Can you guess what I bought?

That bright chartreuse wool cape, that’s what!

It hangs in my closet to this day, though I’ve never worn it. I finger it from time to time, remembering what a gift she was to a green-around-the-gills, well-past-middle-aged-first-time-pastor, and how her flourishing life brought such joy to me and to all who knew her.

That bright green cape reminds me to blossom, to choose to flourish right where I am. And to add a few blossoms, an occasional flourish or two, as I go about my days.

In fact, maybe it’s time I tried that cape on. What do you think?

Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  1. O, Diana. Your life is full of such rich stories.

    And YESSSS, it’s time to put on that cape.

    I love what you said to her son, “This dear woman found a way to flourish wherever she landed, you know?”


    To be that kind of woman.

    What a beautiful ode to Kathy. xoxo

  2. I just LOVED this story. What an inspirational life! I’m encouraged to support other women, to be generous, to grow comfortable in my own story. I’m also challenged to open my eyes to see what beautiful women are present in my life that are walking ahead of me with confidence and a chartreuse cape. Thank you for this story!

  3. Juliet Birkbeck says:

    Diana, I came over here from Just Wondering, eyes still full of tears from the lovely tribute to your mother in law. Now misty eyed again…you have a real gift for seeing the beauty in people and sharing that with others.

  4. Nancy Ruegg says:

    In spite of the seriousness of that phone call with your friend’s son, I had to chuckle when he said, “Don’t come–she’d be mortified to be seen without make-up!” Even in her later years she presented herself at her best. I like that! And i love the inspiration you’ve drawn from her chartreuse cape, even if only in your closet! (Yes, I think it’s time you flourished it yourself!) Gwen (below) has a great idea: have your picture taken in that cape.)

    • pastordt says:

      It struck me as funny, even in the seriousness of that moment – and it was just so typically HER. Loved her a lot.

  5. Jody Ohlsen Collins says:

    Diana…….I think I can picture you in that cape….what a beautiful story. YOU are such a gift to us.

  6. Holly says:

    It’s always so interesting to me to hear you tell of your early preaching days. I’m constantly amazed at how nervous and timid you seemed to be in those first years of walking out this calling. For you see, when I read your words, your reflections, and your insights I am always filled to brimming. You are so gifted and full of wisdom, Diana. If the support of this woman is what helped to bring about your light then I love her, too. We all need a champion in this life–someone who helps to call out our Truth. Rejoicing that you had such a person in your life, friend, so that you could go on to be so much to so many.

    • pastordt says:

      Walking out any calling is a day-to-day learning experience, you know? I am always nervous when I preach. Always. And if I’m not – then I shouldn’t be preaching. I don’t think I was ever timid – not exactly my style! – but I was unsure on the inside. Having friends like Kathy was a tremendous help during those early years. And there were others as well – across the age spectrum, from both genders. To be an encourager is a good thing – we all need those folks in our life.

  7. What a wonderful story, Diana. I love this perspective on flourish + I tend to have a special place in my heart for chartreuse.

    • pastordt says:

      Thanks so much, Idelette, most especially for the invitation to write in this space. It is such a good space to be. (And I imagine you could carry off this cape in the blink of an eye!)

  8. Julie Cochrane says:

    Psalm 92:12 came to mind as I read this lovely testimony of faithfulness : “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree. They will grow like a cedar in Lebanon, planted in the House of our Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming ‘the Lord is upright, he is my rock and there is no wickedness in Him.'” Beautiful.

    • pastordt says:

      I just saw that very verse on another blog today and thought it would have been an excellent summary statement for this story. Thank you, Julie.

  9. lindalouise says:

    This is so touching Diana. It occurs to me what a gift a whole book full of your beautiful vignettes would be. What do you think?

    • pastordt says:

      You are so kind, Linda! I’ve actually thought about something like that – but haven’t moved in that direction as of yet. Interesting idea. . .

  10. Love this. Thank you so for sharing this story with us.

  11. Stefanie Thomas Stefanie says:

    I love this, Diana. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul and friend. Thank you for sharing it; you’ve given us readers a lovely metaphor for really living and flourishing…that bright chartreuse wool cape. Love the idea of you wrapping yourself in it so yes, I’d say it’s time to try it on 🙂

    • pastordt says:

      I’m so glad this resonated with you, Stefanie. And thank you for your kind words. I think maybe it’s time to get that cape off the hanger.

  12. Anne-Marie says:

    Diana! Love this gemlike nugget- and the color! Yum. Seems to me you already have put in the cloak in so many ways. I’m w Nicole- the passing of the cape. What a gift your anointing must have been.

  13. Helen Burns HBurns says:

    My eyes are pools of tears…what a beautiful story of friendship, love & honour. There is so much gold in here and it has blessed me to the core. Thank you for sharing it.


    • pastordt says:

      Thanks so much, Helen! This woman blessed me to the core, time and time again. There are so many saints around that never get sung about – so I decided to sing a little with this one.

  14. Constance Ann Morrison says:

    Diana, thanks for sharing this lovely story. I would hope to be remembered, as this woman is, for being generous, encouraging others, and flourishing in any circumstance.

  15. Donna-Jean Brown says:

    I love this, Diana. I love the colour of the cape and the colours of your deceased cheerleader. Oh how I long, by God’s grace, to be a Kathy in the lives of younger women and men. Thankyou for sharing such an inspiring story, and I add my vote to others who urge you to wrap yourself in that cape.

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, Donna-Jean, for these kind words. And I’m thinking I may just try that cape on someday soon.

  16. Nicole A. Joshua says:

    Such a beautiful picture of faith, faithfulness and encouragement. Kathy sounds like a wonderful person. How blessed you are to have known such a special friendship. My response to, “In fact, maybe it’s time I tried that cape on. What do you think?” Is, why not. You would honor her and your friendship by wearing it. It might even be like the cloak Elijah passed on to Elisha, by draping yourself with the cape, who knows… You might be donning yourself with her verve and love of life 🙂

    • pastordt says:

      What a wonderful idea – thanks so much, Nicole. I’ve appreciated having it in the closet these last few years, but maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s time to try it on for real.

  17. Claire De Boer cjdeboer says:

    You paint a beautiful picture of a life-giving woman and amazing friend, Diana. What a blessing to have known her!

  18. Bev Murrill says:

    Wow, tears in my eyes. Aren’t we blessed to have people who come into our lives for specific reasons… and you were such a friend to her that I’m sure she would have felt that you did all the giving and she just received, even though you see it another way.

    When you talk about that beautiful cape it makes me think of Supergirl or Wonder Woman… your very own version of the thing that makes them super is in your closet… and you are definitely a Wonder Woman, no doubt about that. xx

    • Donna-Jean Brown says:


    • pastordt says:

      Oh, Bev! Not a wonder woman insight over here, believe me. Just an old, retired pastor who is grateful for her life, and in this piece, grateful for a special friend. Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement.

  19. I bet you would rock that cape just like she did! What a wonderful woman and what dear memories.

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Somehow, it has seemed almost sacrilege to wear it. But you all are encouraging me to think about it differently.

  20. DeanneMoore says:

    Don the cape…yes, of course. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this part of your story and Kathy’s.

  21. Time to pass on the legacy! Your presence in the chartreuse cape could very well have a similar impact on someone else.

    What a lovely part of your story.

  22. I think the cape does it’s job whether you wear it or not! 🙂

  23. Such a beautiful story with lovely memories attached. I love how her generous giving covered your salary!
    It’s time…I think you should don that cape!

  24. Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk says:

    What a gift she was and, somehow, I am certain you could wear that chartreuse quite well 🙂 I love to hear your stories, Diana.

  25. sandyhay says:

    I have smiled the whole time I read this Diana. How wonderful to have such vivid memories of someone who has impacted you with her life. And the bright green cape as well 🙂

    • pastordt says:

      So glad this story made you smile, Sandy! Cuz I’ve seen your smile and it is lovely.

  26. Gwen Acres says:

    What a beautiful story Diana. Please do try on the cape. Have your picture taken somewhere in your lovely garden and share it with us.

  27. Oh Diana, this is just beautiful. What a lovely remembrance of an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing her inspiration.

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you so much, Morag, for these kind words. And you’re more than welcome, believe me.


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