Sonya Hamulla would have been the most surprised of all to find herself as the subject of a spiritual column on the religion page. Sadly, this column could only be written after her death last week at the relatively young age of 59.

Frankly, I may have been a bit leery about writing this a month or two ago. Part of the reason was the fact she was one, tough lady. The other part was that she didn't let many people know she was also a tender lady.

The toughness was a necessary part of her job as a special education/learning support teacher who dealt with some of the toughest students at Mount Carmel Area and the other schools where she worked before returning to her alma mater.

Sonya was more than a match for even the worst of the students, who usually had learning disabilities in addition to emotional problems. She would speak to them in their own language - no matter how rough that language got. She let her students get away with very little.

But Sonya's tender side was rarely revealed. Some of her students came from the worst possible home environment. For some, she was the closest they would get to having a mother. She was not above quietly slipping needy students some much-needed cash.

What Sonya meant to her students was revealed in her final illness. Some went to visit her in the hospital. One, who had a problem reputation before becoming one of her students, helped feed her and spent quiet hours with her.

Seeking a fitting analogy for Sonya, the geode came to mind. A geode is mineral matter deposited within rock formations. The outer shell is often hard and rough, while the mineral formation within is something of breathtaking beauty.

In Sonya Hamulla's life, her rare inner beauty was glimpsed only by relatively few students, colleagues, friends and family members.

Now, the beauty of her soul is fully revealed.

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