REFLECTIONS ON LIFE
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Although I had gone to Saint Catherine Catholic Church in Arnaudville, Louisiana, to officiate a wedding 35 years ago, and once more to do a revival about 15 years later, I had never been to nearby Saint John Francis Regis Church.
Fastforwarding to April 8, I was being called to Saint John Francis Regis Church to officiate the homegoing celebration of Media “Maydell” Mary Mallet, the mother of Holy Ghost Church faithful member, Mary Mallet Daigle. When her mother went home to God, Mary and her husband Farice were still suffering from the excruciating loss of their 39-year-old son Selby on January 30, 2016.
A precious matriarch in her own right at 96, Maydell had to endure as grandmother what her daughter Mary suffered as Selby’s mother. Besides, even fewer grandmothers than mothers face the ordeal of burying a child so young. As nature would have it usually, children and grandchildren should bury their elders.
The reverse is nothing short of a nightmare for parents and grandparents.
Of course, in the esteemed image of a Maydell, the typical mother so dear to all us children, we see the paradigm of our own mother. Yes, I saw my own sweet mother, Mary Gastonia Petrie LeDoux, easing into paradise at the age of 95 years and seven months on February 12, 1996. I smiled and my heart grew warm.
“The good book tells us,” I said, “in Psalm 90:10, ‘Seventy is the sum of our years, or 80 if we are strong.’ I added, ‘or 96 if one is like Maydell!’” What a blessing and what a glory to be such a matriarch and such a staunch Christian!
Yet, even at that advanced age, it is still not enough for us greedy children. God made us greedy for life and greedy for love, and we are never satisfied with the life and love allotted to us. Saint Augustine says it powerfully, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” No matter how old she is, mother is never here long enough.
Impelled by something deep inside, I asked the congregation whether they had heard the song MOTHER. When not one responded, I said, “M is for the many things you gave me; O means only that you’re growing old; T is for the tears you shed to save me; H is for your heart as pure as gold; E is for your everlasting loving.
“R is right and right you’ll always be. Put them all together, they spell Mother; a word that means the world to me. – Please do it in E flat, brother musician,” I requested.
When I sang it once, some picked it up. More caught some of it the second time around. Finally, we did a decent performance on the third round. The evident effect on the family was reward enough for sharing the Mother’s Day song. Besides, Maydell will be spending her first Mother’s Day in heaven with the Communion of Saints, featuring the Blessed Trinity et al, together with her parents, her husband of 60 years, her two deceased children and all her deceased relatives and friends. The surviving seven of Maydell’s nine children were there to celebrate her triumph.
At the conclusion of burial prayers for Maydell Mallet in Saint Leo Cemetery in Leonville, LaQuella Johnson, who had checked with me and Deacon Charles Richard about the timing, started prerecorded sacred music on a portable machine, then released a white dove that circled momentarily before flying away, affecting the crowd profoundly. In about thirty seconds, she released a second white dove that rose majestically and circled in spectacular fashion before flying away. With a bit of wonder and excited smiles, the folks tracked the white doves as long as they could, picturing Maydell’s liberated soul flying away to heaven.
We soon learned why the white doves had circled momentarily before flying away. They were homing pigeons getting their bearings for making the 60-mile flight back to their home base loft in Scotlandville (Baton Rouge). “They can find their way home from 200 miles away,” 17-year-old Johnson explained. “We train them carefully and take good care of them. They are always eager to get home. Sadly, we lose some in the winter from hawks that come here from the cold North.”
Johnson’s satisfaction and love for her work oozed out of her demeanor and every word. “I started this ‘Glory Birds’ business when I was 11 years old. Now after six years, I am passing the business down to my younger sister, because I am about to enter college at Southeastern University in Hammond.”
Although LaQuella conceived the idea for “Glory Birds” after watching a movie showing the release of white doves, her father Pharoah and her mother Yolanda had prepared her mind for such things by instilling in their children a love for animals. At and near their home they have fish, rabbits, quail and guinea pigs. As if modeling for Mother’s Day/Father’s day, the amazing pair also taught their kids to make jelly and preserves from fruit that they grew, and pickles from cucumbers.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)