Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
Whisperings were here, there and everywhere. “I have deep misgivings about the funeral. We must be very careful,” some were saying. “This thing is not over yet.”
“They have not yet found the killer,” others were saying ominously. “Revenge killings are sure to follow.” There was a general malaise in the air about the execution-style killing of 19-year-old Shawn Parish and 21-year-old Nakia Ramer, Jr., both of Opelousas, Louisiana.
The hit went down, not in a big city but in the small, unincorporated community of Plaisance, Louisiana. One shot fired into the car penetrated the back of one man’s head. When the second turned to see what happened, a second shot blew into his forehead. Ironically, Plaisance is the French word for pleasance. Sad to say, this kind of marksman belongs in the Mideast theater of war against ISIS.
Unfortunately, I had been to the well more than once before when I served at St. Augustine Church in New Orleans. The worst funeral was that of a 19-year-old who was shot to death on the elevated I-10. The 700-seat church was full and even the standing room was jammed. Six young men dressed impeccably in white with pink trim 3-piece suits, bow ties and white shoes moved in unison with whatever the folks in church did. But their reverence ended with the conclusion of the Mass.
Denser than Mardi Gras, outside the church people were packed like sardines for a couple of blocks in every direction. Although moving among the thousands was extremely difficult, I had to muscle my way to the lead car. Once there, we witnessed in shock the impeccably-dressed young men leap onto the hood of two limousines, then onto the roof, break-dancing and crushing the roofs in. They inflicted $7,000 damage to said limousines before dismounting and melting away.
With Police Chief Donald Thompson and Officer Baxter Iford at hand on October 8, with Holy Ghost Church only about 2/3 full, with no crowd outside, all the young folks there, as well as the old, sported a sad, serious mien, expectant of words of some consequence. I began the funeral sermon with the talk around the town.
“’This is not over yet.’ ‘They have not yet found the killer.’ ‘Revenge killings are sure to follow.’ I’ve been hearing about vendetta – revenge. I do not want to hear this. You do not want to hear this. We do not want to hear this. More killings will not solve or heal anything. On the contrary, more killings will aggravate and make more raw the sorrow, pain and hurt that need a mighty healing!
“What we need to hear from all the adults here, especially the more mature, is our resolve to help take care of what we call the extended family or the village. We have heard repeatedly, ‘It takes a village to rear a child.’ Indeed, we all know just how difficult it is to rear a child, particularly in these days when we have to contend with drugs and the fast, loose life that threatens us even in small towns nowadays.
“We need to hear our resolve, our commitment right now! We need to hear from one another our pledge to one another, but, most importantly, to God that, with God’s help, we will stand next to, stand behind in support, stand before in defense, counsel them in whatever way we can, and defend our children from infancy, to the toddler stage, from childhood to adolescence, to young adulthood. We want to defend them at the risk to our own safety and the possible cost of our own lives.
“Do I hear a pledge from you? Say, ‘I pledge!’ A weak ripple of ‘I pledge’ followed. I repeated ‘I pledge!’ The ripple grew stronger. When I again repeated, the ripple increased to a firm ‘I pledge!’ We just want our children to know that we, the entire village, are firmly and resolutely with them!
Once again, I said, “I pledge!” There was resonance in their pledge. Once more, “I pledge!” An enthusiastic chorus followed. One more time, “I pledge!” That time there was a bit of rumble and drum-like hand-slapping on the seats. It is our fond prayer and hope that a seed of God’s Word and human solidarity is growing into constant care of our children.
Since the hearse had left without me, church head usher Joseph Butler drove me, overtaking the funeral cortège that was mysteriously going in the wrong direction to reach Serenity Memorial Park cemetery. But the route was planned, stopping to transfer Nakia’s body to a horse-drawn hearse, passing the Briford White Eagle in The Hill section of town where Sam Cooke and other singers once starred, stopping at the home of Nakia’s mother, Lisa, where Gospel pieces were sung, reaching the cemetery after an hour and 15 minutes.
After the grave blessing, a sore-foot, barefoot relative read her last tribute to Nakia whose life had come to a premature end. Then dozens of children and adults sprinkled each other with holy water, saying aloud how much each of them needed a powerful blessing.
“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.)
Reflections on Life