By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
While many people were preparing to close out 2015 in their own special way, Dec. 31 found my wife and me traveling to Louisiana for the funeral of a dear friend’s mother.
As we headed east on Interstate 20 early that morning, the dark that once was night began surrendering to the light of a new day. With fog rising from the creeks and valleys among the tall pines, the sun rose majestically in the horizon, creating an amazing panoramic landscape that can be better appreciated in the country and attributed rightfully to God’s hand.
And perhaps it was that clash of a breathtaking sight with the sound from the radio that jarred me to focus on the DJ’s voice, instead. He was reading from what he called the Top 5 New Year’s resolutions for 2016.
Among them were to lose weight, get more organized, eat better, get on an exercise program, and save more and spend less. He didn’t attribute the magazine, website or organization that authored the survey, but in this continued era of self-awareness, self-worth, and selfies, it didn’t really matter.
I commented to my wife that despite the sad news of sectarian violence around the globe and internet rhetoric that continues to fuel political and social polarization here, surely among social media platforms, there must be a list that included being more faithful, kinder, more charitable and more tolerant among the top New Year’s resolutions.
We discussed this for a few miles, admitting that we ourselves struggle and hope to do better in the new year with those virtues that we often hear mentioned as Christ-like in homilies at Mass or have seen through the acts of others, young and old.
As the morning hours passed, we traded wide, divided interstates for a smaller U.S. highway and eventually for a two-lane state highway leading into Cajun country.
On the surface, Mamou, Louisiana, is not much different than other nearby towns. Life for many seems less complicated here. It mainly revolves around family, faith, school, food, football, work and living. Most everyone knows everyone else and families go back various generations. There are few restaurants, hardly any chain retail shops, but you will find drug stores and other shops with family names on the marquees.
As we entered the funeral home in Mamou, our friend, Kevin Landreneau, came over to thank us for making the six-hour drive. His mother, a widow for several years, had not moved too far away from where she had been born. Married a year out of high school, she and her husband had built businesses and had raised four boys into men who have gone on to succeed in different fields.
She was a notary public and a justice of the peace. She had been battling thyroid cancer for many years and in late November began taking a turn for the worse. A few days before Christmas, she told doctors that she wanted no more treatment, that her faith told her where she was going and that she wanted to go home. She eventually was placed in hospice care.
But ever the nurturer, she had already wrapped Christmas gifts for her entire family. So as nurses cared for her in the town’s hospital, 3 miles away at her home, her boys and their families gathered to not only open presents, but to share in a gift that she valued most—loved ones eating, sharing memories, laughing and being together.
She died peacefully early on Dec. 29.
At her funeral Mass at St. Ann Catholic Church, Father Alphonse Thainese, who had anointed her days before her passing, talked about the virtues that he saw in this woman: faith, hope, and charity. He told about how he would see her in solitude and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Adoration; how she was among the loyal members of the Altar Society who helped care for the church; he talked about her kindness that he saw displayed to others. And in those virtues, it was apparent that he saw hope.
After the Mass and burial rites and a few minutes gathered in her home, we headed back to Texas. And as 2015 began winding down, out in the country and behind those tall pines, manmade fireworks lit up the sky off of Interstate 20, signaling that a new year was fast approaching.
Yet seeing this, I no longer was jarred by the New Year’s resolutions I had heard earlier in the day.
Instead, I focused on my friend’s mother and her life and how her life exemplified her name—Mary Hope Landreneau—and that in 2016, despite everything else going on around the world, hope should be our middle name, too.
David Sedeño is the executive editor of The Texas Catholic.