Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Exploring and reviewing bits of heaven

2nd January 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

Holidays are one of the special occasions when we human beings explore those fancied bits of heaven here on earth. In our case, a few dozen of Our Mother of Mercy Church members decided to celebrate my 55th priestly anniversary with a near Christmas cruise very similar to the cruise they had put together in 2007 for my 50th anniversary.

They did not have to twist my arm, of course. A veritable floating city, a cruise ship purports to be a bit of heaven with the comforts of home plus mini Vegas-style entertainment shows, near limitless food venues, casino action at night, and sheer leisure.

We sailed at 4:30 p.m., Monday, December 3 and soon were eating up 100 miles about every seven hours. That pace brought us 256 miles, just beyond Brownsville, Texas at about 10:30 Tuesday morning. Two and a half dozen of us perched in the piano bar for nine o’clock morning Mass with barstools in front and oyster half shells in the ceiling.

What a stage for Mass with Gulf waves rolling by! Psalm 139:9 played, “If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, even there your hand will guide me.”

Shipmate Carolyn Yusuf had planned a strong liturgy charged with prayer, song, calling of our dead by name, and thanks for our life, our voyage, our bond of faith and love.

Together with all the faithful departed, we recalled in particular Melvin King, the last of our Chris­tian soldiers who had re­turned to God. At his homegoing Mass, we had joined his soul mate Vandetta and their children in celebrating his devotion as spouse, father, teacher, coach, OMM church member and ever-congenial friend.

Melvin’s bit of heaven featured Vandetta for 56 years in marital bliss with four comely daughters and three strong sons who did nothing to shame but all to gladden him.

A couple of dozen times or more, flush in the midst of a conversation or cruise event, someone reminisced about a relative or friend who had recently returned to God. During after-lunch chatter one day, five folks engaged each other in heartfelt reflections about Christmas holiday deaths both recent and distant over the years in their families.

Our thoughts played back and forth over the great blessing of a church family cruise and of our periodically heavy hearts as well as the heavy hearts we left ashore. In a bit of RG3 heaven, avid fans even skipped dinner to view NFL Monday night football.

Standing on the top aft deck and viewing Cozumel Thursday afternoon, I was approached by an elderly gent six months older than I. Looking for the elevators, he introduced himself as Father Lambert Leykam, OFM of St. Francis Village in Crowley, Texas, about 30 minutes from Our Mother of Mercy in Fort Worth. Surprise indeed!

“What does death really mean as you folks were discussing during Mass Tuesday morning?” inquired a distraught widow. “I’m still in mourning after two years.” While we were still on the high seas, Delores Newton heard that her cousin, Johnny Tucker, Jr., had left Galveston December 6 for his home in heaven after spending a brief 64 years on earth.

“The holidays are a time to look back and remember,” an automobile commercial boasts. That sounds mighty weak, masquerading as a bit of heaven amid our dabbling with racehorses, auto racing, the major sports, fame, celebrity, entertainment, music, cuisine, the world of fashion, literature, casinos and cyber marvels galore. Still, heaven is better!

We bussed back from the cruise ship in Galveston whence we had embarked for Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico on December 3. Within 15 mi­nutes from Fort Worth, as we were passing through Mansfield, church member Albert Hunter pointed to the hospital where his wife Vickie had spent some time and observed, “Back to reality!”

It was back to the reality of Dr. Miguel Banta’s being taken away by a severe heart attack at 8:30 the next day, Sunday morning. Cecil Marie Mingo, OMM School student Kelsie Mingo’s grandmother, returned to God Thursday at 3:40 p.m. Helen Chretien, sister of our church member Sharon Chretien, went on to God Friday morning.

Mary Pichon Battle used her “Bon Voyage Travels” agency to organize a relaxing, bonding cruise that benefited her fellow church members, relatives and friends because it was a seeming piece of heaven enabling us to celebrate life, even as we had flashbacks to our dear ones who shifted gears from this life to the eternal promised on Christmas Day.

A Blessed, Happy New Year to one and all!

This article was originally published in the December 31, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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