Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

God sends us angels in many guises

25th July 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Writer

Marie Barks almost suffered whiplash as she turned to the left in the choir stall to look at me as I was announcing the death of Wendell “Wayne” Dorsey, Sr. Hers was not unlike the reaction of most folks in these parts upon hearing of the 52-year-old’s demise. Wayne seemed too full of life and love not to be among the living any longer.

“What was it? A heart attack? A stroke? What could it have been?” everyone asked. The only thing I heard was that, once people missed seeing him around, Wayne was found a day or so later lying lifeless across his bed.

A bright moon short 26 hours of being full hung low in the eastern sky as I crept along the 820 Service Road looking for a place to park. That’s right. Most of the parking was happening just beyond the shoulder of each side the service road, for the parking lot of Golden Gate Funeral Home had maxed out within the first few minutes of the wake.

Whereas I had parked about a quarter of a mile back and started to walk, close to the funeral home there was double parking on the right side, prompting me to ask, “Is all this congestion being caused by just this one wake of Wayne Dorsey?” For surely, some of this traffic must be the aftermath of the previous wake. But no. It was all about Wayne.

Quite a bit of the conversations, visiting and small group gatherings that normally take place in the funeral home lobby were happening spontaneously right there in the grass beyond the service road shoulder where folks lingered and reminisced.

At times, especially where there was double parking, one was forced to walk out on the service road itself momentarily just to be able to negotiate through and around the numerous small social gatherings woven amid and around the long line of vehicles.

So choked were the parking lot, lobby and chapel of the funeral home that trying to enter the chapel was an exercise in futility. Well, at least the guest book for signing was not occupied. So I moved over to the stand and signed the book, soon finding my way out with hopes of being at the funeral at True Vine Baptist Church on the morrow.

Déjà vu hit me at the parking lot the next morning where there was no sign of a parking spot anywhere. Ushered around to the back of the church, I drove onto a grassy area being used for parking. Unintentionally, I pulled up alongside a trailer and was pleasantly surprised to see a friendly-eyed chestnut horse tethered there.

The stable/horse smell, the sight of the beautiful, gentle horse were strong signs and reminders that Wayne was a joyous horseman, a member of the “Circle 15” Horse Riding Club. Apart from the horses, he was an avid fisherman and friend of nature.

“That’s just like Wayne all right!” I allowed as I made my way around the church to the front where an alert female usher brought me through a corridor to the platform before the congregation where the pastor and visiting ministers were seated.

That stable/horse smell and the sight of the beautiful chestnut still hung with me as I was being ushered to the ministers’ platform and was being seated before a full house. Members from the “Circle 15” Horse Riding Club caught my eye immediately, what with their cowboy/cowgirl outfits, boots, handkerchiefs and hats.

Wayne’s grandmother, Roberta Thompson, children, sisters, aunts and other kith and kin nestled close together in the middle, wrestling to understand and accept the hard truth that their beloved one had been taken in the summer of his life at 52.

In spite of the fact that it was a workday Friday, seats and space went begging in the spacious church. The large head count plus the numerous, glowing testimonials bore witness to all how strongly relatives and friends felt about Wayne.

Just as in the midst of the humongous crowd at the previous evening wake, there was a strong evidence in the air of much more than mere human gregariousness, social magnetism and camaraderie. Every­one seemed to be groping for something just out of mortal reach. Really, what is this flash-in-the-pan life of ours all about?

There was an otherworldly atmosphere hanging around that begged the question, “Is this the end of it all so soon, or will we meet again someday in a better place where we won’t have to worry about separations, sickness and death ever again?”

Kinetic True Vine Baptist Church Pastor Jack Crane gave a rousing eulogy in the midst of which he challenged non-churchgoers whom he characterized as members of the Bedside Baptist Church. Afterwards I told him he had omitted the Couch Potato Catholic Church members who have an amazing affinity to the Bedside Baptist Church.

Wayne was close to many members of Our Mother of Mercy Church, having grown up with quite a few of them. For all church members, he was well known for at least one other thing. Each Palm Sunday, Wayne graciously provided a horse for me to ride around the block with the choir and a goodly crowd singing, “Ride On, King Jesus!”

This last Palm Sunday, April 17, was the final time Wayne would come to us with one of his horses. “Father wants to know what we can pay you for your service,” Delores Newton asked him right after the procession was over.

“Oh no, Ms. Newton! Y’all just pray for me. Y’all just say a Mass for me.”

“ I wonder whether he was sick or feeling something back then,”
Delores mused.

“Maybe he had a premonition that something was going to happen to him.”

People come and people go in our lives, but each one speaks and does things according to the grand design of God. The evidence for this is so overwhelming that we have to make an effort not to see it manifest in the people and things that impact us.

Thank God for people like Wayne who constantly reach beyond their own family to embrace the extended family of their church, their neighborhood and community.

This article was originally published in the July 25, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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