Our life if mystery, allegory, reality
22nd October 2012 · 0 Comments
By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Pulling into Pflugerville, a northern suburb of Austin, at 9:30 p.m., a big helping of butterbeans at my cousin Dawnna Dukes’ house hit the spot. We conversed at length about Luther Simond, just deceased widower of Dawnna’s great aunt (my cousin) Ada DeBlanc, until cousin Frankie followed his wife Brenda to bed a bit after 12:50 a.m.
It was time for a tired body to turn in, but not before Dawnna spun an eerie narrative the likes of which I had never heard before. The setting was 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday, September 29. For totally unknown reasons, Dawnna began to feel very cold. Beyond a doubt, the ambient weather could not have been the cause, for the outside temperature was still a warm, early-autumn 82 degrees.
Concerned, Dawnna took her temperature and saw the disconcerting reading of 93.5 as opposed to the normal 98.6. As she does with most things, she quickly sought an explanation online. Her spirits fell as she read the dread words, “Hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition, occurs when body temperature falls below 95°F (35°C).”
Analyzing the online data, Dawnna figured that she might have mere hours to live unless she drastically changed the downward course of her body core temperature. She wrapped herself in warm blankets and began to consume hot broth to warm herself.
She called her doctor and apprised her of the dire situation. Knowing Dawnna well, her doctor felt comfortable with giving her detailed instructions over the phone, for she was certain that Dawnna was knowledgeable enough to take care of herself.
As soon as she could do so conveniently, Dawnna got in the bed and wrapped well. The normal human body temperature in adults is 97-100 degrees. Cold air hypothermia may take several hours to develop, but immersion hypothermia can happen within seven minutes, depending on the how cold the water is, as in the Bering Sea. In fact, it can take a long time to die of hypothermia. Reports from Titanic survivors describe the cries of life-jacketed floaters lasting over an hour in the 31-degree water.
Below 95 degrees, a person’s cognitive functioning and judgment become affected. If the cooling is not reversed, it further leads to disorientation, unconsciousness and eventually death. One thus becomes helpless long before death is imminent.
In Dawnna’s case, as circumstances would reveal within hours, the cause of hypothermia was not traceable to any physical trigger or environment. Rather, the only clue was the psychic-sensitive intuition of Dawnna which convinced her that something was critically awry in the life of someone close to her. She continued warming herself.
Her body core temperature hovered perilously below 94 degrees until the day had faded into night. As Saturday glided silently past midnight into the first minutes of the Lord’s day, while Dawnna still hung between hypothermia and rewarming, between fitful sleep and wakefulness, the angels came to take Papa Luther to his Father’s kingdom.
At Papa Luther’s Mass of Resurrection, as I eased unsteadily into the homily with a lump in my throat, I had the overwhelming feeling that angels were hovering all around us. Slowly, I led the congregation in singing, “All night, all day, the angels keep awatching over me, my Lord. All night, all day, the angels keep awatching over me.”
There was deep mystery, allegory and reality in the air. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s powerful Gospel song, “There are strange things happening every day,” was being fulfilled there at Holy Cross Church where the angels had come for Papa Luther.
“Blood is thicker than water,” is an old saying by which we extol the power of blood relationship. However, Papa Luther went that saying one better by embodying in his life, “Faith, hope and especially love are thicker than blood.” Since he had no blood kin, that was the signature statement of his words and actions toward his family members.
The beautiful and powerful depth of expressions and emotions of cousins Frankie Moore and Dawnna Dukes about Papa Luther were music to my ears. Cousin Corinne “Cookie” Shannon had also weighed in on Luther a couple of days before.
Too many are the people who show little love to blood kith and kin. But Papa Luther, though he had no blood kin, showed supreme love to all his surrounding family.
This article was originally published in the October 22, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper