Sunday, February 25, 2007

I heard the news today, oh, boy...

Again, I have to thank the Beatles for a blog title, sort of (I read the news today, oh, boy...). And I did read the news--the obituary--but I heard it first.

The phone rang at 8:30 this morning. Normally, I don't pick up the phone until I hear who is on the line, but I was in the kitchen waiting for the coffee, so I checked the caller ID. My father's name appeared, so I figured my mother was calling me (my dad only calls in an emergency, usually late at night or when I'm in Austin).

I answered, "Hello?"

"I didn't wake you, did I?" My mother's voice.

"No, Mom. I'm just waiting for the coffee to brew. What's up?" I usually just cut to the chase.

"Oh, Kathy. Mr. Paul died yesterday." We chatted a bit about the cause and who was taking care of his one surviving brother and when the mass would be held. I promised to light a candle for him and say a prayer; we hung up after I said I'd stop by to see her on Monday.

"Mr. Paul" is Paul DeBroeck, and I've known him nearly all my life; he and his wife, Miss Mickey, were our surrogate uncle and aunt after we moved to Shreveport from New Orleans when I was seven. When we moved to north Louisiana, we left a large, loving group of relatives behind. The DeBroecks stepped in. Miss Mickey became my mother's best friend. She and her husband took care of us when my parents needed help, and I remember staying with them when my family went out of town--I was in college and couldn't take off.

I have never, and I do mean "never," met two more selfless people in my life. They did not have any children of their own, so every child was theirs. They devoted an extraordinary amount of their time to St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Cedar Grove. Miss Mickey (Her real name, I think, was Mary Michael because her dad expected a boy) wasn't Catholic, but she was just as involved in the church as her husband. They appeared to be two of the most contented, happiest people I've ever known. They were kind, helpful, funny people.

I remember the phone call I received when my son was just a baby. My dad called me Thanksgiving week--I want to say it was in 1981, but my memory is fuzzy--to tell me that Miss Mickey had been murdered, shot to death in their home at Wallace Lake. She and Mr. Paul were going out of town to visit their nieces and nephews. Mr. Paul came home from work and couldn't find her. Her car was gone, but the front storm door was unlocked--Miss Mickey never left her door unlocked out there, especially if she had to leave the house.

Mr. Paul looked all over the house for her; he called everyone he could think of, including my mother, because he thought Miss Mickey had gone into town. Finally, he saw a sheet draped over what he thought was something his wife wanted to take on their trip. When he lifted the sheet, he found her body. She had been shot point-blank in the heart; the bullet lodged in the concrete slab of the foundation.

When the police finally caught the guy who killed her, he was in Georgia. He had stolen her car and credit cards because he "just wanted to go home." If the guy had asked, she would have driven him to the bus station and purchased a ticket to take him wherever he wanted to go.

Mr. Paul survived any number of tragedies, always with a quiet dignity. His second wife, Clyde, slipped into Alzheimer's Disease a few years after they were married. Mr. Paul cared for her until her death. He cared for his brother Hubert until he passed away. I wonder if he felt like Paul Edgecomb in The Green Mile, that he was destined to outlive everyone he knew.

I never heard him complain; he never lamented. He lived his life with joy and humor. No matter what happened, people could count on him for anything at anytime. I hadn't seen him for several years, but whenever I did see him, he always had something kind to say to me.

In keeping with his giving nature, Mr. Paul donated his body to LSU Health Sciences Center for research.

If saints walk on this earth, I knew two of them. The second one died yesterday; I will say a prayer for him and to him.


Stephanie Terry said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. It sounds as if he was a wonderful man.

Kathryn Usher said...

What good luck you had to meet these people. Living a kind and tender life seems to be a hard thing to do but you had two great teachers.