38-5 All my life I have attended “Our Lady of The Lake” Catholic Church in Lake Arthur. The site of Alvin and Veronica’s drowning is only a matter of a few dozen yards from the altar of this church. One Sunday morning after I had started writing some of the other stories in this book, I was attending mass at Our Lady of The Lake when I had the “whisper of an idea” to write Alvin and Veronica’s story. A few days later acting on this idea, I picked up the phone and called the oldest Monlezun daughter, Bernadette. Bernadette and I wept as much as we talked that day. That phone call set a chain of events in motion for the Monlezun family and myself that I truly believe was not of us. But I also recognized that some, maybe all, of the surviving Monlezun children would suffer some degree of emotional turmoil if I were to bring it all up again. Those of us who have not suffered a tragedy of this magnitude can never really know what the Monlezun family endured. Even though my asking about that day was difficult for some / all of them; nevertheless, they expressed their gratitude and encouraged me to keep moving forward with Alvin and Veronica’s story.
I do not know why God allowed this tragedy to befall the Monlezun family. But what I do know with certainty is that Alvin Monlezun’s decision to lay down his life for his sister is one of the most beautiful gifts of love I have ever known. Mere children, yet if we look, we will see that they showed us how to live our lives.
I am blessed that my parents are my next door neighbors. When I want to visit them, all I have to do is walk out my front door and in a matter of seconds, I am in my parents’ home. On one of my many visits there, I told my dad that I was writing a story about Alvin and Veronica. On my next visit to my parents’ home my dad said, “You know, Steve, after the Monlezun children drowned I wrote a letter to Lee. Gertrude told me that Lee carried it on him, and he would read it over and over and that it comforted him.”
There was a time while writing “No Greater Love” when I was struggling to determine if this urge that I had to write Alvin and Veronica’s story was just me, or if, in fact, it was more than that. I was concerned that if it was just of me, I was inflicting unnecessary turmoil upon the Monlezun family. I had mentioned my Dad’s letter to one of the chlidren, Constance Monlezun-Darbonne. Within that same week, she found the letter my Dad wrote to his friend, Mr. Lee Monlezun, thirty-nine years ago! When Constance found my dad’s letter, it gave me great comfort that I was on the right path by following the “whisper of an idea” I had on that Sunday morning.
In the Marceaux family, it is considered to be a minor miracle if we can find a document that we are looking for a few weeks after we have received it, much less years and years later. (I’m only half joking.) Yes, Bernadette and Constance, “Thank God your Mom never threw anything away.”
On the next page you will find a copy of my Dad’s letter written to his friend, Mr. Lee Monlezun, all those many years ago. Steve Marceaux…Read on…
38-6. Bill and Mazie Marceaux (she attended the first Silent Retreat on Arthur Avenue March 3, 2001 after Mom died) are life-long friends of and Dad. They are the parents of Steve Marceaux whose beautiful work you just read. Steve knew of a letter that his Dad, Mr. Bill Marceaus had written to Mom and Dad at the time of the children’s funeral. Steve had often mentioned that letter as he was interviewing us for ‘NO GREATER LOVE’ asking that if we ever found that letter that he would love to read it. Constance found the letter among many in the old suitcase on August 10, 2004 as she had just been interviewed by Steve & heard his request on August 7, 2004, Alvin’s 50th Birthday!
Dear Lee and Gert, 5-29-65
I know you will wonder why I’m writing you this letter being I’m here in Lake Arthur. Well, it’s hard the say something to someone without getting emotional, and certainly we have cried enough, and you experienced enough grief.
I feel as Father Speyrer said- God does nothing without a reason, and I feel he was trying to tell us something. That we don’t try and help each other enough. Your son being only ten gave up his life in trying to help his sister. In what other way could God have told us this and make such a deep impression on us all. As for myself it has already changed my life. I want to teach my children more how to love but love though Christian Charity.
We always ask some one we love for help when it’s needed. I feel that this is why God called on you for this. It makes me feel how close you all must be next to God, and no doubt they are both in heaven. So when the going gets a little rough remember you are the Father and Mother of two saints.
If this not can help in any way to ease the pain of loss, then I feel I have taken my first step in helping others.
I beg to remain through Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Your Friend, Bill Marceaux
38-7. Dear Brothers and Sisters, August 12, 2004
I visited with Stephen Marceaux on August 7, sitting in Dad’s chair in the den on Arthur Avenue. He and I spoke of Alvin and Veronica. I told him of my day on May 27, 1965. I told him that their funeral Mass was “Mass of the Angels,” a special Mass that is said on such an occasion.
He said that Bill, his father, told him that our Dad read a letter many times over that Bill had written to him and that it gave Dad strength. Stephen said how he “wished he could read that letter now.”
I found the letter among the many this past Tuesday night, August 10. They are all kept in an old suitcase in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. I gave it to you now so that you may know what it is our father and mother read.
Now we know part of the reason why Stephen felt inspired to write his story, “No Greater Love.” As Robert said, “The story should be told to aid parents in the rearing of their children,” and so I send it to each of you. Mr. Bill Marceaux also did just that, and the fruits of his labor are seen in Stephen, as he struggled to tell his children why people die. I too feel the fruit of our parents’ labor in reading the letter. They did indeed ‘carried on’ in teaching us ‘Christian charity’ as Bill said.
I want to, quoting the letter, ‘to ease the pain of loss’ by sharing this beautiful letter, written by a friend so long ago. But it isn’t so long when the lessons learned are everlasting. We are all doing the best we can to teach our children to care for each other. The letter has achieved its purpose to the next generations. How privileged we are to read it and know our dear hometown friends loved our Mom and Dad so much. The circle is completed with Bill’s son, a special messenger.
Stephen said, “it is an honor to write this story.” He feels “called to do it.” I have no doubt who whispered this to him as he sat in church the day he was called. Mom, Dad, Alvin and Veronica want us to be comforted and know that all is well and they are with us in our daily struggles. Good things come from the closeness of family and friends. Let us continue to keep the circle close. We do all still have each other and the numbers continue to grow. This is pleasing to Our Creator and the ones who see Him now. Here’s to an eternity of all of us being together once more. I pray this for all of you.
Love, Constance Victoria…Read on…
38-8. Dear Mom, Mother’s Day May 13th, 1979
As I lift this pen to address the package to you, I am unable to wrap the gift, because I can’t put ‘love’ in a box and wrap it.
Today my heart is filled with joy, love, thanksgiving, pride and a feeling of a lot of accomplishments which we both have strived for and succeeded. Success is ours. It has been earned thru much hard work, praying and careful planning.
Our 38 years together has been the perfect example of what our Lord expects from all his followers. We have abided by his teachings. Our love for each other has never failed, nor was it ever questioned. The fruits of our labor is all about us…our children have been our joy, and our joy has been our children. They are all on the road to success. Our two angels are there to guide them and see that none falter on the way to their success. This I believe.
Mom, as of this day, our hardest job has been completed, and that is the end of cooking, washing, waiting till 1AM for the children to come home. Our last born is about the take his leave to pursue his course in life. You have done a beautiful job for them all.
The next reason for me to be so happy today is because all our children love and respect us. Your rearing of the family is truly a success. None have caused the name of Monlezun or Hensgens to be tarnished with ill deeds.
As we grow old together, and rock away our pains and ills we can hold hands and say, “wonder how so & so (name a child) is doing!” We will always have so much to talk about and think of by-gone days when they were growing up. Now Mom, as of today, I ask that you “slow down” and live for yourself and I, only. When the children need, they will call, when we get too lonesome for them, we will go, but, let’s just fall in love again, you & I. Shortly, we will begin to travel our great country and see all the sights Our Lord has given us to see, “time” is ours. No schedule. No deadline to meet. No weekly or monthly reports to fill out; just you and I.
Love you, Dad …Read on…
38-9. Date: 8 November 2004 To: St. Maria Goretti School Graduates All!
From: Bernadette Monlezun-Ponton (& Herman Monceaux)
What: This is a fact sheet of collaboration toward a ‘Saint Maria Goretti Catholic School Special Collection!’
Where/How: To ‘live’ in the McNeese State University Library Archives and Special Collection Department, Lake Charles, LA…Archivist: Kathie Bordelon and Pati Threatt (firstname.lastname@example.org). They and their staff collect, clean, store, label and categorize a collection.
+ Artifacts: School jackets, caps (!), pens, rings, uniforms, pennants, a piece of the gym floor (!), certificates, yearbooks…
+ Electronics – Audiocassettes, Video (any film), recordings of any kind.
+ Oral Histories
+ Paper: Speeches, Minutes/Reports
+ Photographs (labeled)
+ Scrapbooks/photo albums
+Memoirs/Reminiscences…more on this later!
Whom: Accepting items from all Graduates 1965 to Present.
Why: I have had the great fortune to work with these wonderful and knowledgeable women in Archival Work on projects in Lake Charles and Lake Arthur. As I work to honor and reverence those who had such influences on the lives of many people, I naturally think of Goretti, subsequently you. This is a way to reverence those who have gone before, those who are here and those who will come after us.
How: Any items that you may have, 1) You invited to call Herman and leave a message. He will call you and make arrangements for pick-up. There is a one page Donation Agreement from the MSU Archivist for you to sign and I will carry your precious contents to the Archivist in Lake Charles for assimilation into the Goretti Collection or, 2) You are of course invited to take what you have to the MSU Library first floor, Archives Department. (Easiest place to park…by the girl’s dorms and walk across the footbridge; the library is on the immediate left!) `
Special Notation: There is a display area at the McNeese Library where there very well could be a ‘Exhibit’ (glass display cases) for the 40th Year (May 2005) of the first graduation class of Goretti! Everyone of or from Goretti would be invited to enjoy the display filled with memories from everyone who contributed.
Notation: Herman poignantly said, “Father Pelous never wanted the spirit of Goretti to die!” This is a way for the first class to begin the legacy process for GHS memorabilia to ‘live together’ for we are all eldering in place! The End!
…Now, isn’t life something!
39. Mom and Daddy were two of the first Eucharistic Ministers commissioned many years ago in Our Lady of the Lake church parish in Lake Arthur, LA. Constance and Vic followed soon afterwards and were commissioned as Eucharistic Ministers and Cantors at Our Lady Queen of Heaven (OLQH) church parish in Lake Charles, LA. I was commissioned as Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Cantor, Wake Service and Communion Service Facilitator in the chapel of the Chancery, Archdiocese of Washington, DC. And Dominique and Tina were commissioned as Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Arthur, LA where it all began! I serve as a Minister of Holy Communion every Thursday at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital as well as hold membership in the Catholic Daughters and Altar Society at OLQH and, along with Constance Victoria and Ione Marie, joining the Altar Society of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Roberts Cove, LA during their centennial celebration with Mom in attendance. Her mother was a member of the Altar Society, Catholic Daughter and charter member of the church choir! Daddy, Lee J., Hector, Dominique and Kade Joel, are members of the wonderful Knights of Columbus! Robert Joseph, Jr. attended a Cursillo! My six brothers were altar boys and in this next generation- Whitney Pierre, lll, Branton Heath, Sye Joseph, Antoine Adolfo, Joseph Wayne served as well as Dominique Joseph, Christian Joseph and the 18th grandchild, Suzanne Louise who serve as altar servers! Also in this next generation, John David (Christ the King Parish in Lake Charles, LA), Katherine Anne while in Baton Rouge and Antoine Adolfo (Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, LA) are commissioned Eucharistic Ministers. Recently Antoine served the cup for the first time and as it was handed to him on the altar, he noted how very full it was but chose not to sip it. He nervously and very carefully processed to his place next to the choir and positioned himself to serve the precious wine. The first lady approached and he gently handed her the cup of which she took a little too swiftly and yes, it proceeded to spill down the front of her dress and onto the floor. He was mortified, his knees turned to rubber and his month dried up but choked out, “I’m sorry!” Clutching the purificator he began to dab the cup as she whispered, ‘It’s OK!’ She is a mother of six children that fill the first pew every Sunday, so what can surprise her?! He proceeded to drop to his knee and dab the floor and said to me, “I cleaned the best I could, then stood over Him to protect Him and continued serving!” I am taking this line to my grave and all the way up to Mom and Dad!!! They probably gave him the courage and tenacity to stand firm, come to think of it!
40. Years ago I was sitting at Mass in the pew in Lake Arthur next to Daddy about 5 pews up from the confessional, left side! The priests’ homily was about The Father loving us all and I leaned over and asked Daddy how could he love us all the same. He thought for a moment and said, “Bette, it’s like taking a knife with soft butter, as he gesticulated spreading it on a slice of bread. It is even, even. That’s how I love each one of you. Now, sometimes some need more attention than others.” At that point Mom gave me the look and I ceased fire!
41. Robert Joseph, Jr. informs me, during his birthday call, that they planted in their holy ground in Carencro, LA, 26 fruit trees to include 8 fig trees, 2 plum, 3 pears 2 cherry, 2 lemons satsumas, kumquarts…”if all else fails, I can build a stand at the street and sell fruit!” Now who does that remind one of?!! One of the kumquart trees’ mama was originally at Arthur Avenue and when they went there to gather-up his Daddy Womack’s hand crafted, well-made metal boat that was parked behind Mom’s garage while they had all been residing in Alaska, there the tree was, rooting from its’ mama and making itself a home, a boat plant! Mom told him to take the whole thing, to include the little startling, and now it blooms where it is planted rooting new memories and fruit that definitely doesn’t fall far from the tree!
42.Trees and Vines
There’s a dead tree in my backyard.
It died slowly from old age and neglect.
One strong storm finally pushed it so hard that it leans way over.
It’s standing only because it is surrounded by vines that are healthy.
That tree reminds me of a sick and dying person.
The vines remind me of loved ones that do not want to let go of the dying tree.
Finally, God chooses.
It is the dying person’s turn to join him in heaven.
The tree falls to the ground and begins to rot.
The vines around the trees either start growing away from the tree,
Or they die when the dead tree keeps nutrients from reaching their leaves.
People join with other people in caring for a sick person just like the vines.
But, when it is time to let go, if people do not let go they will die just like the vines do.
If you look around you, you will see that nature gives these lessons for people everyday.
You just have to remember to look.
Christian Joseph Monlezun, Son of Dominique and Tina King-Monlezun age 10, Our Lady Immaculate Elementary School. Written March 2001, four months after Mom died!
43. If you knew where I standing, if you can see the sights I am seeing. If you could hear the angels singing the songs they sing eternally, of you knew the one who is holding me, could see the smile He smiles at me, if you knew where I am resting, you would not cry for me. Author Unknown. Submitted by Katherine Anne upon the death of Mom.
44. The first page of Mom’s Medical Resource Book 1999:
STRONG WOMAN VERSUS A WOMAN OF STRENGTH
A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape,
But a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.
A strong woman isn’t afraid of anything…but a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear.
A strong woman walks sure footedly, but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.
A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace.
A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that it is the journey that will make her strong.’ Author Unknown
45. When very young and spending time at the office, a cocker spaniel trotted into the store where I was standing one day and yelped for attention. She was covered with burrs and totally unkempt, in other words it was love at first sight! She was beautiful and I immediately claimed her as my own and began cleaning her, brushing her, giving her bear hugs and all her attention was riveted on me! You would have too if you looked as she did, poor thing! At the end of the day, I headed for home and she trotted happily right behind my heels. There Mom asked about this new addition to my person and I introduced her to DX! (It was the motor oil my Daddy sold and the first name that came to mind!) She smiled and said, “I hope she eats whatever is slung out the back door!” And boy did she. She was all mine for about a week as Daddy was sure that she would be claimed. During these times there were many additions to the canine kingdom on Arthur Avenue and it would become quite the zoo as more and more scrapings would be thrown out the back door. Too much as a matter of fact. Sure‘nuf, after about a week, DX was gone never to be seen again. I was so sad. Other siblings’ animals would also disappear and there would be more animals and then more disappearances! Alas, we would live, after all, there was always Dolly the Shetland pony and as mean as she was, you just had to ride her and find out what she would pull next. Fast forward to 2000 sitting around the table with Mom on 8th street in Lake Charles reminiscing about DX and Dolly and all those animals and she began to speak. “Bernadette,’ she said, ‘DX didn’t run off. When the yard became too full, something had to give. I would call the office and the next man going across the lake on the fuel or butane truck would stop while you all were in school, catch the animal and off to its new home somewhere in Vermilion parish it went. I think we populated half the parish with domestic animals!!” Only ‘Spot’ and ‘Two-Bit’s made it, that I remember! It was a good thing Dolly was a pony! Every time I travel through to Gueydan, I keep my eyes peeled for little cocker spaniels for I knew, for one week, their great-great-great grandmother!!
46. This lovely and meaningful printed card was found among the treasures on Arthur Avenue. I love the spirit in these words!
TO THE GRADUATE
I’m wishing you the wishes of your mother and your dad.
The joys they’d choose to give you if the power to give they had;
Not the ordinary wishes; not alone that you shall climb
The heights that lead to glory, in some splendid future time;
Not that you shall come to riches in some sordid, selfish way,
But that you shall win the gladness and the peace for which they pray.
They are wishing you the splendor of a life that’s rightly spent;
They have known the world’s temptations and the sorrows they have meant;
They have seen the empty conquests of the worshipers of gold,
And the mockery of pleasures that are merely bought and sold.
For they’re wishing you the gladness that’s the glory of the good.
You can know no greater pleasure than to have them proud of you;
There are little deeds of kindness they are hoping you will do.
This old world’s in need of service they are hoping you will give,
That your name shall, unforgotten long, in lasting glory live;
For the fame of noble living is the finest to be had;
So I’m wishing you the wishes of your mother and your dad. Edgar A. Guest
47. Many years ago when I was quite young, Daddy and I were visiting with Grandpa Monlezun at his workshop in his garage. He had 3 different type wooden crosses over his work table which upon inquiring was told they were at one time used as forms to make crosses for the old Shell Beach cemetery; people selected from their choice of three! In that they were retired I hesitantly asked if I could have them for I was drawn to them and grandpa said yes; Daddy then said, “I’ll take them Papa and save them for her and Bette, when you get settled, I’ll have them for you.” When I visited Daddy at the office every trip home, he would sometimes take me to the oil shed and point out the crosses on the back wall. When Dominique bought the business, he kindly assured me that the crosses were just fine and in place. In that I had moved twenty-seven times and upon retiring to Spring Street for forever and ever, I happily called for my crosses for I had become settled! One day I hear a horn from my driveway, look out the window and there is Charles slowly and reverently (!) crossing my front lawn carrying one of my three crosses on his shoulders like it was originally portrayed! I should have called Mel Gibson! I sent him back to carry the other two and home my very old crosses came to live! At one time they hung on my back fence and many women sat in front of them during my Silent Retreats and wept and pondered…the power of love, mercy and everlasting life made by the hands of another carpenter, my Grandfather Antoine after whom I named my only son.
48. Constance Victoria, my sister closest by birth, attended a Silent Retreat at my home in Lake Charles, LA on March 1996. This is what she wrote while meditating facing Grandpa Antoine’s wooden crosses and 60 year old windows from our home of origin that hung on my fence!
Raised up to be a reminder that we are here only briefly but bring with us all who have gone before. That we could make a difference to a life but our life, though single, be open to all the possibilities that lie within us.
That we are made gloriously different for a reason - our commonality of imperfectness is the driving force to strive for a better way.
That windows open and crosses hung unclutters our vision, our thoughts, our everyday lives. However, understand that windows get jammed shut and crosses are burned if we hide or look the other way…become comfortable…be of the world.
It was men who carried the cross and a man and woman who remained at the foot of it. It was a cloth offered by a woman upon which Christ emblazoned his countenance so that His Holy Mother could lessen her grief while He lay in the tomb for three endless days. It was a woman who discovered and first believed that the tomb was opened and empty and the God-Man walked among them again.
Can all the wrongs be righted? Can we love enough to change? Can we love enough to carry the crosses of our lives joyfully? Why does our path make so many curves and turns like the Via Delorosa?
Men and women in a dance of life each made wonderfully different!
Who does windows? Both! Who carries the cross? Both!
It is in our realization of these things that we grow as people of God,
Not male, not female.
God gives us our differences so we can revel in them and be joyful in them. If we indeed are made In His Image then it is in the image of His life on earth, His creation of the universe that should be reflected in faces, male and female.
The word woman has man in it. The word man has woman in it.
He gifted us with each other to see life and live it from different perspectives because it is too much to take in, to be comprehended, alone.
How different it would be if we saw what lies ahead.
But it is in the journeying that we can prepare for whatever comes, in this process of becoming that we sometimes rage against.
We have been given ample supplies to make the trip, if we but dig deep into our backpack and make use of them.
The stone in our shoe can be a supply.
Each suffers in his own way, to more easily see the suffering in his fellow journeyman through a window or at the cross.