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Stories to Tell

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

As we draw near to the celebration of All Souls’ Day, I find myself reflecting on some of the souls that have crossed our path down here at the Peace Center over these four years. Their lives had all been impacted by Hurricane Katrina and they now lived in Section 8 housing in the Pine Street Apartments.

Miss Janet was a wonderful Grandmother who loved to read and hoped we would start a book club at the center. In the interim she borrowed from our library and when her grandchildren came to visit she would gather as many books as possible to read to them while they stayed with her. She always returned the books and when she couldn’t manage to walk over she would send them via another resident. She died in the hospital in 2016.

Ms. Al hated to be called “Ms. Al”. Alpharetta was beset with many infirmities but she had never let them get the better of her. She was bound and determined to come to bingo at the center but it took a lot out of her. After a time she began to wonder if it was all worth it and slowly did less and less. She ended up in the hospital in 2017 where she died with family and friends around her.

Dianne was quite a character, and to hear her tell it she had once advised Ellen Degeneris to get out of stand up comedy in the Quarter and head to Hollywood. Seems Ellen frequented the bar where Dianne took care of the drinks; it would seem that  the advice was well heeded. We were never quite sure if the bartending came before or after she was a surgical nurse, but Dianne claimed both as her careers before Katrina. Dianne had many facets to her life and personality, and the word irascible was well applied to her. She loved to talk and only cared that you listen, not agree or disagree, but beware if you did disagree. Then according to her, you were never listening in the first place.  We knew she was starting to become weaker on the day she came to ask us to make sure she could give us her dogs if something happened. She died alone in her apartment in 2017.

Clifford was a man who loved life and had to make changes after Katrina that left him in a wheelchair with one leg amputated. By the time of his death he was a double amputee, but not even that stopped him from coming to play Bingo, going on our field trips and being with his friends. He thought it was great when there were hats as bingo prizes now and then; you never saw him without one. He died in the hospital in late 2017.

Gilbert was a great afficionado of the French Quarter and had many friends in the trendy Bywater. He biked everywhere until he suffered a stroke a year or so ago. It didn’t exactly stop him but it meant more time in rehab than he wanted. He had a quick wit and snappy repartee but was always the gentleman. He too had been a bartender and knew lots of things about the Quarter. His friends and family held a Celebration of Life at Vaughn’s Lounge in the Bywater. It was quite a send off.

Quite the characters all five of these folks, but they all taught us many things about being ourselves with the folks around the center, accepting people as they are and learning the value of telling stories.

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