Before the start of nearly every meeting of the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury, its president, Melanie Bueche, recites a prayer or shares kind words and parables encouraging her fellow jurors and others in attendance to strive toward leading fulfilled lives.
But Bueche wasn't there for this week’s meeting, her first absence since she became a police juror 20 years ago. So the prayers and heartfelt words came from her fellow jurors, who were emotionally shaken after the jury’s vice president, Kyle Olinde, told them the reason for her absence. Bueche, he told everyone, had to be hospitalized for an extended period of time since the jury's last meeting due to recent complications in her ongoing battle with a form of terminal cancer.
After a hush moved over the crowd, Olinde described the pain Bueche told him she had to endure during her treatment as "having a toothache on both sides of her head." Olinde struggled to hold back his emotions as he talked, prompting some of his fellow jurors to jump in.
"Mrs. Bueche has never missed a meeting while I've been on this jury," Juror Kurt Jarreau said. "She's not the strongest woman I know —she's the strongest person I've ever endured."
Juror Cornell Dukes spoke up next, telling the crowd he was holding back tears that day as well.
"I formed an amazing relationship with an awesome lady," Dukes said. "She was solely dedicated to making sure she did everything in her power to make Pointe Coupee Parish run efficiently."
As the prayers to Bueche's family began to multiply, Gail Hurst, a resident and frequent attendee of parish meetings, offered up her brand of unfiltered truth.
"Mrs. Bueche is still alive. Don't be talking about her like she's gone!" Hurst told the Police Jury. "She's coming back!"
Hurst's comment got a few smiles and some polite nods.
Olinde looked at her and replied," You're right. She is coming back," before sitting down and continuing on that the jury's business for that evening.
Parish officials said Bueche was released from the hospital Thursday and is expected to be at the jury's next meeting later this month.