040421 human condition (toned)

As we navigate the anniversary of the COVID crisis I am reflecting on how we coped.

Last March, after weeks of home lockdown, my little neighborhood in West Baton Rouge Parish decided to gather outside on the old dairy farm we fondly call “Mouchville.”

Uncle Louis’ fruit orchard was but a minute from a group text. Golf carts, barking dogs, bicycles, crying toddlers and folding chairs of every shape and vintage sprung up.

We couldn’t go a mile down the road to pray at St. John Catholic Church in Brusly, so we did the next best thing: A makeshift altar was created with a table, some candles lit and a beautiful simple crystal cross kept us centered. Cows mooed and the birds sang our hymns.

Just months ago we had never heard of this virus that now threatened all of us.

We came with rosaries, prayer books, baby bottles, sippy cups, coffee and Kleenex. The fruit orchard had lost most of its trees, but two huge pecan trees shaded us from the uncertain times.

The matriarch of the family — 88-year-old Aunt Mary — sat in her lawn chair six feet from all of us, thanking us for gathering. Cindy, the oldest of the family, read from Scriptures while a niece who was in labor viewed the event by cellphone. We prayed and we cried. Life was moving at a different pace, but our hearts were open. Neighbor John gave a short but poignant homily about Easter faith.

There were moments of nature. A red male cardinal flew to sit on a tree branch while a yellow butterfly flitted away.

When the time came for intentions, some of us prayed for a soon-to-be-born baby girl who would one day run through the old dairy like her mother. We prayed for the lonely and for all the nurses and medical professionals. We begged for understanding and patience.

Times were tense, but there lighter moments. One time I almost put my chair in a fresh present a dog had left behind. We all had a laugh. I wanted to remove the present with a garden spade but felt it was not the time to leave.

We would have several of these impromptu prayer gatherings. Almost two dozen and sometimes 30 of us would come together. If you counted the pets, we were almost a full precinct.

During most of these gatherings, we mentioned Uncle Louis, who departed this earth many years ago. I had to chuckle about what he would have told us about this pandemic. Probably to remain as sturdy in faith as the old dairy barn his grandchild Corey had refurbished. 

The premature baby was born, and she’s got beautiful eyes like her mother. Her new pony now grazes near the orchard.

Now we look to the future.

— Broussard lives in Addis

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