I was a Catholic school girl. I attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School from the second grade all the way through the eighth. The years when I was there were at the height of the Baby Boom, and so we had multiple classes for each grade and the classrooms were always crowded. I knew everyone’s name, but didn’t always have the opportunity to become close friends with all of the students in my grade. Still, there were certain people who stood out as being quite special even as children. Because I felt gawky and shy I found myself longing to be like some of the kids that I considered to be a cut above the rest of us ordinary souls.
In the eighth grade an annual ceremony honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary took place each May. We had the honor of voting for the one girl that we believed to be worthy of such a high distinction. We were instructed to consider our choices carefully, not basing them on popularity, but rather on evidence of impeccable character. Even though I only knew her from afar at that time, I did not hesitate to vote for Linda Daigle, a friendly and generous young lady who always appeared to be thinking of others more than herself. I saw her as the embodiment of the lessons that we were taught in our daily religion classes.
Eventually Linda and I matriculated to the same high school. I still only observed her from from admiration rather than a close relationship, but she only impressed me more and more over the next four years. Somehow she had a way of making people feel so comfortable and she was humble about her talents and her good nature. I continued to believe that she was someone whose character I wanted to emulate. Imagine my surprise when we ended up becoming fast friends once we had moved on to the same university. Over more the than forty years that we have shared a friendship absolutely nothing has changed my original assessment of Linda as a model of compassion and love.
When Linda and I first began to grow close I finally had the pleasure of meeting her mother, Rose Daigle. In Rose I saw the beauty that was the source of Linda’s attractiveness. I also found the same ever present welcoming nature and spirit of boundless hospitality. I loved visiting that house where we often sat at the kitchen table enjoying one of Mrs. Daigle’s special homemade treats. She spoke with a unique accent that is only found in the speech patterns of people born and raised in New Orleans, and I found it to be delightful. I always felt so special just listening to her.
Rose Daigle had grown up in New Orleans but eventually set up a household in Houston, Texas with her husband Bernard. Together they raised four very bright and well mannered children. Rose made her home quite lovely with her skills at sewing, decorating, gardening and cooking. I liked the atmosphere that pervaded her house and thought her to be as wonderful as her daughter Linda.
I’ve been friends with Linda for decades now. We raised our children together and somehow managed to keep in touch even if we only saw each other once a year. When we talk we are able to converse for hours, mostly because Linda is such a good listener and a truly sensitive and concerned person. I suppose that I have told her as much about myself as anyone knows, because I feel as safe with her as I often did when I visited her mother.
Rose Daigle lived quietly in her home long after her children had all left and many years beyond the time when her husband had died. Her life centered on her children, grandchildren, her church and her home. She loved to putter in her yard and always got a kick out of showing her handiwork to visitors and giving them cuttings of her plants. She began to slow down though as her energy waned and her mind became more and more muddled. Her children finally realized that she had reached the point at which she would no longer be able to stay alone at her house. They tried various solutions and ultimately found a secure place for Rose in an assisted living facility.
True to form Rose’s daughter Linda was completely devoted to her mother’s care. She lovingly visited her mother three times every single day, making certain that all of Rose’s needs were met. Linda did all of her mom’s laundry and created little celebrations not just for her parent, but for all of the workers who watched over Rose. She was steadfast in her resolve to make her mother’s twilight years as lovely as possible and she did a yeoman’s job in that regard. Over time Rose thrived because of Linda’s efforts and seemed to become even more beautiful and ageless than she had ever been. I loved seeing photos of the birthdays, the Mardi Gras celebrations, and the Christmas parties that put huge smiles on Rose’s face. She seemed to revel in the love and attention that she received from Linda as well as the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who religiously visited with her
In the past few months Rose’s health began to fail. She was 98 years old and becoming more and more weak. She had stays at the hospital and even received the last rites at one point, but somehow she rallied time and again. Sadly last week she seemed to have lost the old spark that had so defined her life. Linda continued to stand vigil over her mom while still managing to help Houston flood victims by washing mountains of clothing and linens as well as dishes, antiques and kitchen utensils. I suspect that she was just being wonderful Linda the way that her mother had so often showed her how to be, always giving in every regard.
Rose died this past weekend. She became another precious angel in a heaven that is being crowded with the parents of my generation. I suspect that she is free of pain and glowing radiantly like the vision of loveliness that she always was. She’s no doubt reuniting with friends and relatives and maybe even puttering in a perfect garden or creating a culinary delight. She was indeed a very good woman of distinction of the kind that all of us should strive to be. She loved with all of her heart and now she is receiving her just rewards.
My heart is heavy for Linda and her family. No matter the circumstances it is always difficult to lose a parent, especially one as remarkable as Rose Daigle. I pray that Linda will find peace and comfort in her heart and that she will also get some much needed rest. In my estimation Linda is as close to being a living saint as anyone I have ever known. I suppose that I will continue to be in awe of her forevermore.