By Royal Alexander
My mother, a remarkable and resilient woman, passed away last week at 90 years old after a lifetime of mothering, advocacy, and service. I am one of her 12 children, but she was also grandmother of 40 and great grandmother of 6.
She was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana. After graduating from Mount Carmel Academy in Lafayette, she earned her B.A. at Southwestern (ULL) with a double major in piano and voice. She then pursued her Masters in voice at Southern Methodist University, regaling many audiences during her lifetime with her lovely singing.
In the 1960s she also hosted her own TV show in Shreveport on the NBC affiliate Channel 6, KTAL Calling, on which she interviewed TV personalities of the day. She also was a fluent speaker of French enunciated with a beautiful, authentic accent.
My siblings and I, born and raised in Shreveport, grew up in what would today be called a “traditional, old-fashioned family.” This included that period of time in which “children were to be seen, not heard” and in which each child had daily chores to complete with clear consequences for not doing so.
My late father, a former U.S. Marine Corp officer, was a strict disciplinarian and demanded much of his children. He scrupulously insisted we maintain our grades, our faith, and our conduct. In fact, particularly as it pertains to my brothers and I, we were far more concerned about him deploying his sturdy black belt than we were with any temptation that adolescent and teenage boys might be drawn to.
Complementing our father’s military creed was our mother’s gentler approach, which was one of patience, social refinement, and spiritual grace. And an infinite supply of stamina.
There were days she must have driven 100 miles just getting all of us to school, after school activities, swim practice, and then home for dinner.
Growing up, we spent countless hours at Sunday church, at times attending two or even three services on a Sunday at Mom’s insistence when we boys were cutting up at the earlier service. She also hosted lively family celebrations at home, extending late into evenings after Christmas Eve and Easter Vigil Masses. My mother infused her Christian Catholic faith into everything she did.
Staunchly pro-life, she championed the rights of unborn babies. She requested my dad help her and together they founded, in 1974, one of the very first pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Louisiana. She urged me and my siblings to boldly give a voice to the unborn while always reflecting the values we had been taught.
As a result of this she was, earlier this year, honored by the Republican Party of Louisiana with the Pro-Life Legacy Award in recognition of her many decades of service to the cause of the defenseless unborn.
Even to the very end of her life, she never stopped moving, always serving her community with an indomitable spirit. For many years, she also assisted the Franciscan Brothers of Shreveport at the Christian Service Hospitality House.
She firmly believed that “happiness is a direction, not a position” and that the very best thing we can do for our mental, physical, and spiritual health is to always be moving toward a positive, worthwhile goal. Because, she said, there are so many in need, and therefore so many opportunities to do good.
And she did.
Throughout her life, she would find those in need, or they, her, and she would pour out her heart and her resources to help them. Her humility in her Christian witness brought inspiration to those whose lives she touched.
She was also quite funny.
I must confess she enjoyed the taste of a good whiskey. I remember once having poured her a modest drink and then asking her if she wished me to add ice or water to it. She looked at me with a touch of pity and a chuckle as if to say “honey, I would never ruin a good whiskey by adding ice or water to it.”
While I am struggling with her passing, even now I can see clearly enough to recognize that she gave me and all my brothers and sisters our three greatest gifts: our lives, our faith—and, of profound importance, she gave us each other, our siblings.
I can do no better than to close with these words of wisdom from President Lincoln: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”