|Leon was a character – in the best sense of the word. He was a unique individual who did things his own way and never stopped – not for 97 years. He was the way he was and nothing was going to change that. Three years ago he offered to climb the ladder on to the school roof and check out what the roofers were doing the job right because he used to do that. And we always knew it was him in Confession because the act of Contrition was always in French. Leon was a character in the best sense of the word.
What Leon really did was very simple: he was given gifts and talents by God in birth and baptism and he continued to use those gifts and talents to the end of his life. Whether at home, at war, at peace, at work, at Church, Leon used them, and himself, to make the world around him a better place. He may not have always thought things through – I mean three years ago I don’t think he really could have climbed up on to the roof and back again – but he was always ready to offer assistance, if only moral support. It’s almost as if he was hard-wired to help with no off switch.
Leon is an example of how to live a Christian life, in all its twists and turns and ups and downs. To go from a childhood in Maine to an older age in Eatontown was quite a journey. I never really found out if English or French was his first language, but they were at least equals. And I did learn from a seminary professor from Maine that that is not an unusual situation, especially for one of Leon’s age. Which accounts for his French Act of Contrition. But whether he was in Maine or New Jersey or fighting overseas, speaking French or English, he never stopped using those God-given gifts and talents and his capacity to care.
Leon has left behind his families – although he and Ronnie didn’t have a family of his own, they gathered families around them, both biological: the nieces, the nephews, the cousins, and the extended ‘families’ of friends Leon joined or created throughout his life, watching proudly – as proud as any of their parents – as each generation grew and began to raise families of their own. And every member of those families has been affected by having Leon as a part of their lives, whether for a lifetime, or only two or three years. The memories of Leon and the things he taught us, by word or example will continue to live on in each of us, and through us to new generations. Leon has left us, but Leon remains. And we will see him again, probably saying: Bienvenue mon ami. Bienvenue au banquet du Seigneur. Entres. Assoit! Manger! Nous avons beaucoup a parler!
Welcome my friend! Welcome to the banquet of the Lord! Enter! Sit! Eat! We have a lot of catching up to do. Because this is not Adieu this is au revoir – not farewell, but til we see you again.
And the best part about that will be – it will be for eternity.