by Chay Lemoine
There was great sadness when Bridget “Boogie” Trosclair died from complications of diabetes and other ailments. It was whispered at her funeral that she was a saint as she always saw the good in everyone and when she was close to death an angel appeared to her in her hospital room. When alive and well, Boogie was given the thankless task of writing the death notices for all family members. For over forty years, whenever a family member or close friend of the family passed away, Boogie was called upon to celebrate their life in one hundred words or less.
For instance, when Great Granny Trosclair died suddenly at 3 a.m. in a nursing home in Alexandria, Louisiana, hours away from most of the family, Boogie wrote that she “was surround by family and friends quietly offering her soul to the care of the Lord Jesus Christ”. As a matter of fact, she died alone and was found by a nurse on the evening shift slumped by the window. Most family members were not even aware of her death until they saw the death notice in the local paper. But they felt satisfied that some family members were there to give Great Granny comfort.
When Aunt Mable killed herself immediately after returning from a visit to the doctor’s office when an examination found a lump in her breast. Boogie wrote that Mable fought a long and brave fight against cancer. (And of course, she was surround by family and friends). The family of course knew the truth, but after a few months of repeating the death notice version of her demise, family members all agreed that Mable must have been fighting for her life for years, and only when she realized that there was no hope that she took the drastic step to end her life.
When Boogie’s husband Brock Trosclair died from alcohol poisoning, she wrote he was a “loving husband” and “the love of her life”. He was neither loving nor technically her husband because Boogie could not prove to Social Security that they were married. She did claim to have some recollection of getting married by a Justice of Peace during one of their drunken binges. Boogie too tended to drink more than she should, and this was especially true during her younger years, so it was possible that wedding vows were initiated under the haze of alcohol. In a few weeks after hearing the official story, there were those who “seemed to recall” being at Boogie’s wedding, although they couldn’t give it a specific time and place.
And when Nelson Detterling, under the influence of heroin, drowned face down in the bathtub with one inch of water, his death was called an unfortunate household accident. She also said he was the loving son of Cyndi and Peter Detterling, although he was arrested twice for trying to kill his father.
Boogie claimed she was a picture of good health, although she weighed in excess of 350lbs pounds. When her knees were so swollen that she could barely walk, she explained it was hereditary and that may have been true since her mother weighed in about 300lbs when she passed away. She claimed her diabetes was also hereditary. But she would explain that she took extra precautions with her health as she was on a very special diet and used only organic flour, sugar, and chocolate for her special brownies that she made two or three times a week. She also claimed that this special brownie recipe was given to her by her doctor. It took her much time and expense to make sure her food was pure, and when she quit her job as a clerk at the neighborhood grocery store because it became so difficult for her to get around, she devoted herself full time to finding the purest foods available. After all, she wanted was to keep up her good health.
As it sometimes happens to healthy people, Boogie had a heart attack while eating a large platter of organic fried chicken. No one could figure out why a perfectly healthy woman like Boogie could get a heart attack unless, like her knees and diabetes, weak genes was the cause. Boogie nodded, “Yes, that’s exactly what the doctors had said.”
All went well for a while until Boogie began to act in ways that many said was very strange. But her sisters explained the logic of each episode. Running outside naked and screaming at the top of her lungs was because she thought the house was on fire. Ramming her car into the side of the church was because her foot slipped off the brake. When it happened two more times it was explained as the result of her stroke and her foot slipped off the break again. But when she called her very elderly mother-in-law and threatened to kill her for her past failings it was easily explained as “having the wrong number”.
Meanwhile, Boogie still was able to write death notices. Sara Farmers, a neighbor’s death, which was classified as natural causes, caused Boogie a bit of trouble. Not only was this a first – never in 40 years had anyone died of natural causes. It was around this time that Boogie has started seeing strange creatures. So, Boogie explained in the death notice that while large creatures roamed at large, Sara’s family was gathered ’round waiting for her body to be taken up to heaven. It was generally thought that Sara had no family, so all who read her death notice was happy that she finally found some family to visit her during her last days. There was no mention of the “large creatures”.
Eventually, Boogie noticed she was having trouble concentrating. She blamed it on ‘all that’ genetically modified food. When she was called upon to write a death notice for Porter McCaw she used the same death notice she wrote for Stanley LeBlanc three years ago, minus Stanley’s family members of course. So, both men “never knew a stranger”. In the past Boogie felt uncertainty about the phrase and used it seldom, because she was not sure if it meant they took pains to avoid strangers or had a particular attraction to them. But when she read it in several death notices in the larger newspapers, she began to incorporate it more often.
Then Boogie herself died, but it was not a quick death. She lingered for two weeks in the local hospital. During the last days of her life, she became extremely religious. She would scream out prayers and asked the priest at the hospital to give her last rites on a regular basis. It was on the last day of her life that she saw the angel. She told her sister Paula that an angel was in the room with her. Paula didn’t see anything, but she knew that just because she couldn’t see it didn’t mean it wasn’t true. She called the priest and asked him to quickly come to the hospital room because a miracle was occurring. But by the time the priest got there, Boogie was dead. The angel was nowhere to be found, although all visitors made a thorough search which included the hospital rooms both to the left and right of Boogie, the hallway, and the men’s restroom.
It was a beautiful funeral. Even in death Boogie looked a picture of health. Two large caskets were altered to accommodate her body. The turnout was the largest Burns, Burns and Franklin funeral home had seen in years. To coin one of Boogie favorite death notice phrases “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house”. It was discussed in whispers that Boogie saw an angel on the evening of her death. This caused Ruth Speagal to gasp loudly and point with a trembling finger at an angelic figure moving behind the flowers. But it was only little Donnie Gleason and at eight years old he was no angel. Most were impressed with the hospital angel sighting except for Grandma LeBouf and she said so. But Paula Gibson piped up, “I know it’s hard to believe but I’ve never known Boogie to lie.” And all of Boogie’s family and friends nodded their heads in agreement.
Chay Lemoine was born and raised in St. Rose, Louisiana. He is known for his literary research on Icelandic writer Halldor Laxness. He currently is an adjunct professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.