LAFAYETTE, LA – Abby Shiber Picou honored her late mother with a billboard on Johnston Street near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus with a single word on it, “Love,” a week before Mother’s Day, the Acadiana Advocate reported.
Picou’s mother, Nadia Shiber had passed away on April 7 at age 64 due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, the Advocate reported.
Picou told the Advocate that “it was just a way to share love and awareness of dementia. It was really just for us to have a way to honor her.”
Due to the restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Shiber’s funeral was a small one, “so Picou thought the billboard might be a way to honor her mother and remind people of the importance of loving one another in the midst of a public health and economic crisis,” the Advocate reported.
“She always taught us to love each other. I wanted to feel her love around me and share her love because that's been her legacy,” Picou told the Advocate which added that the color of the billboard was Shiber’ favorite, purple, and is also the color for Alzheimer's awareness.
The billboard “will stay up for at least a month more,” the Advocate reported, adding that “Picou said the sign serves as both a way to commemorate her mom on the first Mother's Day without her and to honor her mom through the 40-day period since her death, as is tradition in Middle Eastern culture.”
When asked what Shiber would think of the billboard, Picou told the Advocate, “I definitely think she would tell me that I was crazy to waste my money on something like that because we grew up kind of poor. She would be like, 'What were you thinking?' Or she would tell me I could have donated it to the church… I also think she would be proud of me that her legacy stuck.”
The Orthodox Christian family immigrated to Lafayette from Jordan in 1986 when Picou was 3 years old, but 10 years later, her father passed away “leaving her mother to raise four children alone,” the Advocate reported.
In spite of the challenges, Shiber also “pursued her dream of starting a Greek Orthodox church in Lafayette, which first met in her home and eventually grew into Archangel Gabriel Antiochian Orthodox Church on Eraste Landry Road,” the Advocate reported.
Picou told the Advocate, ”She was so proud of that fact. When she started getting sick and we told her she couldn't drive anymore, she would sometimes find her keys and steal them and go to church. She was so adorable. It's not like she was going to a boyfriend's house. She was going to church.”
Shiber was just 57 when she was diagnosed with early onset dementia and Picou “cared for her mother for five years before she needed round-the-clock care in a nursing home facility,” the Advocate reported.
Though restrictions due to the coronavirus prevented visits at the nursing home, Shiber returned home for her final days and “held on until all four of her children made it home to say goodbye,” the Advocate reported, adding that “she died with her loved ones at her side as a priest prayed over her and the church's choir sang hymns outside her window. They drank tea and ate baklava.”
Picou told the Advocate that “her death was kind of the way that she lived: peaceful. She was surrounded by the legacy of what she left behind. If there could be a beautiful death, this was. It was beautiful.”
Picou married in 2017 and has a son who celebrated his first birthday in March, the Advocate reported, noting that “he is named Aidan, Nadia spelled backward, in honor of Picou's mother.”
On Mother's Day, Picou and son Aidan visited the billboard that honors his grandmother, the Advocate reported.
“I just didn't want to be sad this Mother's Day about it, I wanted to feel her love around me. I wanted to share her love, and I wanted to share her legacy because that's what she taught me,” Picou told the Advocate.