The Meaning Behind the ‘LOVE’ Billboard on Johnston in Lafayette
Have you seen the purple billboard on Johnston Street that says LOVE? That’s all it says is LOVE. It’s pretty powerful when you see it. It warms your heart in a way that I can’t describe. I found out it has a very special 'Mother's Day' meaning behind it and wanted to share this beautiful story.
Abby Picou, of Lafayette, celebrated her second Mother’s Day this year. But, at the same time, it was her first Mother’s Day without her mom. So, naturally, it was a very bittersweet Mother’s Day. She wanted to find a way to honor and celebrate her mother. Picou had a very unique idea that not only honored her mom, but it also shared that love and her legacy with Acadiana. She rented a billboard on Johnston Street located across from The Royal Standard heading towards downtown. She made it very simple. On the purple billboard is the huge white letters spelling LOVE.
In Picou’s Facebook post, she says not only was purple her mom’s favorite color but ironically, purple is the color used for Dementia and Alzheimers Awareness. She said her mom would pronounce ‘Purple’ as ‘BurBule’, due to her accent. She had a very heavy Middle Eastern accent and all of her P’s would become B’s. That’s why Picou decided to make the billboard purple. In order to understand the significance of the billboard and that one simple word, LOVE, you need to know the history of the person it honors.
Picou’s family is Middle Eastern and they moved to the United States in the mid-1980s to follow her grandparents. Her grandparents opened a retail business in downtown Lafayette in the late 1970s called “New Look Fashions”. Picou’s mom, Nadia Jalil Abushanab Shiber, was also known as Miss Nadine. Miss Nadine’s husband passed away in 1995 when she was only 39. They had only been in the United States for 10 years when she had to begin raising her family as a single mother. She never remarried. She learned English, took computer classes, and was one of the original founders of the only Greek Orthodox Church in Lafayette.
When Miss Nadine was 57 years-old she was diagnosed with early onset of what doctors called Aggressive Degenerative Frontal Temporal Lobe Dementia. Her neurologist insisted the family start looking for a placement for her because the progression of the disease was much faster than someone diagnosed at 75 or 80. Her family made the decision to keep her home with them as long as possible. It wasn’t until she had accidents leading to the ER that they realized she needed a nursing home to have the proper care she needed. She was eventually placed in a small memory care unit that was on 24-hour password-protected entry because her condition was so aggressive. She lost the ability to speak English and Picou said that was so sad to watch. But, when she lost the ability to speak at all, was the absolute worst.
In her final days, Miss Nadine declined rapidly, and eventually, Hospice was called in at the beginning of April 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic and the spreading of Covid-19, the family wasn’t allowed to be with Miss Nadine at the nursing home. After testing Miss Nadine for Covid-19 and finding out she did not have it, Picou decided to move her home with her for her final days. They hired 24-hour sitters and followed all safety guidelines by wearing masks and gloves. Picou said her mom’s friends and members of the choir she was a part of gathered outside the window of where Miss Nadine laid. They sang church hymns in Arabic to her. With all of her family surrounding her, Miss Nadine took her last breath.
Picou describes her mom as a woman who took care of everyone. She loved to cook. She loved costume jewelry. She was fierce. Picou said her mother’s strength and perseverance are her inspiration. Picou named her son after her mother. His name is Aidan, which is Nadia spelled in reverse.
Picou said our little town and our big world needs love right now and she wanted to share some in honor of her beautiful mother.