A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.
But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.
As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.
When someone you love dies so young—the pain is unbearable. Especially when the cause is as silly as a virus. I remember that pain. And so, as I walked around Jackson Square, listening to the musicians and watching the jugglers, I refocused on the present. After all, New Orleans has made a pretty penny hyping the past to tourists. I didn’t need to be reminded that death can be tragic, uninvited, and often heartbreaking. I already knew.
If you haven’t been to Jackson Square, take a moment to visit: http://bit.ly/2wSRJ9k