“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.”
I recently returned from a last minute trip to New Orleans for the celebration of my grandmother’s 85th and aunt’s 60th birthday. I wasn’t going to make the trip because of all the time I had off from my trip to Bali, but was able to remain connected to work during the day and spend quality time with my family at night. Boy, I am glad I made the trip. I am truly lucky to have such a diverse and connected family. We are not perfect and all have our intricate issues, but when we are together, I can see the memories and stories of the past connecting us.
A simple moment of my aunt rubbing my dad’s back during the birthday dinner showed more than her support for him during the most difficult time in his life. That action was the vivid representation of the memories they have shared together from early childhood to El Salvador, living together in the 17th Street Canal area of New Orleans, to California and to Tampa where they each raised their families. It showed the bond between an older sister and younger brother that doesn’t fade with age, but grows stronger with each year and life story told.
My Uncle Scott is the one of the three siblings that never left Louisiana, and he wears it well. He is the funniest person to have around at a party and the best to watch or join on the dance floor. He has season tickets to the New Orleans Saints and was the first person to call me when one of my favorite players, Jeremy Shockey left the team. Every time I visit my uncle, we always find a moment during the visit to spend quality time together. This time we found our moment as we walked back to the apartment from two hours on Bourbon Street with three of our family friends. We had time to talk about the year past, moments in our childhoods that are less favored and the relationship we have with our siblings. I can always count on Uncle Scott to speak about life on a level far beyond the surface, and I value the time spent with him.
My grandmother was ecstatic about all of the family and friends in town for her party. She has always been a social butterfly and values her family more than anything. She is still the lone Republican, clinging to her love for Ronald Reagan. I have to admit, I respect her for her strong hold to her beliefs, especially in a family where being a Republican is not easy. She has always been strong and innovative. Her children call her their rock growing up. When she got divorced at a late age, she started her own business, Chevere. It is still open today, under a new name, Rollick, and managed by her granddaughter, Anika, in Atlanta.
The day after the birthday dinner was held, Aunt Kris, Anika, my dad and I went up to the jacuzzi on the roof of the apartment building. It was probably 60 degrees outside and we just dangled our lower legs in the water. It was so amazing. I find a similar peace being above the noise of a city and being on top of a quiet mountain. What I found during this moment was a pause in the lives my family has lived and embraced the moment we were in. My dad had a look of clarity in his eyes that I have not seen in a while. It was as if he was above more than the noise of the city, but above the weight of life. I cherish that moment of clarity, that spark.
New Orleans will always be one of the largest sparks in my life, ignited by more than the sounds of the street car, the French Quarter, live music and the Who Dat Nation. My spark is also ignited by what was already created before I was born, through the lives of my family.