In less than 12 hours, our son, Taylor, and I, will start our first half-marathon together. We are here in New Orleans. It is a special time. It is a special place, and my latest reflections on the love of my life have been over 26 years in the making. 26 years ago, the love of my life, Maureen, and I came to New Orleans together from Chicago. We had been dating since New Year’s, and we were so excited to escape the cold of Chicago and head south. I remember the energy of that trip and the pulse of my heart, as if it were yesterday. When you are with the love of your life, every day is like that. Your heart feels like it is going to burst, because it is so happy. As Taylor and I were walking back to our hotel, after picking up some breakfast items for the morning, I pointed out the Le Meridien where his mom and I had stayed in February of 1989.
The good times were definitely rolling. Back then, for Maureen and I, they rolled as the result of one too many hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s! This time they are rolling for different reasons. Only hours after our arrival last night, as the kids and I were seated at our table at Domenica’s, they suddenly realized Mark Wahlberg was standing right next to us. Their hearts were racing with excitement, just like my heart raced with excitement being with Maureen. When you’ve been in love, you remember that wonderful feeling, that burning desire to be with the person you love. Their mere presence causes you great joy. That was Maureen and not just when we were dating. It was every day. It was the day I proposed. It was the day we were married. It was the day each of our children were born. It was every day, even in the waiting rooms at oncologists and hospitals. I loved being with Maureen. The good times always rolled. Always. She always brought me joy, and I know she brought Marky Mark into Domenica’s because she wants her kids to have joy. She wants their good times to roll.
The kids and I reflect often on our good times. Not a day goes by that we don’t wish that Maureen was back with us. Of course, we would only want her back when her good times were rolling, not when she was feeling the increasing pain of her fight with cancer. However, even though she is not with us physically, she is clearly with us. Too many little “coincidences” have happened, not just on this trip but others that point to the incredible power of love and “bon temps.” Interestingly, these coincidences all revolve around both powdered donuts and “you are my sunshine.” For those that have been following, “The Love of My Life,” you already know these stories. If you haven’t, it may be worth taking a moment to read those posts for context.
Interestingly, each of the coincidences occurred not far from Jackson Square and Cafe Du Monde. On my wall, next to my bed, back at home, I have a picture I took of Maureen in front of the posts surrounding the square in New Orleans, near the sidewalks in front of the shops. Last year, when we were here as a family, we took a similar picture, at the same post, with just her, as well as with the kids. The kids had some really good times with their mom on the trip to NOLA last year, just like I enjoyed our “bon temps” 25 years earlier. Both experiences were infused with joy and love, and it is important to remember that love is really, really powerful. Love is so powerful that I was blown away to receive this picture from a dear friend through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society a few days ago. She was in a shop just off of Jackson Square, My Cherie Amour, when she saw this adorable platter with the words to You Are My Sunshine. Maureen was already present in this place, waiting to welcome the kids and I to New Orleans.
The power of love continued to manifest itself at Jackson Square this weekend. The kids and I went to Cafe Du Monde, just like we had done with Maureen a year ago, to have the mother of all powdered donuts, beignets. They were delicious, as always, and as the powder blew everywhere, we knew that Maureen’s love was blowing over us, too. We carried that love with us to the banks of the Mississippi River, after we finished at the Cafe Du Monde. This is our first big trip as a family since Maureen’s passing. We knew this had to be the first trip, because we shared so much love together in this city. We not only brought the powder of love, but we brought some of Maureen’s ashes. Today we not only sprinkled and were sprinkled by her love, but we sprinkled some of her ashes into the Mississippi River, the great river. We said a few prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and then, Maureen spoke to us. On our way back to Jackson Square, after sprinkling her ashes, we overhead just a few words from another group having a conversation with each other… they were talking about “you are my sunshine.”
We are all part of a great mystery. In my case, I am still watching this mystery unfold and sharing it via the words here, at the love of my life. I truly believe that love is so powerful that it pierces our universe in ways that we don’t fully understand… it cuts across time, and it cuts across experiences. A lot of love was shared in Jackson Square over the years, and Maureen pierced the veil of time to tell us she loves us. The Choctaw Indians, who lived in the lower Mississippi country, named it misha for “beyond” and sipokni for “age”, something ancient. Therefore, substantively, the Choctaw said, “here is a river that is beyond all age.” I can’t think of a better place for the first of Maureen’s ashes, because her love and my love for her cross time and cross the boundaries of heaven and earth. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez.