My hunch on why New Orleanians are so ceremonial about death is that they celebrate life so fervently.
We take Ash Wednesday more seriously than in most places because we play so hard the day before, Mardi Gras. Jazz funerals are conducted by and for those who lived for the music.
This Thursday is All Saints Day, a moment in the year when New Orleanians in particular are more committed to visiting cemeteries. Halloween the night before, when the costuming tradition resembles Carnival, introduces a second annual day of solemnity following a day of frivolity.
On All Saints Day there are legends rather than apparitions that haunt, particularly at the old cemeteries with their baroque above-ground tombs telling about lives of generals, voodoo queens, politicians, rogues and relatives.
By tradition, mums have been the flowers that are laid in front of tombs. In earlier days, flower peddlers would line the walls outside cemeteries hoping to sell bouquets to family members on their way to clean and whitewash the tombs.
Sadly for all of us, the number of epitaphs that are relevant to our lives increases each year. For me, there have been two in particular that made my life possible.
That life goes on enhanced by Katrina’s message to enjoy life to the fullest for all lives are subject to sudden change.
On this week of remembering the deceased we honor the saints, but only in New Orleans is there an anthem that gives those saints life in anticipation of their one day marching in.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.