First of all, I want to thank all of you who have continued to support me, who traveled from near and far to be at Ellens service. It meant so much to me.
I will write again this week about the service, but I wanted to post the letter I wrote to Ellen and which was read at the Mass by our friend Donna. I will also be posting the eulogy our good friend Greg delivered at the service.
You changed me.
I met you at a point in my life when I never thought I'd find you and there you were, walking into my booth at Jazzfest to buy a painting and walking out with
my heart. I was permanently smitten by your beautiful brown eyes and constant smile. By your love of life, by your infectious laughter, by your great big and loving heart. I adored you.
My life changed when our lives joined together. We created a home, we created a circle of friends, we created a safe place for our love to grow. I was never happier. You were my muse, my art became yours, your spirit infused and inspired me. Your support allowed me to become the artist I aspired to be. Our life was busy with travel, work, entertaining, family visits and all manner of adventures, but what I remember most about you was your desire to be a homebody. Sunday mornings would find you in bed, your cat curled up next to you, a cup of coffee on the nightstand and the Picayune spread around you. Sunday afternoon might be a bike ride, weeding your flower garden, floating in the pool and lying in the sun. We cooked together often and your gumbo made me swoon. Your coconut cake would bring me to tears, your pecan pie to my knees. It was those simple things we experienced which made our relationship so magical.
Our love grew stronger and I adored you.
Our lives changed with Katrina, as it did for all of our friends. We left our New Orleans home confused and sad, but determined to make a better future. We ended up on a beach in Florida. What I most remember of those summer months would be the vision of you, in flip-flops and hat, heading to the beach. The beach is where you found your center, your serenity, your smile and I am so thankful you had that summer. One day we rode our bikes for miles to the very end of the beach where the ocean met an inland waterway. We were completly alone. The ocean stretched to forever, the birds scattered all around us, it was achingly beautiful and you were in Heaven. We stayed there a long time, drinking it all in, enjoying the God-given moments. I will remember you always with the wind and water, the sun on your face. You were so happy, so beautiful.
Our lives changed once more when we were stunned by the diagnosis of your brain cancer. One day healthy and strong, the next your life altered in incomprehensible ways. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, you endured them all with little complaint. Our emotions, our strength, our faith were tested in ways we could never have imagined. Your passion for life, your compassion for others, your appreciation for simple things intensified. The things we thought so important to us before, no longer were. Finally, this past October we made a decision to move back to New Orleans. You were so happy to be home, so happy to be near friends and family, back in the city you loved. I wished you could have had more time here, but I know, deep in your heart, it didn't matter. You were where you belonged, at last.
Over the weeks and months of your illness we both changed. Our lives condensed into something simple and pure, stripping away layers and layers of our very selves. Our love, our relationship, our trust in each other grew as the layers fell away. At the end, we had said all that two people can say to one another, we had no regrets, there was only trust and love. The last weeks of your life you lost your voice, but my love, by then there was no longer any need for words. Your eyes told me everything.
Ellen, you were never defined by cancer. You were, and always will be, defined by strength, grace, and a determination to live and love fully. You taught me and everyone you touched how to laugh and love, how to accept life and now, how to let go.
You changed me. I am a better person knowing your love, your touch, your heart.
I adored you. And I always will.