I am posting this a few days early so please forgive me. But if you consider wishing me a happy birthday please read this and also wish for your friends who are no longer in your lives.
I have been looking forward to this birthday for a long time, well sixty years or so. I am very excited to be this age. When I think about all the people I knew who were not so fortunate it makes me very thankful to have gotten this far.
When I was growing up it was very rare for a young person to experience the death of their friends. It didn’t seem as violent then as it is now. Today, young people are constantly confronted with the deaths of their friends, especially in the larger inner cities were gang and drug violence has escalated so much.
About the only violence I experienced in my youth in New Orleans was the occasional bully. The most memorable such experience was when I was in ninth grade at Capdeau Jr. High School in New Orleans. One day one of the most notorious bully’s of the school said he was going to beat me up after school. I was pretty worried about that because I had never been in a fight before. I was actually quite terrified. Then an idea came to me and I started telling everyone in all my classes that he was going to beat me up after school. My thinking was that if enough people showed up the teachers would come and stop the fight before I got murdered. As it turns out though the bully didn’t show up. Well with all the people there to witness his not showing I was the hero and he was a chicken, so he lost face and was afraid of me after that. Meanwhile everyone thought I was this really cool kid. Haha, little did they know what a chicken I was.
So anyway, today I would like to dedicate my wishes, to all my friends who never were able to live their lives to their natural end. When I think of all the people I knew who were killed in Viet Nam, it makes me really sad that there was such a waste of life. And I am especially saddened when I think of the thousands who have died in the war in Iraq on both sides. Why can’t we stop killing each other?
Today I would also like to remember all of my friends who have died of AIDS. In the beginning when no one knew why people were dying it was very scary. People were just getting sick and no one knew what to do or why. Then when doctors began to admit that there was an illness people became afraid and abandoned their friends. It was very lonely for many people. I had one good friend who in the last months of his very young life, he was 23, only had two people who would visit him. Why do we have to treat each other that way?
I have lost the most friends due to either war or AIDS, but there have been others who have died either because of drug overdoses or traffic, mostly motorcycle, accidents, or in some cases suicide.
Getting older has in some ways been a lonely experience. While I have many many friends I have only one from my youth.
How did I manage to live when so many have died? That question is always on my mind. Since there is nothing I can do to change the past the only thing I can do is try to live my life as best I can for their sake.
I would like to dedicate this birthday to all those whose life has ended early and were not fortunate enough to live as long or as fully as I have.