What you do can save a life without you even realizing it.
In New Orleans, for many years I had a wonderful performing and producing partner.
He had the most incredible laugh. I can still hear it today.
He was tall and thin, a wonderful dancer, a talented writer and composer and had a deep, loving heart.
We were fortunate that we could live off our of performing and producing careers in New Orleans. We didn’t make a ton of money but we kept nice roofs over our heads and didn’t really need anything.
Our community took care of each other.
We made sure everyone ate and was safe and healthy.
We would chip in to make large meals every week. Those who couldn’t chip in financially played other very important roles.
They prepared the meals, cleaned up after the meals, and helped clean up our homes before the guests arrived.
They also contributed in our theater companies by building sets, building and designing costumes, doing the stage makeup - if that was their gift - and helping source materials. (That was before the internet so there was A LOT of running around and a lot of phones calls.)
One weekend it was my turn to make a big meal.
If you know me, you know I am not much of a cook. I never had a real interest in it. My learning experience didn’t go much past home ec.
Nonetheless, I got by on my own just fine. I always relied on my specialities: hors d’oeuvres, salad and reservations (or if I was less flush financially - left-overs).
For this group meal I decided to prepare potatoes, cooked vegetables and fish. Why I chose fish I will never know. Later you will see why.
When I was in my early twenties circumstances led me to move to Houma, Louisiana. At the time it seemed like a logical choice for some but this New Yorker, was a “fish out of water” in the bayou.
I did have wonderful neighbors, though. They certainly saw how out of place I was and how green I was as a cook.
They would send over simple, but great Louisiana dishes to keep me away from Popeyes. At that time Popeyes was mostly in its home state of Louisiana. The biscuits were the size of my hand, flaky and buttery. Two could fill me up. The coating and the skin of the chicken was a heart attack waiting in the wings (pun intended), thick, crunchy and yes, beautifully greasy. All the things I used to love. If it was fatty, I ate it.
I got weekly deliveries of red beans and rice, étouffée, red fish courtibouillon, okra gumbo and on and on. To me it was a gourmet feast. To my neighbors it was just Sunday lunch.
One week they gave me several fresh red fish. Just the fish. What was I supposed to do with them?
Through trial and error (mostly error) I quickly learned how to filet them. (Envision the kitchen after I hacked through the first fish. Luckily, I am quick study so I eventually got the hang of it.) I put the filets in the freezer with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
When we defrosted the fish it became apparent I hadn’t totally gotten the hang of it because I froze them with the scales ON! Yep, try scaling a fish after it has been frozen.
I made sure I didn’t make THAT mistake again with fish.
Ok, back to my dinner party.
I had everything prepared with the help of friends and we all began to feast.
We were all having a raucous time eating together and drinking cheap wine.
Then I noticed my friend had disappeared for quite a while.
Later on he reappeared and everything seemed to be just fine.
Fast forward four years later.
I am living in San Francisco. This same friend came to visit me.
We were walking down Market Street and he said “Do you remember that dinner party you had in your apartment where you served the fish?”
Honestly, I couldn’t remember what I had served but I did remember the party.
“I have to tell you that you saved my life that night.”
“How did I do that?” I asked.
“You didn’t de-bone the fish.” He said.
“Oh, geez I am so sorry. No one else said anything about it.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t because I got a bone stuck in my throat. That is why I disappeared into the bathroom to try to get the bone out of my throat. I tried everything to get it out. My finger, a spoon and finally I gently stuck a fork down my throat and got it out.”
I said “OH MY GOD! I am so sorry.”
He said “Don’t be sorry, that is how you saved my life. When the bone was stuck across my throat, I didn’t think I was going to get it out and thought I was going to die right there in your bathroom. I realized how precious life is.
You see, that night I had decided I was going to go home and kill myself. I was so tired of being alone. I didn’t feel fulfilled. My career was at a standstill. Plus, I just found out that I had AIDS. I was going to see everyone one more time and then do it.”
I didn’t know what to say, really, other than how talented I thought he was, how much I loved hime, that I had no idea he had become so despondent and that people were living longer with AIDS at that point.
He really hid his pain well. He always had a laugh, a smile, a song and a hug for those he loved and who loved him.
SO I remembered to scale the fish but I forgot to debone it.
That little mistake saved his life without me even knowing it.
He went on to live another 10 productive years. How fortunate we all were to have him longer.
I got the call that he had passed away and I was inconsolable.
What buoyed my spirits was that he left explicit instructions for his jazz funeral the following Mardi Gras. And what a send off it was!
And THAT is another story…stay tuned.
Thanks very much for reading.
If you would like to contact me with input, questions, ideas, to share a story, or to bring Moving Meditation to your facility please contact me:
KaZ Cruse Akers is a Master Moving Meditation Instructor. She has developed a unique brand of moving meditation based on breath, energy, Qigong, Kundalini yoga and modern dance movement. Twenty three years in the making! She has taught in person in North America and online worldwide. Moving Meditation with KaZ is fun, relaxing, stimulating and almost anyone can do it!