ALONE WITH MY FAITH
Guideposts|August/September 2021
The pandemic left a lot of us feeling isolated. Including me. But it opened the door to something deeper in my music and in my soul
HARRY CONNICK JR.
Greetings from the Big Easy, the city where I was born and raised (and hope to be visiting as you read this), a city coming back to life after being hit so hard by Covid. I’m thankful that the worst may finally be behind us, but I won’t forget the pain and disruption we all endured.

This virus made us question everything. I worried about my family, my city, my country, the whole world. For most of the past 30 years or so, I’ve spent my life working—on the stage, in a recording or TV studio, on a movie set—or with my family. As much as I love to work, during the pandemic it was the last thing on my mind. I spent a lot of time thinking about the selfless everyday folks who were making our lives livable—or, more accurately, possible. I even got a chance to thank them personally in a CBS TV special I produced in June 2020.

I watched from a distance while New Orleans got hit early, the streets empty, hospitals overflowing. My wife, Jill, and I and our three girls were at our home in Connecticut—we were among the lucky ones—and stayed there when everything locked down. Everywhere you looked, people were getting sick. Our family lost 14 people—10 due to complications from Covid. A beloved uncle. The priest who married Jill and me. My mentor, jazz musician Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the brilliant Marsalis family. What made this especially hard was that we couldn’t go through the natural grieving process. Normally there’s a communal event where everyone gets some closure. Then, over time, you merge back into life’s fast lane. The problem with lockdown was that you never got back on the highway. You were just stuck with the loss. The most painful loss for my family, by far, was that of my mother-in-law, Glenna Goodacre. As many of us know from this pandemic, there’s not much worse than losing someone so close and not being able to do anything about it. No funerals, no memorial services, nothing.

At first, I watched the news. New Orleans itself seemed to be dying, along with all the things that make it great. The city had been through this before with Hurricane Katrina. Now here we were again, struggling to understand how we were to survive another catastrophe. I knew we would, but the devastation was brutal to watch in real time.

New Orleans is a city like no other. The way I was brought up, you were aware of people’s different races, cultures and backgrounds—Black, white, Irish, Italian, Jewish—and we celebrated all of them. The differences were good. Like the different ways people made gumbo. My uncle Ray’s gumbo vs. Miss Leah Chase’s gumbo at her restaurant Dooky Chase’s vs. the gumbo from the kitchen of my friend’s mother, who lived in the projects. All of them different, all good.

But now people couldn’t even go out. It didn’t matter how good your gumbo was—you and your family were the only ones who were going to eat it. You couldn’t go anywhere. Not even church. That was especially hard for my family. Telling my dad he couldn’t go to church was a really serious matter.

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