An iconic Brooklyn photographer passed away a few days ago after a brave struggle with cancer. Marie and I were lucky enough to meet José Gaytan and his wife Lisa a while back and I was struck by the light in his tired eyes when he talked about photography and played with a very sexy hybrid camera he had brought out on the terrace to snap our gardening efforts for posterity.
His memorial service was touching and brightened by valiant efforts from various speakers to remind us – and themselves – that what José leaves behind is greater than what has been taken away.
New York Times photographer Angel Franco who had spoken with José shortly before he passed away and been reminded to “Tell them I love photography”, read on his iPhone a short but witty message from fellow NYT writer David Gonzalez who requested from José that upon reaching heaven and meeting God, he remind Him to take an incident-light reading. I exploded in inward laughter.
Then the Hispanic priest who had been conducting the ceremony came back to conclude but before doing so, he dared amuse us with a baseball joke – a first in such a setting I would assume – on behalf of the departed who was a great baseball fan.
Cuban residents José and Ramón always were baseball aficionados. They swore to each other that the first one who died would report to the other whether they had baseball in heaven, making it worth the trip. Ramón passed away. After a few months, on the eve of the Cuban landfall of a monster hurricane, Ramón finally made contact with José.
“Guess what?” he said to José. “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we do play baseball in heaven. The bad news is, you have to pitch tomorrow.”
Godspeed José. Don’t forget the incident reading.