RIP Joe Gracey, Texas Music Legend and Passionate Cook and Eater
From another email a few days later: "I hope they got it all, but this chemo thing seems not to promise cures so much as delays in return, so I may be going back repeatedly for further chemo as it pops up in new places, but that beats dying. At one point I was convinced I had until around Christmas, which was concentrating of the mind indeed, but I think now I am looking at a few years and hopefully five or more, and maybe they will even pronounce me cured one day. It is rare, but it has happened. I just have to have very regular checkups... I ain't afraid of dying, but I will miss the oysters." A few days after that, dreaming of Aigne, he was musing about the possibilities of writing a coffee table book called A Vineyard Year in the Languedoc. "Man, what a ride," he wrote when he was finally ready to leave the hospital and the ZaZa. "I still have to come back here for tests and keep a sharp eye out for any new areas that are bound to pop up, but for now I am in remission and set free. Leaving for Paris Saturday and not looking back. Captain is already set to upgrade us to first if there is an empty seat up front!"
Gracey made it to Aigne with Kimmie. He did well for a few weeks, buying a grill and making fajitas for some friends who'd driven up from Spain and walking in the vineyards near the house (maybe thinking about that book?). On October 20th, he wrote, "France is great. Daughter is here but I feel very funky due to tailing off of radiation and chemo. I hope to recover fully before we have to leave! The little house is working perfectly with almost nothing left to buy or install or finish up. I still can't damn eat but I cook some anyway." The last email I got from him, four days later, was brief: "Never recover from morphine withdrawal. My drinking is about to commence…"
What was bothering him wasn't morphine withdrawal, as it turned out. Seemingly out of nowhere, he had a horrible relapse, and had to be medevac’d back to Houston. There, doctors discovered that his body was riddled with cancer; they'd never seen it spread so fast, they said. There was no question of further treatment.
By the time I talked to Kimmie last week, Gracey was in palliative care at the hospital, conscious but unable to sit up or move much. "Do you want me to tell him anything?" she asked. I couldn’t think of anything intelligent, so I just said, "Tell him I'll see him on the other side." I could almost hear her smiling sadly on the other end of the phone. "Foie gras in heaven," she said, in a wistful voice. "Foie gras in heaven," I replied, though I'm thinking maybe I should bring along some Jesús de Morteau.
Gracey died on November 17, three days after his 61st birthday.