Only those who have lost a father, a mother, know what it means for family members to receive affection, strong hugs, prayers, support, solidarity from friends, people who, in one way or another, crossed paths with my father. Thank you so much.
His path was intense, fruitful, full of challenges, obstacles, satisfactions, and emotions. My dad left a mark. This big-hearted and wise man did not go unnoticed in life. He was a human being who left his imprint, who touched lives, who made himself noticed, and who always saw the future ahead of him. He never forgot about the present, and took advantage of each day to become a little better and share his wealth of spirit with others. My father was a man surrounded by abundance; all those things in life that are not easy to quantify. He was full of values, feelings, virtues, love and affection from his family, friends, employees, and clients; that made him incredibly fortunate. He obtained the greatest success that a human being can achieve: happiness. My dad was an immensely happy man with a eternally young soul.
During his last years, those of us who had the privilege of enjoying his company knew he was working on his most important legacy: teaching us to be happy.
The legacy he left us is grand. With a beaten heart, until his last breath, he gave us his best smile. My dad would tell us: smiling is a very powerful weapon to touch the souls of people and reach important goals.
He left with a smile provided by the satisfaction of reaching fulfillment, of having given everything, of having given his soul, his strength, his courage, his passion, his heart, his discipline, his perseverance, to everything he undertook in life. And that’s why everything went well; with the exception of a few setbacks, having been a seducer, when Doña Zuni unexpectedly surprised him. Almost everything came out as he wanted.
He even knew how to die. He died as he had planned to do so; sleeping peacefully, in his bed, at home, surrounded by his family, after eating a good steak, after having closed a deal, with the positivism that characterized him at the thought of a brighter, better tomorrow.
The fateful day arrived, the one full of that light that we would always talk about. It arrived. The fulfillment that constantly sought after him. The eternal well-being in an immense and infinite universe that he would tell us about: “It must be very big to fit all of us.” He must have already met with that angel who always protected him, who saved his life on rare occasions, who prevented him from having serious accidents, who rescued him from the edge of the abyss.
Wherever he may be, I’m sure he already has hugged those individuals he loved most. My grandmother Carmen and my aunt Elena “Cute Aunt Elenita petizita” and Uncle Alberto. He probably already met Uncle Rafael with a big smile and made peace with Uncle Esteban. He might be hugging and laughing out loud with his soul friends there in heaven, his fate companions, men who helped him and became his mentors. I sense he will rediscover and give Roberto and Lilia Marini a brotherly hug; that Pina de Gómez will be scampering him and telling him who knows what. That Pirincho will be saying, “Roberto, stop fooling around!” that Víctor Nassar and Don Antonio are pulling out their hair because he is going to make their days impossible. I imagine Leonel Serrano telling him: “Che, we were waiting for you.” I can only imagine the joyful reunion with those men and women to whom he was very grateful. For example, Rafael Pérez, Fernando Sanmiguel and Eugenita; Mario Mejia, Germán Serrrano, Ernesto Duchini, Perfecto Rodriguez and many others who have already left.
If there is something unforgettable about my father, it is his love for his family and value of friendship, loyalty to his friends, unconditional support, and endearing solidarity.
My father was a very kind man, a man of great generosity that we continue to discover to this day. He helped many people, threw a lifeline to several others, and offered opportunities to a handful. Nevertheless, some employees, friends, acquaintances and even relatives disappointed him; but he never forgot that he, too, was given many second chances. He believed in the value of vindication.
I will never forget when he shared one of many stories which carried a lesson from great teachers. Those lessons that remain engraved into memory.
When my father was a kid in Buenos Aires, he had an Italian neighbor who imigrated to Argentina fleeing the war. A wise and good old man who became his mentor, his godfather, that man whom he always went to for the best advice. My father loved and respected Don Luis Nicola Contini immensely.
One afternoon, when my father arrived at Don Nicola’s house with some friends, they sat down to play cards. My father won the game and some money from the bet; but he did it by cheating. Don Nicola waited for the other kids to leave and, when he was left alone with my father, he said: “piraña, (that’s what they called him) piraña, you won but you cheated.” My father was so embarrassed given the respect and admiration he had for Don Luis Nicola, that he confessed to cheating and returned the money he won. He also swore that he would never do it again. Then, Don Nicola told him something which immediately caught my father’s attention, causing him enormous curiosity. He said, “look, there is a cheat that you can use for the rest of your life; if you use this cheat you will always win.” My father, who was extremely competitive and, of course, liked to win, insisted on the question: what was that cheat that would, without fail, lead him to victory? Don Nicola, with a solemn tone of an old man that gives an advice to a teenager, told him in simple words: “the cheat consists of the following: if you are honest and well-behaved, you will always do well, and if you behave badly, you will always do badly.”
My father learned the lesson.
Many decades later, I had the opportunity to witness a match of checkers between my dad and my son, Tadeo. Tadeo was his only male grandson. He would call him his partner. My father was very pretentious about playing checkers. He enjoyed the strategy, planning, and the concentration involved in dominating the game, taking each space until conquering the opponent’s side.
He played many games with Tadeo until dawn; until one day, the student became the master. That day, my dad was cornered, too close to being defeated; but he resisted being a loser. Making use of his mischievous character, which he was known for throughout his life, he surprised Tadeo with a new interpretation of the rules of the checkers. Tadeo, who discovered the board game through my father, had never heard about a new restriction which gave my dad a slight advantage. Tadeo rebuked: “Grandpa, where did you get that rule from?” After an argument, a Google search, tittle and tattle, and a side-eye from the onlookers, Tadeo finally demanded that my dad show him how he came up with the rule. My dad answered with his wits, making an effort to contain his laughter: “Tadeo, I invite you to call the International Checkers Federation based in Switzerland to confirm that information, but you will have to make the call because I neither speak French, nor German.”
You have probably heard him share many stories. My dad was a great and cheerful conversationalist. He loved remembering his soccer anecdotes because his friends and clients also wanted to know about those wonderful stories from the golden age of Colombian soccer. A story he often shared was about a match between the Atlético de Bucaramange vs Quindío. A player from Bucaramanga, El Choclo Martinez, had scored an outcome worthy of the Guinness World Records. He scored 3 own-goals in the same game! At one point, Quindío had a corner kick and everyone from Atlético Bucaramanga was defending the Quindío players. Barbieri, Atletico Bucaramanga’s head coach, stood at the edge of the field desperately shouting: “Defend, defend, defend!” and my dad told us that the nervous players answered: “but we are defending!” to which Barbieri responded: “Defend Choclo Martinez before he makes a fourth goal!”
My father was a generous man. He had the virtue of recognizing his mistakes and asking for forgiveness. He did so with us, his children, when he felt he had been unfair. He did so with my mother; he apologized to his friends. One of his golf partners told me that one day, in the middle of some practical joke or misunderstanding, he left the foursome very angry. He had not reached the dressing room by the time he was already calling to apologize.
That was my father. A human. A caring man who always came home at 5 in the afternoon to welcome us, Beto and myself, from school.
He always told us that he did not care about our grades in school. My brother was the better student and a medalla de honor. That being said, I never failed a class, or even a grade. My father said that what worried him most was having disrespectful or rude children because that meant that they, as parents, had not done a good job. Academics, he would say, is the school’s responsibility.
He told us that we had to do things well in life, as best as possible; regardless of the outcome, in the end, one has to have the peace of mind of having put their best foot forward.
More than a father, it is an idol who has left. He was the man who could do everything, who solved everything, who could calm the soul with a perfect word, with the right answer, the right comment. His optimism and positive attitude towards life were contagious. He was a man who graduated from the university of life. He could have been a lawyer, an architect, an economist, a musician, a film director, or a boxer. His passion for good music and film was memorable. He would recite entire dialogues from his favorite movies. He would cry at the cinema; a ritual that he did religiously every week. He knew the history of boxing and soccer down to the last detail. He recited the names of members of the greatest tango orchestras and even knew the repertoire of the great jazz masters.
He achieved an amazing success in his business. He left us La Carreta in Bucaramanga, with a garden that we are all proud of to enjoy. A legacy that he built with great effort alongside my mother.
His best advice was the following: “when you have a problem, think about the worst that can happen to you, and you’re going to realize that the worse is not that bad after all.”
My family and I have a very serious problem today. My beloved father has died. The worst, as he would tell us, is not that serious. An old childhood friend told me: they have fulfilled their life’s mission with us at their side. They will remain in our lives forever; not physically, but in a spiritual way; a way that gains strength with the passage of time. It will remain there for eternity.
He was our hero, and like in comics, heroes never die.
We are infinitely grateful for the gift of life he has given us through his example.
We will do our best to follow it. We have an obligation to be happy.