Eulogy

My cousin Antonette wrote this on the day my father passed:

The loss of a loved one is always painful, especially if he touched your life in special ways. Today I lost my Tio Elio, a man to whom I looked up for his wisdom, strength, conviction and, above all, his amazing unconditional love for my brother and me. I will always remember those days as a child when Tia and Tio took us in for the summer and our adventures began. I recall Tio’s commitment to making every moment count for us. I could never repay them for their love. I will miss my uncle and the warm embrace he shared with me every time we met.

My son’s best friend Talayesa wrote the following from Brussels, where he is interning:

I just heard about Elio and am really feeling your loss. It came as a shock, since I was unaware of his condition. He and Daisy always treated me like one of the family, and it’s really hard to imagine coming to see you without being greeted by his welcoming hug.

The underlying themes in both writings are love and family, which defined my father’s life. He gave of himself routinely, willing to sacrifice for those he loved.

In Cuba he was an accountant, his drive and acumen always respected by his peers. He left all that behind for the promise of a better life – not for him, but for me, his only son. When he came to the U.S., he never went back to accounting. Instead, he took whatever jobs would provide for us. He spent his last two working decades as a banquet waiter. And, with the help of my mom, on a banquet waiter’s salary, he put me through college and law school.

He had friends. He was a talker, always willing to engage in conversation, turning strangers into friends. Yet I do not recall my father ever going out with friends or doing anything which excluded my mother and me.

He was generous with his time and money. When he retired in 1997 and he and my mother moved to Miami from New York, they became my children’s daily caretakers. Patricia and I both worked long hours in demanding jobs. And my parents were the reason why we could. They were always there for us and their grandchildren, driving them to their daily activities, embracing and caring for their friends as if they too were their grandchildren.

He was surrounded by nieces and nephews who loved him, and brothers- and sisters-in-law who viewed him as a brother.

He and my mother were married for 58 years.

When my cousin Carmen passed away earlier this year, my father, who was in declining health, insisted on attending the wake. My Aunt Denise saw him sitting in discomfort, obviously afflicted by his condition, and gently reprimanded him for overexerting himself. My father replied: “I had to come. You are my family.”

He was right, of course. We are and will continue to be his family. We defined his life. Which is why his love will continue to dwell within us as time progresses and the pain recedes.