“What’s this?” you ask. Mid-month posting? Not waiting until the last possible minute to get it done? Something must be up.
Up it is. Right up there out of reach. Life, my friends, is never as real as when it’s slipping through our fingers. I sometimes see my life as something I haven’t quite achieved yet, an ideal with unknown outcomes, something to work towards and that I still have time to work out. And in there the idea that I haven’t really grown up yet; that I will be a grown up one day, but not today. But then there are those moments that bring me crashing to my senses, when everything becomes very real and I realise that this is actually it, like it or not. I had thought the saddest moment of this month was the passing of one of my all time favourite writers. A penned voice that accompanied me through the end of secondary school, through college and into my formative years of gainful employment and my first forays into Life. For the world to lose a man like Sir Terry Pratchett was, whilst sadly inevitable, a tragedy for our global psyche. The world needs fantasy, needs a tongue in cheek view of the world, needs harsh realities handled with comedy and gentle compassion. The reality of this world is too stark to face head on so those who dedicate their lives to softening the sharp edges are the true heroes in my eyes. And just as I was musing on heroes, another blow harsher than the last. And nothing to soften the maddening injustice of this one for us.
Juan Claudio Cifuentes (“Cifu” para los amigos) was a slight, unassuming, bespectacled man who had jazz music coursing through his veins, a huge sense of humour and an enormous heart. He was loved by many across the country where he dedicated his life to educating the masses about the magic of jazz, from those times under Franco when this kind of music was banned, to present day where many of us have maybe forgotten what it’s all about. He whispered his appreciation, with impeccable pronunciation and eloquent commentary through night after night of radio broadcasting sessions on Radio Nacional, among others. Second only to his family, he was loved by none more so than by his partner in crime, his “compinche”, his friend – my father. An ever present figure in our family’s life, we kept up to date with Cifu’s adventures, successes and initiatives; there are not many of my friends with dads in their 60s who, at least one evening a week, would be seen heading out to a jazz club to listen to some band or artist with his best mate and rock up in the early hours of the morning as if it was the most normal thing on earth. And I am privileged to have attended a couple of such evenings.
The heartbreaking reality of a massive stroke at age 74 is that the likelihood of recovery is slim. But when you have recently survived severe illness and defied the odds to come back to full health after teetering on the edge, there is that glimmer of hope that it could just be possible again. But life doesn’t always offer up the story book ending, and suddenly you wake up one morning and it is done. Life takes on a new format, with one more missing piece. What struck me the most as I tried to get through my work day today, barely holding back tears, choked by the utter sadness of it all, was that it is friendship that really makes a life. It is knowing that there is someone out there who has your back, who loves you, and doesn’t judge and forgives you no matter what you do, who can connect with you instantly even after losing touch. And whilst this sets us up for the pain of one day losing such a person, what kind of a life would it be without that particular brand of love? So I raised my glass tonight to the great man we lost today and the great friend with whom my father shared half of his life. But I also raise it to my friends – out of touch, in touch or even those I have yet to meet – and say thank you for being part of my life.