My father loved the sun. In an amazing conversation that we had when he was in the hospital a few weeks before he died, I was able to tell him that the overriding memory of him that had always stayed with me throughout my life was of he and I as a child at a beach, shortly after daybreak, my arms around his neck, in the still waters of the vast ocean. “Such peace,” he remembered.
It was one of many early mornings that we shared at that beach, and I always wondered why he liked to take me and my brothers there at the crack of dawn. Turns out his years as a rower had left the habit of arriving early to the shores for rowing practice, before the waters became too choppy to navigate.
Daddy had the strength and fortitude of a lion, qualities uncannily reflected in his name (yes, it really is “Leon de Leon,” we often had to clarify) and as if to really bring home the point, he was even born under the sun sign of Leo. What are the odds of that?
His magnetism was irresistible, his presence overpowering. Movie-star handsome, with formidable intellectual faculties that never failed to result in an illuminating perception or two. Most importantly, he was a steadfast husband and father who provided such a comforting continuity to our lives.
That strength that lay so essentially at the core of his being was never more evident than in the valiant fight that he waged in his last years, inspiring every one of us with the courage so typical of how he always approached life.
We’ll miss you so very much, Daddy. The vibrant sun of your good heart will shine on us eternally. And please know that I will remain, forever — and gratefully — “tu bebita.”