My cousin's mother-in-law died back in January at the age of 83. In a full life she'd been a wife, mother, grandmother, college professor, business administrator, a long-time women’s rights activist and co-author of three books. She was also a force of nature. In her last 16 years alone she underwent 13 major surgeries for cancer of the lungs, neck and brain, eventually having one lung and part of the other removed altogether. Throughout this period of unimaginable suffering she remained positive, gregarious and very active.
Her husband, my cousin's father-in-law, passed away last week at the age of 94 after a long degenerative illness. In a life no less remarkable than that of his wife, he was decorated by his country with both the Flying Cross and a Purple Heart after being shot down twice in World War II, became an Emmy Award winning television producer for NBC, a successful CEO and co-author of a respected book on business. He was also a music lover and a very warm and funny man.
Several years ago, during one of my trips to New York, I spent a memorable long weekend with both of them while my cousin and her husband were otherwise engaged. They were the perfect hosts. We finished one particularly eventful day by watching a video of the 'Buena Vista Social Club' documentary together, into the wee small hours of the morning. When I crawled off to bed, they were still totally engrossed in the film. They loved Cuban music and whenever I've heard any since that night, I've thought of them.
The last time I saw them was in 2010 at a family celebration in New York, where, in spite of their physical frailties, they danced enthusiastically and joyfully hammed it up for my camera. They were on fine form that night, making the most of every single moment. That's how I'll remember them.
Rubén González - Chanchullo
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