Miguel Arias Sanchez
HAVANA TIMES – Soon after a human being is born, they continuously hear that they are going to die one day, that death is a natural part of life just like being born is, yet nobody gets used to the idea. A lot less when death is unexpected, violent.
Dawn broke in Havana’s Bahia neighborhood with some terrible news: the death of a 50-something-old-year-old man who a lot of people here knew. His name was Yoel Sarduy, and he was affectionately known as “El Friki”. He was a university professor, although he wasn’t working as such right now as he was doing other things.
My son delivered me the news at 9 PM in the evening; he had jumped out of an 11th floor apartment in one of Bahia’s high-rise buildings. In all honesty, I must say that the news hit me hard, real hard. All I could muster in response was: see how good people leave us early and others who aren’t stick around for ages?
I had known him for years, when he used to come by my house and speak with my son and other friends. He was close friends with the next-door neighbor Anabel, who is now living in the US. At home, we used to call him “prof”, he was educated, intelligent and helpful.
I’d seen him just five days before, near the “El Tunel” store. I don’t know if it was just with me but every time we ran into each other, he used to shake my hand and give me a hug, ask about my family and we’d talk about his job and mine; with a bottle of Cristal beer in hand, most of the time. When we went our separate ways that day, I never would have thought that would be our last embrace. He earned many people’s affection with all of his virtues and flaws, like everyone has, people who are today giving their condolences and expressing their sadness.
As he was falling from that great height, maybe just maybe, he had a split second of clarity and remembered how many people loved and respected him.
If you were to ask me what should be written on his gravestone to remember him, I would tell you that a few words and the small space available aren’t enough to express the esteem we held him in and the affection we all had for him: Rest in peace, prof: man and friend!