16th April 2020

Darling Paloma,

We suffered our first family loss on Wednesday. Your mother’s step father Fernando succumbed to what the doctor believed to be coronavirus at his home in Madrid.

He had been unwell for some time and though he had fought dementia with the spirit of a prize fighter COVID-19 grew to be too strong for him.

‘ Today is the day he will die,’ the doctor had said early on Tuesday morning when he visited. The doctor was and is a busy man. For weeks now he goes from one house to another giving bad news.’ He will be gone by 5 o’clock at the latest’. She was also told that she and your uncle would be the only ones allowed to attend his funeral. There has been a lot of shouting and paperwork in Spain with this particular rule but in the end families readily agree rather than leave their loved one buried without them attending.

Your grandmother called the undertakers. As she dialed the number she thought of how lonely her life will be without her true love. She thought of the many times they visited London together and stayed at The Ritz where he would order scotch on the rocks at the bar adjusting his tie before he took his first sip and first puff from his Cuban cigar. How he called her flaqui (my skinny one) . How his voice sounded like a cello. How he would always notice what she was wearing and always say how beautiful she was when she came down to dinner. All this in the time it took to press eight numbers and hear a man’s solemn voice answer. She was informed by the undertaker that they would leave the coffin outside the door – it is the family’s responsibility to seal the body inside the coffin and to call when it is ready to be picked up. She flung her fingers at her phone in disgust; it would be the same gesture as the priest throwing the pieces of earth onto the coffin in the grave.

Fernando ignored his 5 o’clock deadline. And even though his breathing grew more and more shallow he continued to live throughout the night and through the following morning. Your grandmother postponed the undertakers and continued to watch over him.

He died at lunch time and was buried later that afternoon.

I never met Fernando but your mother tells me he was a good man, kind to your grandmother and his step children. Your grandmother is heartbroken. She mourns this morning and has been calling your mother constantly.

We all know the mystery of goodbye. We all know what it is like to be feeling sad but during this time it’s not just having to say goodbye but also not having your daughter fly out to be with you.

This virus is cruel in so many ways.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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