There are people who come and people who go in our lifetime. There are some who remain in our hearts even after we lose touch or if they have been taken from us … much too soon. Tomorrow is a day I remember to celebrate my friend Ernesto Tono, who sadly lost his long-time battle with pancreatic cancer back in the spring of 2010. Tomorrow is his birthday.
We used to work together for a few years and I found him to be one of the finest individuals I had the pleasure of knowing. He was good from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. He was married to a lovely woman and they had exceptionally bright and beautiful daughters.
Ernesto, Peter, Pete and I, would attend Mass at noontime (on days of holy obligation) at our church located close to our office. He confided that he prayed the rosary everyday and I decided to gift him a handmade black-beaded rosary, held together by a threaded elastic rope and finished with a beaded cross. When my niece was younger, she had made it for me and I wanted to share it with my friend, since I knew that it would be used more often. Ernesto was so touched that I saw his eyes mist up and he hugged me fiercely. He was so happy with this personal gesture that he decided to pray with it in place of his older rosary. I liked this idea.
One day, I called him “Ernie” and the name just stuck. I would sometimes allow him to call me “Terri” … he and “Petey” Pete Waldo (our other dear friend whom I permitted to do this) would fondly call me by this nickname. I have to say I never have liked my given name shortened and especially not with Terri. We all had a great workplace friendship.
His late Father, Augusto Tono, was an incredible artist and architect. He confided that his styles were studied back in his country of Columbia. In Ernestos’ home were huge, gorgeous paintings that hung in places of honor. I was to have gotten over there and taken photos and written about him but sadly, this did not happen and I’ll tell you the reason. From time-to-time I would pick up my phone and call or send a quick email so Ernesto would know I was thinking about him, sending him good thoughts and prayers. It’s lonely and sad knowing you are dying from a dreaded disease. A lot of friends stop calling or coming by. It is an awkward time for many people.
The last time I spoke with him was on an afternoon in late February, on Ash Wednesday 2010. He phoned me asking about the time for evening Mass at my parish. I told him we had gone at noon and to look for the candle we had lit for him, and precisely which one it was. He seemed very pleased and mentioned that the cancer was spreading fast and that I should get by to take those photos and to hear the stories about his Father. There were huge snowstorms that winter and we also experienced ice damming. I neglected to go. I cannot change this although I wish I could.
Tomorrow is your birthday my friend and I hope you know how much you meant to all of the people whose lives you made brighter just because we knew you. Happy Birthday Ernie … We miss you and we celebrate your life.