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Wu: Rest in peace, my friend

May 26, 2012|By Jack Wu

Goodbye, Mr. Fuentes.

I apologize in advance for this, if it does not make sense, as I have not been able to put through one coherent thought.

May 18, the day he died, was one of the most difficult of my life.

Check that — the last week has been one of the most difficult of my life.

Twenty-seven years ago, the first night my father had gone out that entire summer, was the first night I felt a sense a relief. I thought everything was going to be OK.

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But that false hope was quickly dashed when I awakened to the horrible sounds of ambulances and the EMTs unsuccessfully trying to resuscitate my father.

Four years ago, sitting in the same office in which I am now sitting, I received the phone call that my friend Tom Fuentes was going to receive his liver transplant, and I felt a very similar sense of relief. But just like that night 27 years ago, that false hope was dashed.

Instead of the instant despair of an immediate heart attack, the liver cancer and lung cancer, rediscovered in March 2011, over the next 14 months slowly and painfully extinguished the bright light that was Tom.

And the grief I feel is indescribable.

By now you have probably read about the man, his family and his accomplishments in numerous publications like the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, and in countless blogs. He was the highly influential chairman of the Orange County Republican Party from 1985 to 2004.

I too am reminded of the living, and loving, tribute I wrote to my mentor and friend last August in the Newport Beach Independent. I wanted to make sure that the words of thanks would be heard in his living ears, instead of being read after the fact.

But to recap, in the absence of a father figure for the past 27 years, I have eagerly sought out mentors in my adult life. Tom was one of them.

While most everyone knew Tom as a political figure, our relationship expanded way past that. In the 10 years I knew him, we never really spoke more than a few words about politics.

Tom guided me during my wedded years, through the birth of my triplets, through my divorce and up to my newly adjusted life, with joint custody, child support and my fiancée.

He always made time for me. He always calmed me with his presence and words of advice. I am a better person today because of it.

Over the past year, I had the privilege of sitting by his bedside as he lay in hospice care, continuing to learn from him.

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