Easy to say, much, much harder to do. This weekend my friend Guillermo Anderson passed away after a bout with Cancer. As usual, Cancer was merciless with his body. But his soul, his attitude towards life, his humility and his faith were unscathed. It was a long weekend. His brother Patrick, who lives in Chicago needed some time to get to La Ceiba. Thus, his funeral took place until Monday morning. This meant that his body laid in state at the funeral parlor for two complete days. An excruciating long period of time for his family and friends.
I am fortunate to live in La Ceiba, the city that Guillermo loved. Because of this, I was able to pay my respects to him on Saturday evening and Sunday evening. It was emotionally draining to see the amount of people who came to say the last goodbye to a good man that everybody loved.
On Sunday night, a group of singers and musicians arrived. Many were part of his band or had played with him in some occasion. Together they put on an impromptu show at the funeral house. Most of these where poor musicians who found a way of getting to La Ceiba to honor a man they admired. Many companies cooperated with these musicians. The Hotel Paris offered them a super discount. Bus companies, such as Hedman Alas and Transportes Cristina did their part offering discounts for travel from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba.
The show was touching. Despite their pain and suffering, these artists put on a heck of show. Soon, all in the funeral parlor seemed like we were in a Guillermo Anderson concert! Singing along to some of his most famous songs, and even dancing to the rhythm of the music. Even his immediate family forgot their sorrow as they sang and danced to his music. What a way for the last goodbye to such an admired person!
As Monday morning came, a true procession accompanied his body on foot from the funeral parlor to the Catholic Cathedral in La Ceiba. Although a short 6 city block distance, the amount of people that accompanied his mortal remains was astounding. Guillermo loved the sea; he was a seaman at heart. He had expressed his desire to rest at sea in a dugout canoe filed with flowers.
Thus the transit of his body was in an open boat that was overflowing with flowers. The boat was on a trailer and pulled by a car, at walking speed, so that his family, friends and admirers could follow on foot. On the sidewalks, the musical bands from diverse schools in La Ceiba played a variety of different songs, all composed by Guillermo. Children who were not part of the bands where lining the streets with white balloons. Many had handmade signs offering prayers and thanking Guillermo for his love to Honduras and La Ceiba.
The cathedral was so full that even the priest joked saying that if the bishop could see it at that moment, he would understand that La Ceiba needed a bigger cathedral. Garifuna dancers and singers participated in the Catholic service and sang songs in Garifuna. Guillermo was a fan, a friend, a promoter of the Garifuna culture and people. The Garifuna community was there to thank him for his support and friendship during his lifetime. They were all there to say their last goodbye in their own, unique way.
The cathedral was so full, that many people could not get in! The local tv and radio stations aired the mass live. This way those who could not attend the service could still “be there”.
To my great surprise, as the procession left the Cathedral, the roads where lined with school kids! They were there to wave their last goodbye to Guillermo Anderson. Guillermo wrote many songs for children, and every kid in Honduras has heard, sung and danced to them. Most never met Guillermo before, but they all considered him their hero.
I can assure you that the spontaneous participation of the people in La Ceiba in this last goodbye to Guillermo Anderson has no comparison in recent Honduras History. Everybody that was there was sad and heartbroken. It was evident that Guillermo Anderson has a huge grass roots following. Regardless of economic differences, everybody was there together, to say their last goodbye.
Guillermo was a serious environmentalist. He participated in the board of directors of several National parks. It was moving that as we arrived at the cemetery, a group of keel billed toucans was in the nearby trees. They were singing their own last goodbye to a man who always spoke out for nature. Members of La Ceiba’s different social status all made themselves present. Even the young man who cleans car windshields across the street from Burger King was there. Guillermo was a humble man that was easy to love and admire. He was indeed Honduras’ Troubadour!
There was one noticeable absence. The Central Government. When the news about Guillermo’s death broke, I told my wife: “ President Hernandez will come”. Well, I was wrong, he did not show up. Neither did he send any representative. The same is true for all branches of the government. I do not know if their no show was because they did not feel that Guillermo was worthy of their presence, or if because they felt he overshadowed them. I would bet on the second…
The truth is that it did not matter. Those of us who could felt honored to be present in this last goodbye. It was a magnificent, emotionally draining experience. It proved that Guillermo Anderson was one heck of a leader. As someone at this funeral mentioned, Guillermo is the first Honduran hero of the XXIst Century! Guillermo will live forever in our hearts. His music will play for generations and influence for years to come. As for me, I am just plain lucky to have met such a great person. Gracias Guillermo por tu Amistad! Hasta pronto! This, is my last goodbye, but your memory will always be in my heart!