By Richard Pérez-Feria

I don’t remember much from October 8, 2021, the day I buried both of my beloved parents (they died suddenly within 48 hours of each other, otherwise healthy and in love after six decades of marriage), but as I watched the people I loved most in this world disappear into the ground forever, the wave of gratitude that washed over me nearly knocked me off my feet.

In the relentless Miami sun in that cacophonous cemetery, as my siblings, my partner, aunts, uncles, cousins and many of my dear, beautiful friends somberly looked on, my mind jumped to the happiest moment my parents and I shared, and it was unusual because I had been alone with them without my brother and sisters. And it happened in New York City, not exactly Mom and Dad’s favorite spot. Yet, it happened.

In 2005, I was in the best phase of my life and career as the high-profile-ish editor in chief of People en Español, a cultural behemoth and the most important Hispanic publication published by the world’s largest magazine company. In May I hosted the most epic event in our title’s history, the “50 Most Beautiful” extravaganza in downtown Manhattan. We invited all 50 of the Latin superstars on the list and nearly everyone showed up (Jennifer Lopez sent apologies and gorgeous flowers). I had earlier surprised my parents with a four-day trip to NYC so that they, too, could partake in the over-the-top festivities.

Some back story: Though I had already been the top editor of many magazines by then, it wasn’t until I took over People en Español, a publication filled with my parents’ favorite stars, that I really saw what that meant to them. How proud they were of me. How right they had been to leave Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba to give their kids a shot at the American Dream. There, right in front of them, they saw me embody their hopes and dreams they had for my siblings and me. I was Exhibit ‘A’ in their “we did something right as parents” thoughts. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Then, the party started.

The full first half of the soirée—which was easily the most celebrity-filled, elegant, best realized event I had been to in years—I was planted on the red carpet, greeting the famous actors, singers, models and athletes who kept rolling in two minutes apart. A million laughs and photos later, I finally made my way inside to find my parents. First, I saw Dad chatting up Enrique Iglesias (Enrique’s father, Julio Iglesias, is a singing demigod to Hispanics my parents’ age) and then I noticed Mom laughing with Emmy-winning journalist and respected news anchor, Maria Celeste Arrarás, as if it were their high school reunion (Maria Celeste, known as “Latin Oprah,” is one of my dearest friends to this day).

Cut to the high-voltage yet intimate after party where my parents and I were joined by some 40 celebs as we completely took over the Soho Grand Hotel bar very, very late into the night. My dear longtime friend Gloria Estefan and her legendary music producer husband Emilio Estefan served as unofficial co-hosts keeping the spirits high and the drinks flowing. Every time I looked up to find my parents, they were dancing or laughing or hugging or smiling. Even now I get emotional just thinking about that magical party if for no other reason because for at least one night, I was able to give my parents the gift of connecting with their favorite stars. It may sound superficial—and I guess on some level it very well may be—but that unforgettable evening was my small “thank you” to the two people who made my incredible life possible. And I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything in the world.

That’s what I was thinking about as I stared silently ahead in my sweat-soaked black suit on that most horrible of October days surrounded by so much love, pain and contradictions. But, somehow, all of that made me smile. 

So, yes, that’s how I will always remember Addy and Manuel Pérez-Feria, my perfect parents. Happy. So very happy indeed.

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