Love in the Obituaries

While You Sleep, Valentine's Special, Death

Elena Lupiánez Salanova passed away on the 21st of March 1994. She died young and left a husband and two children who sorely miss her. Her first obituary was published by El Paìs, the Spanish newspaper she helped found. Since then, there have been eighteen more.

Every year, Elena’s husband publishes an obituary that takes the form of a tiny love letter. In his humble memorials, Jose Luis Casaus tells Elena, or Elenita as he calls her, everything he wishes she knew about the world she left. “I’m not religious. I know Elena doesn’t receive my messages. It’s the idea of her that gets them, her memory. Ultimately, I send them to the nothingness”, he says.

In his messages Cassius tells Elena about their twins, Boris and Yuri, who were conceived in Russia and who learned English last year: “Boris and Yuri can now greet the queen of the Commonwealth without any trouble. Unfortunately, Kate Moss won’t answer our calls”.

He talks to his wife about educating their children in music and literature. In 1998: “I am teaching them to appreciate John Coltrane, Compay Segundo and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, but someone called Nintendo keeps tripping me up.” And then in 2000: “Boris and Yuri are cosmonauts,” he explains, “they are sailing the depths of the Internet. I hope someday they take harbor in the ports of Ithaca”.

Every a few months before the anniversary of her death, Jose Luis plans his annual message to Elena, sometimes with the help of his now adult kids. This year, he told her about the economic crisis, and how Boris and Yuri exchanged their “t-shirts for long-sleeved shirts, so that they can roll up their sleeves and fight for decency”.

He wants Elenita to know that there was a war in 2003. “This war that they have put upon our shoulders has taken away our childrens’ innocence”. And he wants her to know about the terrorist attack in 2004,  “Do you remember the train where you used to play with our kids? It once brought progress and civilization, but these days, terrorist fanaticism has loaded that train with barbarism, infamy and death.”

Other messages are simply letters from a loving father and husband who writes from his heart about the family he loves.
 In 2006, he wrote, “Your son and daughter are no longer those, as Julio Cortázar said, that knew all the words but didn’t know what to do with them. Now they are adults, and they would like to give you the gift of this word: Conscience, the mental ability to know good in the world."

Cassius and Elena are no longer together, but those who’ve found their story in the pages of the newspaper know that love lasts forever, even in the obituaries. In 2002: “Boris and Yuri were once our dreams. And because we dreamed so much, now our dreams have bodies. Every time we look at them life feels like a trembling dream, a newborn.”